This afternoon, I sort of snapped.
Really, it was one of our less crazy days - no lessons or outside commitments to spread us thin.
I guess it all started with me not sleeping very well last night. I had a lot on my mind.
Then I worked like crazy the whole time the kids were at school, my back aching, my rear end going numb from sitting there at the computer so many hours straight. But I accomplished far far less than I'd hoped. I had a LONG list of stuff to do as we get ready to go out of town for a few days and I plowed through a bunch of stuff for Primary, paid bills, replied to lots of emails and kept working down my list. But then things kept going wrong. I found out the email we sent out yesterday inexplicitly had some messed-up links in it so I spent a good chunk of time putting together and sending out a new email (while things kept glitching - so frustrating!). In the midst of trying to do that, I stopped to get on a broadcasted Google Hangout interview we were supposed to do for our Power of Moms publisher but after 20 minutes of trying, their staff couldn't make things work right so we'll have to reschedule. I did my hair and put on make up and everything for the thing - which is a somewhat big deal in my life! But I was glad to have more time to work on my list even though the time trying to get going with the Hangout was wasted.
Then I worked on editing a bunch of podcast pages for our exciting new Power of Moms Radio feed that is really going big (exciting!) but somehow, images kept going weird so April and I had to go back in and re-embed a bunch of podcasts which is just tedious. We finally figured out what was going wrong and fixed the problem. But stuff that should have taken a few minutes took hours. I have to say I know WAY more than I ever wanted to know about stuff like HTML and embedding code and formatting and tricks to make the back end of a website do what you want it to do (tricks learned the hard way).
After all that, I was a bit late to pick up the kids at school and they were out in the slushy-sleet, pushing each other around on icy patches for fun and playing king of the hill on a pile of crusty old snow while they waited. Of course, one kid pushed another kid too hard and there were muddy pants and tears when I pulled up.
I tried to be cheerful and ask everyone about their days. The child who just brought home a much-less-than-stellar report card yesterday and promised to start writing down all their assignments every day and share that information with me said "nothing" when I asked them what they'd written down in their planner for today. So we had yet another unpleasant conversation about how important it is to stay on task and write down assignments so you don't forget while the other kids squabbled in the back and kept interrupting.
At home, one kid tracked muddy slush across my freshly cleaned kitchen floor even though I expressly asked everyone to take off their shoes at the door. Then this child was very put out when I asked them to clean up the floor. And while I tried to get that kid to clean the floor, Eliza started playing the violin loudly, getting ready for the lesson I'd promised to give her this afternoon, while Oliver and Silas gleefully flew these mini remote-control helicopters that they got with their birthday money into walls, ceilings and people. The violin combined with the helicopter sounds and the twins shouts of excitement and some bickering between Ashton and Isaac made for some overwhelming caucaphony.
I took a deep breath, sent Eliza to practice upstairs, promised to be up for her lesson soon, then had to play mean mom and put the helicopters up as they really had to get going on finishing their book reports that are due tomorrow (they take FOREVER on these things!). I helped Isaac get going on homework, found the twin's half-completed book reports (for a bit, we were all pretty worried that they might be lost, but they showed up in a random pile luckily), and asked Ashton to work with the twins on their book reports so I could work with Eliza on violin. As I went over what still needed to be done on the book reports with Ashton and the twins, neighbors came over twice to ask to play (had to say a firm but kind "no"). Then once I got kids sitting down and focused again, I saw that Oliver was simply copying a passage out of his book and he had a melt-down when I told him we'd have to do some erasing while Ashton told him he could get sent to jail for plagerizing which really didn't help matters and Oliver stormed off. I went to get Oliver and Eliza politely asked how much longer I was going to be since I'd said I'd be up to do her lesson a long time ago. I told her I was doing the best I could.
When I got Oliver back downstairs and was explaining to Ashton that I needed him to help Oliver read this confusing passage about how Alexander Graham Bell invented the first crude telephone and help him write about it in his own words, Eliza interrupted to ask how much longer I'd be and I could tell she was fighting back tears but trying to be patient. I told her I just needed a minute to get Ashton going on helping Oliver and to play her song one more time on her own. Then Isaac told me he really needed help with his math and that there was no homework he could do without my help while I was helping other people. I told Ashton to get going with Oliver and Silas to start writing the part I'd already talked to him about while I quickly looked at Isaac's math homework. It was algebra that I really really can't remember how to do but I found him a page of his homework that looked easier and he got going on that.
Then I turned back to Silas and low and behold, he'd pulled out the laptop and seemed to be playing a game. So not cool. "Silas, what in the world are you doing with that laptop? You've got a book report to be working on!" Silas snapped back in a very sassy and sarcastic voice, "Well, you see, I have to look something up for my book report." I swallowed down some serious anger and said, firmly but calmly, "Silas, you cannot talk like that. I already helped you a ton and you have the information you need for your report. You just need to get writing and stay focused." Silas responded with another sassy comment and added a mean-looking sneer for good measure.
Really, Silas wasn't being all that bad. But something about that tone of voice and sneer drove me over the edge and I gave him a little smack before even realizing what I was doing. I don't generally believe in spanking. Silas was shocked. I was shocked. Everything got silent. Then Silas stormed off to his room and I followed behind him. I felt just plain awful.
This from a mom who recorded this podcast just two days ago about controlling our tempers. I guess I'm better at explaining how to do something than actually doing it.
When I got up to Silas's room I pulled him on my lap and hugged him, his initially stiffness quickly melting into a returned hug. We sat like that for a while, hugging each other hard. Then I told him how sorry I was and told him about all the things that had been frustrating for me that that day. I told him to imagine that each of those things was a sharp pinch and that after you get pinched tons of times (often in the same, sore place), there's sometimes one last pinch that just makes you extra mad. His comment and sneer was that last pinch for me. And while all those pinches don't make it right for me to have lost my temper, I wanted him to understand that it wasn't just him that set me off. He seemed to really get it and hugged me tight. He said he was sorry too. We asked each other for forgiveness and it was freely given and after another long, tight hug (Silas is the greatest hugger!), we headed back downstairs and I had a talk with the other boys who'd witnessed my outburst and explained and apologized to them as well.
And the rest of the afternoon wasn't exactly peaches and cream. I was super patient and kind with Eliza at her violin lesson but she was tearful since she's such a perfectionist and some parts of her songs are just plain tricky. My praise is just never enough when she knows she didn't quite do something right. After the lesson with Eliza, I came downstairs and found that the boys had made cookies and actually the kitchen wasn't too much of a mess. I'd told them they could make cookies when they finished their book reports. And their book reports were mostly done, albeit not done particularly beautifully. We fixed some spelling and punctuation and called it good and everyone was quite pleasantly quiet while I made dinner. Then we had a really pleasant evening since, for once, no one had to go anywhere. I can't even remember the last time we had an evening without several places different people had to be! We sat at the dinner table for a long time and just talked. It was nice.
While Jared and the kids worked on dishes, I sat down to start typing this. Writing things out always makes me feel better.
Now Eliza and the twins are dancing around to some cranked-up music in the living room and Isaac just showed me that he can do the moon walk - he's been working on it for a while and was so proud to show me how good he is at it now. Oops. Ashton just made fun of the way Silas dances and threatened to turn off the music if he didn't dance in a more "normal" way (he was doing a sort of tap dance thing). So I stopped typing to let Ashton know that everyone can dance their own way and that I think Silas's dancing is great.
I guess I'd better take a break and put kids to bed now.
OK. Kids are in bed and I'm back.
I'm so very far from perfect when it comes to being the ever-patient and soft-spoken mom I want to be. But looking back, I see that I have learned to let a lot more things roll off my back and have learned to swallow down my anger much better thanks to tons of trial and error.
I've got a long way to go. And some days I feel like I just can't win for losing. But I'm really trying. And those forgiving hugs are worth their weight in gold.
Off to bed myself! I love that we get a fresh new day every day, clean and wide with no mistakes in it. Tomorrow I'll be better.