Thursday, January 30, 2014

1000 little pinches can really put you over the edge . . .

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.


Pam said...

Oh how I wish I couldn't relate to this post, but alas, I am a mother :). Thank you for sharing! Keep up the great work you do!

Barb said...

We have all been there and it's so comforting (and stops the non-helpful mom guilt and shame) to hear that other moms (even ones I really admire!) have those human, less than stellar moments.

Winter party of Six said...

I loved this post and am grateful that you experience tough days too. I know in the blog world, everyone only writes about the positive and I appreciate you "keeping it real", particularly because you are the Power of Moms and from my perspective, you have it all together all of the time!! I love the analogy of the pinches and will try that on my kids. (10, 8, 6 and 3). Sometimes when my husband gets home, I am on my last nerve, and he says, did you have a bad day? I say, no, I had a great day, but the hours between 5-8 are the WORST (and that is when he walks in the door- closer to 8 unfortunately) and you are right, I have been pinched 100s of times and usually during that time I get pinched to put me over the edge. Thanks for this post.

Beth said...

I really appreciated this post and could definitely relate to the "1000 pinches" idea (all us moms have been there!). What I think is amazing was how you bounced back after "losing it!" When I hit that point (at 4:00 or 6:00 or 8:00) I tend to just give up for the rest of the day. And while that's probably okay once in awhile, I was just thinking yesterday (after I'd "had it" once again) that it feels like it happens almost every day. Maybe I should cut myself some slack (I have an infant and a preschooler at home that make me feel like I am "on" all day long), but I want to be better, because I also have a couple kids in school who I don't see but for a few hours in the afternoon and evening. They deserve some good mom-time, too! I need to find ways to bounce back and try again without having to "reset" with a whole new day. I loved how you asked your children for forgiveness and gave them special time. Thanks for your example and for sharing it! And I appreciate all the work you do (and April does) for Power of Moms -- your posts and podcasts are always so encouraging!

Shumway Family said...


We are experiencing the same thing.:) I feel like I"m in 7th, 5th, 3rd and 1st grade at all times. Most days it feels like I'm swimming upstream. It's hard raising a family and coordinating all the things that need to be done to help a family run smoothly.

Thank you for trying! Thank you for working on such positive podcasts and Power of Moms to help all of us try harder, be better and focus on what is important, for our families AND individually. We all need to rally together to boost each other up, not tear down and you do such a great job at helping all moms do this. We're all in this together, we all have the same goals with our children.

There are lots of times I think 'Oh my goodness, I totally blew it". I always tell my kids, "Sometimes I'll get it right, sometimes I'll get it wrong but at least you know I'm trying".

Cookies help too...for both them and me. You're the best Saren. So fortunate to have met you so long ago...before we all had kids.:)

Brooke said...

You made it through the day! And you didn't completely lose your mind- hooray!

That's what I have to tell myself on those days. I heard a great quote the other day that is perfect for these days, "When I'm having a bad day I have to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days is 100%"

Also, I don't want to take joy in your bad day but it's nice to know someone who is so very accomplished and patient and "with-it" can occasionally snap too. It makes me feel like less of a bad mom to know I'm not alone in this. Thank you for sharing your less than perfect moments with us!

kms said...

I find it interesting that you tried to get stuff done before they got out of school and the kids had basically the same problem that you had in the morning. Gosh aren't kids just like us, it's pretty scary when you think on it. I wonder what your kids would have written down about their day? I would guess it would be pretty similar to what you wrote. That they started the day expecting to do x,y and z. But their day was thrown because mom was late, and that they got in trouble for muddy and still were feeling off for being pushed off the rock and couldn't focus on their homework with the violin playing and not being able to have you help right at the moment they wanted your to was like the computer breaking that you described. Bad days are like a virus in a family. I would guess that like you they don't like when they can't do things as planned, smoothly. Have you considered staggering the start of homework since you are still very hands on with them. You can't do a music lesson and help with math and a school report at the same time. Could one or more of your kids be more productive with more down time after school before home work starts? Then begin with one of the kids, and then their homework is well underway when the next kid starts. I realize it's a good discipline to get it done and then be free until bedtime, but if they can't focus right at that moment they just end up wasting time at that seat for way longer than necessary. And it would help you out. Give the person undivided attention, in theory. Your online self appears to be a superwoman.

cheryl cardall said...

I love that you share your hard and very real days! It makes me admire you even more!

Camile said...

I have those moments all too often where I feel like I've totally blown it as a mom. This parenting business is tough! I just keep praying that Heavenly Father will make up the difference and that my good intentions will have some weight when all's said and done. I loved this post and the "pinches" analogy. Thanks for sharing!

Jill said...

Thank you for sharing this! It's comforting to know that stellar moms like you sometimes snap. I had a 'mommy meltdown' this week trying to get my 3.5 year old to sit on the potty (never ending potty-training battles currently going on).

Sarah said...

I LOVE that analogy of feeling pinched too many times...totally get it, been there for sure. I've apologized also-I think that's the redemption in it-we are real people too, with real emotions, who aren't perfect and that's what forgiveness is all about-which is a pretty darn important lesson for kids to learn.
You are always an inspiration to me.

Laura said...

Thanks for writing such an honest post! It is increasingly difficult to navigate the after school witching hours at our house. This week I said "yes" to the Chuck'e'Cheese fundraiser at school and it felt great! This was the first time my kids had been there, and they were delighted to see friends from school. We skipped homework and baths that night, so it made for a tricky morning, but worth it to have fun as a family and say YES when I wanted to say no.

Kathryn said...

Thanks, Saren, for sharing that kind of a day with us. We've all been there, even though we'd rather not admit it sometimes. I love your explanation of how you were sent over the edge. I'll have to remember 1000 little pinches, if that ever happens toe again. I always try to explain to my kids that things add up and sometimes we lose our temper at a person who didn't deserve the level of anger that was sent their way, simply because of the stress level of the day. It's happened a few times for me over the years. I hope it doesn't ever happen again, but i'll be realistic and say that I know I'm going to yell at someone, at some point, who didn't deserve it. We... I... Try to be perfect but I'm not. I know I'm a good parent, but parents make mistakes. It's good for our kids to see is have to apologize once in a while. That sets a good example for them when they're parents and they mess up. Lots of love to you and your family.

Katie said...

Saren, your posts are always so timely. You always seem to have similar experiences to me and I always appreicate your honest and candid way of sharing them. It helps knowing there is someone else out there dealing with my same challenges. And it gives me hope that I can do better and be better too. Thank you!

Eyrealm said...

Wild! Takes me back to my "witch" days when things like this happened quite often. It's so great to be able to say sorry to each other and hug. That's what life is all about....repenting and forgiving!

Matilda Blanche said...

Maybe it`s not a good idea to give Eliza violin lessons as her mother...have you ever thought of getting someone else as a teacher? Just a thought. :-)

Saren Loosli said...

Matilda, thanks for your suggestion. Eliza has a great violin teacher but her teacher has been sick the last couple weeks so she wanted me to give her lesson to help her keep moving forward. I totally agree that it usually works best to have someone else teach your kids music lessons.


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