Pay attention to what’s going on with you
So I’m a big football fan. I didn’t realize I’d become my father.
If my team wins, I’m good. I’m very good!
But when my team loses, I’m crabby. The problem is: I’m not always self aware enough to realize that I am crabby due to football.
I make the mistake of thinking that my kids’ noise level is to blame;
or, I’m annoyed that no one put away the milk the entire morning;
or, I suddenly feel desperate to prove that my son knows all the times tables because he’s 10 and he should have by now;
or, I can’t stand another bored, not-paying-attention look from my 6 year old daughter when I’m Talking To Her!
You know? My anxiety to get my world back under control after my team missed the game-winning field goal is acute!
I wake up distracted inside, I turn to my tasks with lack luster commitment, and then bam! One of my kids (or all of them!) give me reasons to express that pent up frustration and out it pours, all over their heads.
Not all inner distractions come from sports (the least justified do).
Sometimes you’re thinking about a marriage problem (the fight from last night), or your father-in-law’s declining health, or the bill you can’t pay, or the abuse hurled at you unexpectedly by a driver in the next car. Even if you aren’t conscious of “thinking” about those things, they can still exert an unconscious distraction—a feeling of not being “home” or “present.”
When you notice your nerve-endings firing a little more than usual, when the usual pandemonium that is children in a home all day every day creates panic and anger in you, when you find yourself yelling “for no reason” (or at least, not a reason of the scale to match the volume of your voice), stop. Check in with yourself. What’s going on? When did this “low” begin? When did you lose your way?
If the low comes from watching the Seahawks embarrass the 49ers, go unload on some message board and get it off of you. Don’t dump it on your kids. They don’t deserve that.
If some other problem of more substance is interfering with your peace and well-being, take the time to attend to it for a moment (or longer if needed). Journal, make a to do list, place a phone call to the right person, schedule a time for later in the day when you can give the issue your full attention.
Whatever you do: don’t take it out on unsuspecting kids.
But if you do, and when you do (who of us hasn’t—we all live together, after all, and this is what happens sometimes), apologize. Own it:
“I’m sorry I yelled at you for leaving the milk out. I was thinking about how mad I am at Colin Kaepernick’s front line and how they didn’t protect him from that evil Seahawk Defense last night. But that’s not your fault!”
Then do something light or positive or nurturing. Tea and chocolate work for me. And running. And showering. And hugging a cuddly child…
Cross-posted on facebook.