I had an amazing moment recently that I just wanted to share…
Daddy had been staying away on the Wednesday night, and wasn't going to be back until after the kids' bedtime the next day. #1 was at school during the day on Thursday, so I was having a (sort of!) chilled out day at home with #s 2 and 3. As school pick up time approached, I knew I was going to have to consciously gather all of my remaining energy and patience to get three very tired children through to bedtime without going off on one myself (I was up with all three children in the night a number of times, #3 was having a day of scrappy naps, #2 didn't want a nap, and #1 is exhausted by the end of the school day!).
Sure enough, when I arrived at the school, #1 was in a very boisterous and, to me (dare I say it!), obnoxious mood - a sure sign of tiredness. You know the one (tell me it's not just me!!) - where they start getting physically quite rough (although just this side of too rough), and using the most annoying voice they can think of, and poking their little sister to wind her up, and and and… (I feel like he's trying to press my buttons so that he gets a chance to legitimately explode at me when I start to impose some boundaries, to get out some of his pent-up-when-at-school emotions - a bit of rough and tumble (see Playful Parenting for more on this) usually helps, but it's not always the right time of course!!)
So, we walk home and I use all the strategies at my disposal (I'll go into some of these in other posts in the future) to try to allow him to vent a bit without the impact being too great on the rest of us, and it's going ok - when I know I might be in for it, I really ratchet it up a notch to keep things on as even a keel as I can, whilst (hopefully) still allowing some of that pent-up emotion to dissipate somehow.
Things are ok at first when we get home too - the baby has not long woken from his sleep in the carrier (he just gets so comfy being worn and walked!), and the older two are busily engaged making birthday cards for their grandma, whilst I get on with getting the tea on and a couple of other must-do jobs.
But then they finish the craft activity, and gradually it all starts slipping a bit… #1 has gone a bit wild again and is also attempting to wind his sister up. #2 is busily responding to the wind ups, and getting tiredly tearful if #1 so much as looks at her. #3 is just starting to get grumbly as they often do in that late afternoon/early evening period. I am pretty much holding it together - focusing extremely!!!!! hard on responding rather than reacting, mainly by trying to stop myself speaking before I've thought for a second or two!! Admittedly I did put a stop to the ride-on vehicle ramming with a fairly loud voice, but at least it was more considered ('they're not going to hear me if I don't raise my voice') than angry!
We make it through tea with a few minor wrangles, and I start clearing the table. Now, I don't even remember what it was that went on at this point exactly - nothing major, that much I'm sure of, but each child was applying the pressure to a very tired Mummy in their own inimitable style, and I suddenly knew I was going to lose it. All 3 kids were next door when I took myself into the kitchen and roared a big roar, before stomping off to the toilet and slamming the door for a moment.
Now, this is quite good going for me, because although I can usually hold it together for a good long while (and I hope my other half - and my kids! - would attest to that being true), I can reach a point very suddenly where I snap. I'm not talking whack-the-kids snapping, but I do tend to suddenly shout quite loudly if I reach the end of my tether (I'm working on it, I'm working on it). So, for me to feel myself reaching that point, and take myself off to roar elsewhere, well, that's quite a big thing for me.
Anyway, I took a moment in the toilet, took a deep breath, and when I came out… There was #1, with his big, honest eyes looking me straight in the face, and his arms open wide, and he asked "Would you like a cuddle, Mummy?'
Wow. Now that I was not expecting. #1 is not renowned for his empathy, and the best I hoped for was to come back to the same situation, but a bit better equipped to handle it. Instead, I was in the arms of a very sympathetic loved one, who had only one thing on his mind - making sure I was ok. Possibly the best cuddle in the world ever.
Sometimes, just sometimes, I see that we must be doing something right. Happy day!