essay

Keeping Calm

Today was an interesting day: when I came out of the shower, there was a strong smell in the air and my daughter was crying. I quickly found her along with half of a bottle of barbecue sauce on the kitchen counter. She was crying because she was covered in barbecue sauce and she kept slipping around in it and didn’t know what to do.

But there was more.

The boys had managed to find a dry erase marker and they had written on lots of things, including my brand-new door that we had just made (and we haven’t painted it yet, so I will have to literally sand out the ink). I thought it was the youngest one, but when I discovered the word Pokemon written on the wall later on in the day, I realized that it was not the youngest one. It was my kindergartner, who had been quite happy to not take the blame for it, but he was perfectly honest when I asked him directly.

And to top things of, the boys had also gotten knives out of the drawer and thought they would make good toys.

It was a moment. But I was calm. I didn’t yell. No one got into trouble, though I made sure to instruct them that we don’t write on the walls or play with knives or leave out the barbecue sauce with the lid off. I cleaned everything up. And that was that.

It didn’t stop there, of course: at dinner time, a bottle of spray cheese ended up breaking and spraying cheese everywhere. And then my son also spilled part of a bowel of cereal on the couch/piano bench/carpet.

I was still calm.

I am sorry to say that I have quite often yelled quite a lot in these situations. I get overwhelmed and think it’s just too much. I’m frustrated and I don’t want to clean up the messes.

But you know what? Messes are usually fairly easy to clean up (thank you, enzyme spray and magic eraser, you are my best friends today).

And the feeling I get when I yell is awful. Yelling doesn’t teach my kids anything, except maybe how to throw tantrums and yell. They listen when I’m calm. And when I’m calm, I feel better.

I feel powerful. If I can stay calm when all this is going on, I can do anything.

I can’t control the messes that have already happened. But I can control me. Because parenting is very first about controlling yourself; it is never about controlling your children.

My kids are going to make a lot of messes. The messes will change from food on the carpet to other struggles, but they will always be making messes. I am still making messes.

But messes can be cleaned up. And I can always love my children, no matter how big the mess.

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