C and I had a good morning, baking pumpkin bread and starting laundry, and a good lunchtime and early afternoon, playing outside with leaves.
Then we came inside. C needed to nap. I nursed her at the keyboard and she never quite fell asleep enough for me to put her down. She wiggled and wanted to pat me. I was feeling very touched out. I needed a physical and mental break from her, and I didn't get it.
The late afternoon was pretty rough on both of us. I feeling tired by then, but couldn't sit down without C wanting to climb on me or nurse. The clutter in my house was another irritant, and since I had to be up anyway, I felt compelled to start cleaning.
But C didn't want me to clean. C wanted to play. She wanted a snack. Fine. But, being a two year old who didn't get her nap, she started losing it over every. little. thing. And when she wasn't screeching, she was getting into something, hindering and undoing my cleaning progress. I quickly lost patience with her.
I have lots of gentle, positive discipline tools in my toolbox. I could have involved her in my cleaning efforts and made it a game. I could have redirected her away from the offlimits things to something truly appealing. I could have suggested we sit and read a book together to fill her cup with the attention she was clearly asking for. I could have turned to playful parenting and make us both laugh and smile and reset the rapidly souring mood. I could have declared that we both needed a break and vegged out with her in front of a movie. I could have taken us back outside, or on a ride to visit a store or a relative.
I forgot and/or chose not to use any of those tools. Instead, I got more and more locked in to what I was doing. I was seeing red and yelling a lot. I did some redirection, but with an angry voice and forceful hands. I also had punitive vindictive thoughts, such as "Why should I turn this into a fun moment when she is giving me such a hard time?!?"
Anger kept building.
I started dinner. Thoughtlessly, I chose one of the more involved recipes on my week's meal plan, one that involved peeling potates and dicing onions.
C persisted in trying to get my attention. When she wouldn't stop turning off the dishwasher I'd just started and then switched to pulling things out of the drawers, I got fed up. I told her since she couldn't control herself, I would help her by putting her some place where she couldn't get to the dishwasher. I hauled her to her room and shut the door on her, leaving her screaming to be let out. I finished peeling the potatoes before returning to open the door.
When I let her out I gave her a little speech about why she had been in there and then gave her a perfunctory hug.
That sort of reset things for a while but all too soon we were right back where we started.
Not too much later I was putting away the laundry in my bedroom. When I had my back turned, she started pulling the clothes I had just put away out of the drawers. I was so angry I felt like I was going to lose control and physically hurt her. I carried her quickly to her bedroom, yelling all the while. I slammed the door behind her again (with her screaming again, of course). I needed to get away from her to keep her safe and calm myself down.
Her continued wailing behind the door broke my heart and infuriated me all at the same time. I flung the door open and grabbed her into a tight hug, fearing that if I let her go I would really hurt her. She clung to me. In my arms she felt so small, so scared. In so many ways still just a baby. My intense anger melted away, but the irritation remained.
I called DH and asked him to hurry home because things weren't going well. Somehow C and I managed to survive until Daddy came to the rescue with a fresh batch of patience and energy.
So, does this bad day mean that positive discipline/grace-based discipline (GBD for short) is an idealistic theory that doesn't work in real life?
Not at all.
I can think of so many extenuating factors that contributed to this situation. C is teething 2 year molars and they hurt her quite a bit. On top of that, with Halloween and family birthdays, I've been letting C have dairy recently, "as a treat." She's intolerant to it and it makes her feel bad: itchy skin, upset tummy, poor sleep which all gives her a resultant shorter fuse. Finally, there had been too much time between lunch and dinner and C didn't have much of a snack, so she (and probably I as well) had low blood sugar on top of everything. C is an extrovert, and a cold had kept us home alone for the past week or so. She was asking for my attention and to connect with me, and I didn't give it, partly out of spite. Did I mention I'm hormonal/PMSing/grieving?
So much of GBD is about being proactive, setting up our children (and ourselves) for success.
This is a day when I was reactive. I became the scary, shaming parent I am trying so hard not to be. I really blew it.
I'm so grateful grace is for mamas too.
I told this whole sad story to DH when he got home, wondering aloud if I am cut out for this, and he said, "You're a wonderful mother, everyone has bad days." He shows me grace.
As I told the story to him, I realized I owed C an apology. I got down on her level and said I was sorry for losing control and scaring her. She gave me a hug. She shows me grace.
Out of the ashes of that bad day, there are a few positive things: I was able to model humility and how to apologize to C. I've renewed my efforts to keep C and me on a dairy-free diet. I'm also working on building more structure into our days for both our sakes.
Not the first time and not the last time we will need to live out the verse our family chose as a parenting theme verse at C's baby dedication:
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32