“Mom, why are you stopping?” Max asks from the backseat.“Because it’s a red light.”
“Because…because we have to take turns with the other cars,” I sigh.
“But why? Why, Mom?”
“So we don’t get in an accident, Maxie.”
“Oh,” he says, and for a sliver of a second he is quiet. Blissfully quiet.
Sitting at the red light, I practice the breath we do sometimes in yoga, where we breathe in for three counts and out for five. Three, fo-“Mom? Why is the gym there?”
“I don’t know. It just is.”
“Why is Violet asleep?”
“Because babies need lots of sleep,” I sigh. Because she was tired of listening to your questions and fell into the sweet release of sleep, I think, envious.
I pull up to the gas station. “I’m going to put some gas in the car, Maxie. I’ll be right back.”I close the door a bit more forcefully than necessary. Breathing in the rich smell of spilled gasoline, I glance at Max through the window. He is smiling at me. His lips are still moving.
I’ve put together a list of tools that have helped me to stave off the winter grumpies:
Dance Party. When I am at my wits end, the last thing I usually feel like is busting a move. But I will say that it’s very hard for one to take oneself seriously when attempting the Gangnam Style pony dance. The kids like it, too. Frugal hint: My kids aren’t old enough to notice that I just use the preview button on iTunes to play songs that I don’t want to buy (or watch on YouTube with potentially inappropriate content).
Write a Song. Getting my son to wash his hands after using the bathroom can sometimes be a battle. Similarly to the dance party, it’s hard to be too grouchy if instead, I focus my energy on creating a song about the battle. Not sure that Sani-tize your hands come on! Let’s have a sanitation! will ever catch on, but it shifted my energy.
Picture them grown up. I have been pregnant or nursing for nearly five years now. So sometimes—many times, I just want everyone to leave the Host Body alone. When my four-year-old wants one more snuggle and I am just dying to tuck into some trashy TV series on Netflix, I think about what it will be like when he is grown. I wonder how much I would give for one of these little tender moments, his nose pressed to mine. Then again, perhaps I will be so busy going to movies and taking naps and doing yoga and sleeping in that I won’t notice what I’m missing. But I just might.
Sniff something/Drink something. No, not those somethings. When I was quite pregnant with my daughter and my son refused to get into his car seat on a daily basis, I got some aromatherapy oil that was supposed to be relaxing. I huffed that thing so hard and so often that I had little crusty burns on my nostrils. Did it help? Not sure. But just the act of doing something for me made me feel a bit less powerless and gave me something to focus on instead of screeching/swearing/curling up in the fetal position. Making and sipping a cup o’ chamomile tea would work similarly.
Adjust your behavior. One of the things that drives me the most nuts is when I’m trying to talk on the phone or check my emails. The kids immediately seem to smell my need for autonomy and instantly start bellowing demands. I am finding it is unrealistic to think I can read anything longer than a comic strip (do they still make Garfield?) at these times. Trying to do so just sets me up for extra frustration.
Take a break. Perhaps this is the most important tip of all. Trade child care with a friend. Go to the gym. Take turns with your partner. (During recent Winter Storm Nemo, my husband and I took turns escaping to the bedroom to sleep/read/stare at the wall). Go to the gas station and take in the ethereal fountainy sounds of gasoline entering your car.
Have compassion. A dear friend says she often reminds herself that her kids are a bit like little insane people. They don’t have the impulse control yet that we expect adults to. They don’t have logic. It must be hard to have such little control on one’s environment. But remember to have compassion for yourself, too. It’s hard to corral little insane people all day long. Forgive yourself if you yell. Let it go; chances are, if you lose your patience/scream/swear/cry, you will remember it much longer than your little ones.
What techniques do you use when you’re about to lose it with your little ones?