We’ve had a bit of a rough week at our house; home-school started again while Frank’s class was self-isolating, the boiler is playing up, the weather turned to drizzle and a furry visitor from next door decided to invade. We found ourselves a bit frazzled and quick to temper; and then Conrad reminded me of a key parenting tip – you have to pick your battles.
If we picked up on every tiny thing our kids did wrong we’d all be miserable; its unattainable and exhausting. And if someone did that to me I’d think they were a massive dick; I don’t want my kids to think of me as a micro manager I would want to punch. They are learning so much, so quick. There are times to teach and battle and strive to make them better; and there are times to just let one slide. Or a few.
Another thing to take into account is your own mental state. If you are feeling stressed it’s more likely that a battle of wills between you and your child will get messy real quick. The calmer I am the better I am as a mum; imagine sending in a hostage negotiator to a tense crime scene and three minutes in the guy with the megaphone is already screaming. That’s what its like parenting when you’re already stressed. To be a parent is to draw into a deep well of patience you never knew you had; and if your reservoir of patience is already a puddle – maybe it’s not a good time to tackle cutlery etiquette or rigid tidy up procedures.
To use an example from this week – Frank was doing pretty well with homeschool; attending four live classroom meetings with his buddies and teacher, and doing all the activities he was set. There was a bit of moaning and he did keep picking his nose during the video classes but generally it was passable. But his behaviour outside of the school activities was dreadful; and I can understand why – he’s used to leaving the house, walking to school, exercising, P.E, play time, and more activities on the weekend. This week was just home, all day; a never-ending duvet day but with added school work. He told me he was “home sick”. I asked him what he thought that phrase meant, he said – “when you get sick of your home”. And I could relate. Towards the end of our isolation period it was bath time and Frank kept adjusting the bath taps, and I told him again and again to leave them because touching the taps could make boiling water come out. He argued that he knew which tap is which and how to control the water temperature. I reasoned that even if he did, I didn’t want his two year brother to copy this tap play and get scalded. On the debate went until it felt like a battle, and on about the tenth time I told him not to touch the taps I properly lost it; I shouted and got him out of the bath. He screamed “I hate you Mama!” and ran off sobbing into his room (fully naked and dripping wet, which undercut the drama a little). We made up pretty quickly and resolved it, but later with a large glass of wine I realised I didn’t handle it well. I should have seen how exhausted he was and just calmly cut bath time a little short. Its been a hard week for us all, and from his perspective he just wanted to explore the running water. Shouting and losing my temper escalated everything so fast. Maybe this was a battle neither of us was in the mood to address properly; maybe this was one I should have let go (for the night).
In the end no one wants a battle; I’d much rather a conversation, but kids aren’t always as obedient or rational as we may hope. There will always be confrontation but sometimes you just have to let kids be imperfect and messy and inquisitive and infuriating and vow to address the less endearing habits at the right time, and when you’re in the right mental place for it too. This week is already looking sunnier, both literally and metaphorically, and I’m hoping for less battles and more cuddles.