I had a total meltdown this morning. I won’t go into the details leading up to it, but just picture me locked in my room, crying and blaming myself for everything that’s less than ideal in my family right now.
“I’m just not good enough. I need to be better – more patient, more disciplined, more prepared. That’s why we’re always late and why everyone’s grumpy and why the kids fight all the time.”
Meanwhile, Eliza was having her own meltdown in her room, so I figured I’d better go try to help her calm down. I pulled myself together and decided to just go hold her. I picked her up and she stopped screaming right away. We just sat on her bed together, with every blanket she could find piled on top of us.
Soon Miles came in and started playing around and then Eliza joined him. They were doing ok now, so my instinct right then was to go back to my day, my agenda outside of these kids. But in light of the previous 10 minutes I decided I’d better stay. So I played with them and didn’t do whatever I would normally have done. And that’s when I discovered the real problem here.
My family doesn’t need me to “be better.” They just need me. ALL of me.
I admit that lately I’ve been pretty distracted. Here are some of the things that have been on my mind:
- The business we just sold with loose ends still to tie up
- The resultant crossroads for my husband’s career and our family
- New Year’s resolutions – BIG ones that I’m not sure I can pull off
- Starting to work out regularly, trying to figure out what works for me
- A mini vacation we just took, and another quick trip coming up soon
- One child seeming emotionally unstable – why? Is something going on at school?
- Trying to declutter this house before my motivation runs out
- The possibility of moving this year
- Really hard things some of my friends and family are dealing with
- Should we be homeschooling again? Did we make the wrong choice?
- Blogging – I’m not gonna lie. Starting this thing and trying to get in the habit of putting my thoughts into words has taken more brain space than I thought it would.
- How is the house so messy already?
I am distracted partially because of the things I just listed, and partially because I choose to be. It’s a form of escapism. Not cool, I know. I shouldn’t want to escape my kids or family or life, and I don’t really. But sometimes – and you other moms might know what I’m talking about here – you just want to numb your senses a little. The kids keep fighting and breaking things and wanting snacks and the baby keeps screaming and refusing to nap, so you turn to chocolate or your phone, or you mentally check out. I’ve been doing all of the above. In an effort to escape the general cloud of grumpiness and contention around here, I’ve been making it worse.
So I determined to be fully present with my kids until nap time. They didn’t suddenly get along perfectly because I was with them. Eliza eventually started screaming at Miles, but I was right there to diffuse the situation before it came to blows. I didn’t spend any time rushing into a room and trying to figure out who hurt whom because I was right there to see the whole thing – or even prevent it. Things just went better because I was right there – all the way there.
By the way, it was really hard to stay fully engaged for very long. And they say kids have a short attention span!? Everywhere I looked I saw a reminder of some task I needed to do. I had to remind myself to let it wait. I found myself getting tired of our games – and fast. When we got out toys I had to resist the urge to clean them up after just a few minutes. It definitely took a lot more effort, but the immediate payoff (and I can only imagine the long-term one) was more than worth it.
Although I’ve known about this concept of being present for years, distraction can sneak up gradually and I didn’t realize how much it was hurting my family. So instead of worrying so much about being “better,” I’m just going to be here.