I was talking with our old nanny, Ally, the other day at CFNE. She now has 2 young children and was talking about how her and her husband are starting to realize how hard it is to stay as positive and chipper as much as we all used to be before we had kids. Basically, we were talking about how as much as our kids bring us joy and happiness, they also have this magical ability to bring out this monstrous, demonic side of you that you didn’t even know existed.
I’m sure there are a rare breed of human parents out there that have no idea what we’re talking about, but this is the sort of thing that “they” don’t tell you before you have kids. Sure, they tell you all about how hard sleep is, traveling on airplanes, and how many plastic toys will take over your home…but, they don’t talk about how kids can turn you into a yeller, a nervous nelly/a “NO!”/“DON’T DO THAT!” type of person, or the 30-something year old that only has enough energy to do a 10 minute workout and keep your kid from running straight into traffic before you have to sit down and recharge for the mere 90 minutes before the next life-threatening episode goes down.
And, then one day you wake up after a much-needed full 8+ hours of sleep, the sun is shining, birds are chirping, and…what the hell…you have a glowing tan and actually enjoy your own reflection in the mirror while you brush your goddamn gorgeous teeth.
This is it.
This is the day that everything’s gonna’ come together.
This is the day that your kids are going to wake up with a smile on their faces, asking YOU how you slept, and giving each other hugs and kisses to start off the greatest day of your entire family’s life together.
But, when your son comes downstairs, instead of that little love shower, he immediately digs in with, “Why are you being so loud down here? You woke me up! Where’s my breakfast!?!” Then, your daughter turns the corner and he says, “What are YOU looking at!?!” Now, she’s crying and complaining about how she doesn’t want to go to school…after she’s been home from school since last March.
I don’t know about you, but over here we’ve flooded ourselves with talk about being positive, never complaining, and never making excuses. We read books about this stuff, listen to podcasts and audio books, and watch documentaries on how this sort of mindset can change your life.
And, it can…and, does. But, we have to remember that being positive doesn’t mean going into a day expecting our kids are going to be kind to us and loving to their siblings. Never complaining doesn’t mean not noticing that your kids left their toys and clothes all over the upstairs for you to pick up. And, never making excuses doesn’t mean never forgetting to send your kids to school with a mask or being late for the bus.
There is no amount of meditation or deep breathing you can do to make life work out exactly like you want it to. Triggers are going to exist because life is full of curve balls: your Whoop battery is going to die, you’re going to get caught behind a Student Driver, and a close relative is going to corner you on a phone call about how annoyed they are with something that just happened to them. This stuff is unavoidable.
But, what I told Ally is this: as negative as it may seem, our best parenting days happen when we expect all of these triggers. When we open our eyes in the morning and expect the kids to behave like inconsiderate, miserable human beings, we’re not disappointed when they do just that. When we anticipate mini-tragedies to take place 5 minutes before the bus arrives, we’re able to respond with patience and not react with frustration. And, when we mentally plan for those soul-sucking phone conversations, we are able to muster up more empathy than if we had been blindsided by them.
It may sound negative and pessimistic, but it’s actually just being more open-minded and realistic. It’s about setting yourself up to have choices in how you’ll respond to something, rather than be limited to reacting like you’re a victim that’s bound to suffer through this deck of cards you’ve been dealt.
It’s up to you, and no one else: how are YOU going to play your cards today?