Do not watch the clip below if you do not like the F word, the use of B!tch or the best movie EVER FRICKIN’ MADE.
Last night I lost my patience with Gray, my 2-year-old son. Over the past week or two he’s been exercising his free will. Which means he doesn’t listen, or doesn’t care, what I have to say. He instantly whines when something doesn’t go his way. He shrills as he runs through the house playing with his twin sister, Ellie. And he’s in super-annoying goof ball mode.
Generally I’m a pretty laid-back guy. On my good days I have the patience of a Buddhist monk. When my tank runs lows, I become Chef Gordon Ramsay.
I’ve spent most of the past five days with the rug rat, enduring his tantrums and decibel-blowing noise. It’s worn on me. Usually I’d be at work and have a break. But since it’s my first week of unemployment, I’m home. All. The. Time. By the end of the night I was snapping off rushed grunts. “NO.” “STOP.” “GRRRRAAAYYYSSSONNN.”
It wasn’t pretty. As a family we regularly watch America’s Funniest Videos while the twins sip their milk and wind down before bed time. Ellie squeezes in with my wife, who plays with her hair, and Gray leans next to me asking “What’s that?” for every single clip. But last night, I as he sat next to me, I shamefully spouted “Don’t talk to me.” My wife gave me that look of “Really? You just said that?” Yeahhhhhh. I suck.
When I woke up this morning I found my wife emailed me a blog post from Awesomely Awake entitled “How to Be a Calm Parent.” Shawn, the blogger, reached out to her Facebook fans and listed 25 ways to stay calm as a parent. In order to channel my inner Fonzie and “be cool” more consistently, I’ll be working on several of her recommendations below.
1. Own your Nos. There are times when I say no without even thinking and then one no leads to another no and soon we’re in a vicious cycle. I’ve learned that by really thinking before I respond I feel authentic power when I do say no — or yes. Try hard to not rush to saying no to your child just because of inconvenience.
It’s such an automatic reaction for all parents once your kid hits 2. I’m especially guilty when I feel inconvenienced. Not only do I get tired of saying it, but no doubt Gray and Ellie get sick of hearing it. And not only do I need to think before I use it, but I need to enforce it once I’ve said it. Damnit I need more energy for this parenting thing.
4. Solitude. I suspect that many of us who struggle with staying calm in the chaos also struggle with noise. Some people — extroverts — are happy with a ton of noise. I am not. Silence is often the medicine we need to replenish and rejuvenate ourselves and yet it may be the hardest to make happen. There are many other ways to stay at peace.
I’m an introvert as well. I fill my tank by being alone. Away from not only my kids, but my wife too. Yesterday, rather than sneaking in a couple of hours of alone time during naps, I helped clean the house. When my snapping period rolled around at night, I was wiped out. While I can’t always get quiet time to myself, I need to recognize when my patience is wearing earlier, so I can avoid being a total dick.
14. Exercise. Walk. Do yoga. Run. Whatever you can do to feel good on the inside will make parenting from the heart a lot better.
I probably need a punching bag. Not only will exercise help to exert built up frustrations, but I need the energy that it’ll give me. I can’t highlight this one enough for me. Yet I find myself rationalizing why I don’t exercise constantly. As I type this, there’s a treadmill behind me. Facing the TV. I’m gonna just continue to ignore it.
16. Get silly. I’ve said this before but doing something entirely out of the ordinary is a great way to turn things around quickly. Tell jokes. Just act nutty. You’ll laugh. SING. DANCE. Laugh. Deal with the consequences later, when everyone’s thinking more clearly.
When I’m floating on clouds of cotton candy, this is easy. When I feel like ripping Gray’s head off and punting it to the neighbor’s house, it’s the hardest thing in the world. I just need to take myself a LOT less seriously.
23. Be Grateful. Many of you mentioned that reminding yourself of how special it is to have a child is the best way to calm yourself down. Savoring the little moments. Being grateful for the time we have with our children. These are all big, heart-filled reminders of what it really means to be a parent, even when times are challenging.
You’d think I’d have mastered this one. And I did for several months after Jax died. Once I went back to work and rejoined the rat race, it went to shit. It shames me to write how I snapped at Gray last night. It shames me like you don’t even know. It’s crossed my mind several times today that it’s pretty fucked of me. I’ve been blessed with two beautiful, funny and compassionate kids. I wouldn’t be alive today without them. If they give me that “F you, dad” look every once in a while, who cares?!?!
25. When all else fails, hug it out. I love this one that came up on the Facebook page. Too often what our children need — and what we need in return — is that close connection and touch of the ones we love. My very spirited daughter responds positively to touch and so we snuggle often. So, instead of yelling or hurting, hug it out. If only we could pass this tip along to the rest of the world, right?
Both Gray and Ellie respond positively to touch. Gray is a cuddler and Ellie gets clingy and wants to be held. For me, it calms me down. And a few seconds of silence sneaks in to crush the momentum of tension. Plus it’s nice to show love in a moment of anger.
But the biggest thing for me to remember: they’re 2 and there’s two of them. What should I expect?