“Do you grit your teeth?” my dentist asked during my most recent checkup.
“I don’t think so,” I murmured. “Well, maybe, sometimes. I’m not sure. I might. I have three kids so…”
The bright light continued to shine overhead as she explained that I had identical fractures in the enamel of two of my lower teeth. Twin defects, on either side of my mouth. They would eventually need to be repaired. I left the office imagining how much that would cost. And, with strict instructions to not clench my jaw so tightly.
I know that I grit my teeth, that I clench my jaw. I’ve caught myself doing it many times since that dental appointment. I do it when I get frustrated. Or, when I lose patience. When the kids are being especially trying. When I get exasperated. It’s because I get angry. See, I’m kind of an angry mom. An angry mom that yells too much. I don’t think that’s necessarily how my kids would describe me but, that’s certainly how it feels sometimes. I never seem to have enough patience. Or, grace. Or, tolerance. But especially patience.
My temper is my least favorite thing about me. If I could magically change one attribute of my personality, I would change how quick to anger I am. I’ve felt for years like I’m missing some critical DNA that gives women the ability to deal with their children in a rational, reasonable way. Calmness with my kids doesn’t come naturally to me. It never has.
In Henry’s early years, I was woefully unprepared for the incessant demands of parenthood. I was a wreck when Henry was a baby. A combination of new-parent anxiety and just a complete inability to deal with the noise, the destruction, the mess that babies wreak on your body, your home, your life. Henry and Charlie are spaced more than three years apart mostly because Bob wasn’t sure I could handle a second baby. I don’t begrudge his doubt. I was a high-strung disaster for awhile there.
I’ve gotten a better grasp on parenthood, my emotions and my temper as our family has grown. I think, as more kids join the ranks, it naturally forces parents to be more tolerant, more relaxed. To embrace the chaos. To go with the flow. As a result, I’m a better mom now than I was six, seven or eight years ago. But, I’m still not the most patient parent.
And, I know moms that are always patient. Always able to deftly handle any meltdown, tantrum and mood swing with aplomb. They maintain their poise and an acceptable volume to their voice with little to no cursing. Moms that draw from a bottomless well of reserves to face anything their kids toss their way. I bet a lot of you are that type of mom.
I am not that type of mom.
When my son tosses a ball in the kitchen and, through some cartoon-esque ping-ponging, it breaks my special sugar bowl, I don’t react calmly. I react angrily. Especially, when HE BLAMES THE BALL.
When my daughter throws a temper tantrum because we can’t get her little fingers to go in to their appropriate glove holes (MY GOODNESS THIS MIGHT BE THE MOST DIFFICULT OF LIFE SKILLS), my patience is exhausted rapidly. We both lose our cool.
When I say, “be sure to use two hands,” and then immediately hear the sound of 300 Honey Nut Chex crashing to the kitchen floor because, guess what, THEY DIDN’T USE TWO HANDS, I am definitely not the picture of grace as I grab the broom and dustpan.
I get irritated. I am quick to fly off the handle. I get consumed by the noise and chaos and the mess and the Honey Nut Chex and the everything that goes along with each and every day of parenting and I get screechy. I would like there to be less of me screeching in our lives.
I don’t necessarily make new year’s resolutions. At least the kind that are all pronouncement-like, official. Rather, I keep a running tally in my head, throughout the year, of what I’d like to be working on or big things I’d like to accomplish. Mostly that list includes items like finally finishing the kids’ baby books and finding more crock-pot recipes that we like and maybe, possibly, agreeing to go tent camping.
But, I want 2015 to be a year filled with better everything. I’d like there to be less anger, less frustration, less hollering, less gritted teeth. I want this year to be filled with more patience, more laughter, more fun, more love.
This year, I’m going to lead with love. That sounds so hokey, doesn’t it? Leading with love. Even I’m rolling my eyes right now. But, it’s true. That’s what I want. And, having a mantra to repeat has helped me remember my goal whilst dealing with the red-faced rage of a toddler meltdown. Or, children that are fighting over one (1) Lego. Or, when someone pees on the floor adjacent to the toilet but not actually in the toilet.
Leading with love.
The kids have heard me mutter “lead with love, lead with love” often enough now that when I was lecturing (possibly a bit shrilly) to Henry recently on the importance of eating the food that’s put in front of him, he looked at me and asked quietly, “are you leading with love?” To which I replied, “OF COURSE I AM DOESN’T IT LOOK LIKE I AM THE TONE OF MY VOICE JUST MEANS I’M PASSIONATE ABOUT YOUR FOOD YOU SHOULD BE QUIET AND EAT YOUR DINNER.”
See? No cursing. Progress!
I love my children. I love them a lot. They are amazing human beings. And, they deserve an amazing mom. They deserve the best me. They deserve the less screechy me.
This year, that’s what I’m going to give them.