On making the choice to connect, again and again, with my kids

Guest post by Miki DeVivo
Photo by Kid, used under Creative Commons license.

This morning was a rough one. You know the kind where everyone is cranky and just can’t seem to shake the yuckies? The kind of day where everything spirals down down down and you find yourself acting in ways you wish you wouldn’t — yelling, blaming, threatening. Yeah, we had one of those.

What I found frustrating in the moment and fascinating now is just how closely linked my kids’ behavior is with mine. If they’re using potty words and I ask them nicely to stop, they usually do. But if I get cranky and frustrated and say I don’t want to be around them when they talk like that, it just gets worse. And worse. They feel more and more disconnected from me and from the place of goodness within themselves. And then before I know it, we’re all in a crappy mood.

It’s so different from what I thought parenting would be like. I had no idea just how connected we’d be, how one of us can set the emotional tone for the rest. I find myself frustrated and wondering when saying poopoobutthead will lose its appeal, and they’ll just be pleasant and stop being so damn willful.

So, in an effort to keep the older one from antagonizing the little one while he picks up the Honey Nut Cheerios he spilled while laughing in my face, I send her up to her room, which only increases her feelings of disconnection and yuck. And it makes me feel bad because I-should-be-able-to-control-them-better-by-now-damnit. The morning proceeds along this escalating wave of disconnect and yuckiness till she’s dropped off at her school (thank God) and I’m just about to walk out of his classroom.

Even now I can stop moving away from them and change course. Even at my crankiest, I can still choose love.

And then I realize — even now, even now I can turn this around. If they are so deeply connected to me, then just as my behavior can send things down hill reeeeeeally fast, the opposite must also hold true. Even now I can stop moving away from them and change course. Even at my crankiest, I can still choose love.

I bend down, look in to the little one’s eyes and tell him I love him always. I stand up again and he hugs me tight, landing a kiss right on my stomach (“I kissed your penis, mommy!” I’m not even kidding. What’d I tell you about the fascination with bodily functions??) and bounds off to the slide.

Climbing back in the car, I feel better but not great. My older one’s more of a challenge for me and I’m dreading how she’s going to behave when I pick her up from school — if she was disconnected from me before, lord knows what a full day of school with that feeling will do to her. And then, instead of turning right to go home, I turn left and drive myself back to her school. She’s in a new school now (Kindergarten already!?) and I don’t know if they’ll let me interrupt her during class, but I have to try.

“I really need to give my daughter a hug, is that OK?” I ask the lady at the front desk. “Sure,” she says, “go on in.” I put my visitor’s pass on and walk to her room. When I open the door she’s sitting on the floor with her back to me reading a book with her friends. I catch the teacher’s eye, point to my daughter and motion that I want to hug her. The teacher nods her approval. I kneel down, wrap my arms around her and whisper, “I love you.”

“Mama!” She’s happy to see me, but a bit confused. “Why are you here?”

“I love you,” I say, “and I just needed you to know how much and that everything’s OK.”

“Mama,” she says again, satisfied. Then she asks, “Can I have a kissing hand?” I kiss her little palm (how are her hands still so little when the rest of her is getting so big?) and her face lights up. I give her another quick squeeze, knowing that we are OK, and head back out to my car, grateful for her willingness to forgive, her willingness to let me back into her heart. Grateful I chose to soften my heart, and grateful for the blessing of hope.

We are all connected. It only takes a moment to return to love.

Comments on On making the choice to connect, again and again, with my kids

  1. What a beautiful post. I have “those” days, quite often. Mornings (getting out the door) and bedtimes are the peaks of the madness and frustration. Sometimes the last thing I do in a day is yell at my children to get back in bed. then I sit downstairs feeling rubbish and telling myself what an awful Mother I am. But you are right, at any point I can CHOOSE to walk calmly back up the stairs and give them all a hug and tell them I love them. I can change the tone of the day and they will change with me. I know this from experience…. I must remember this more often! Thank you.

    • Oh Danielle, those “book ends” to our days can be so challenging, can’t they? Your kiddos love you no matter what though so don’t beat yourself up =). Glad to know that my experience resonated with you and that we’re not alone.

  2. I love the kissing hand. When I taught 1st grade I would read it on the 1st day of school. 3 years ago I had a little boy start bawling his eyes out because the story made him miss his mom. LOVE.

  3. Thank you for this story, it’s so true. I have noticed that if my 1 year old is cranky, and I let it make ME cranky, we get stuck in a vicious loop of crankiness. BUT, every once in a while I realize what is happening and I have found that if I can fake being REALLY HAPPY for just a minute, he lights up like a christmas tree and that’s enough to get us back on track.

  4. There are some mornings that I come into work a wreck because I’ve gotten in yet another fight with my 4 year old. I need to remember this when it happens.

  5. Wow, what a theraputic read for me. My Mom said her approach to parenting was, “If they make me miserable I’ll make them miserable.” Is it any wonder I was figuring out how to save enough money to not need them by the time I was 17?

  6. This was a wonderful article. I don’t have kids yet. One thing I absolutely love about OBM is how much I am learning from others about how to be a parent. Thank you so much!!!

  7. Love! Thank you for this post. The starting over again and again at once humbles me and gives me confidence in my parenting and in my children…We most definitely are connected. At least at this stage. I don’t know what happens later…Thank you.

    • Love the combined concepts of humbleness and confidence. I think the balance between those, knowing we’ve got lots to discover and owning our own inherent wisdom, is one of the great challenges and gifts of motherhood. Thanks for sharing and your kind words.

  8. thank you so much for this. i came on offbeat mama because i was looking for something and this was it. i am sitting here with tears streaming down my face, but its that good kind of cry. i have been so stressed out and also so aware of how that stress was effecting my child, just thanks so much for this reminder. thanks also for the way that you responded to each mamas post. as someone who has never met you, you seem like the kind of person with so much love in you that it cannot help but spill out into everyone you meet. thanks again.

  9. I work with little ones day in and day out, and it is so unbelievably true about how connected the children around you are to you. I am just the teacher, not the parent and let me tell you if I walk into the classroom with a negative attitude every single one of them will have one too. This brought tears to my eyes, I am grateful of this to remind me to re-connect with my students on those ‘yucky’ days. I just printed this and will be keeping it in my classroom. Much love, Thank you!

    • Oh yes, we are so connected. And kiddos have a way of sensing things even if we aren’t aware of them. Your students are lucky to have such a caring teacher, and I am honored that this story gets to come with you to work.

  10. Wow. I was just saying how nice it is to see a blog about kids that is REAL. Without the moms and their halos talking about how perfect their life is and how great their kids always behave. Makes me feel like crap when I just finished yelling because my son just emptied the brand-new gallon of milk on the kitchen floor. We all get frustrated, and I think we don’t hear that enough. We all holler. We all lose our minds a little. Kids are hard work. Really hard. And no one ever really tells you that. I mean, they tell you that your life will never be the same, but no one ever tells you how, while you have never loved anyone so much in your life, you are never pushed so close to your breaking point. So, thank you for writing this. I will bookmark it and read it on those days I feel like jumping off the roof. (Not literally of course)

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