Last year I wrote a post about an interaction of a mom I overheard. I shared my feelings about her harsh words and what it might do to her kids. And now, 12 months on more or less I’ve met her. Had a chat with her while she was outside playing with the kids, being loving, encouraging, soft. It was so beautiful to watch. Maybe she knew that there was a chance I might have overheard this specific moment back then, maybe it was just a coincidence but while the kids were giggling and playing she looked at them and got quiet. She said: “Sometimes it’s so overwhelming to be a mom and I hate it when I lose my temper.”
We’ve all been there. We’ve all lost it. And we’ve all had regrets. We’ve all said things in the heat of the moment we regretted later. And maybe while in some cases they might stick, sometimes they might disappear because all the other moments take over. The moments in which we are who we want to be. The quiet, calm, loving and supporting parent who always is in control of every situation. The super human we so want to be.
Here is the post from back then. I personally read it in another way today than I did after writing it.
Parenting is not easy. It’s more than a full time job. It’s a 24/7 job, dealing with little individuals who have their opinion, their dreams, their goals, their fears, their dislikes, their tantrums. As beautiful being a parent can be, as exhausting it can feel on other occasions.
One thing I find easier now that our kids are older is, that I have more me time. I can use the bathroom without being interrupted. I can have a shower without spectators, I can drink my coffee while it’s still hot and I can vacuum clean without freaking someone out.
There are other needs to cater for when the kids are older and sometimes the things that made almost break years ago seem so little. Often you look back and wonder why it pushed you so close to the edge. You look back at moments and wonder why you would have overreacted then, knowing though, that you were at your limit. But you can no longer see or better feel how it felt back then. And when you observe parents that find themselves in the same sticky mud you were in at one time of your parenting journey (most likely not just one time), you feel surprise about the way they deal with it.
Sometimes it even feels like watching what you’ve done years ago but obviously experiencing it from the outside and realizing the right or wrongs.
I had a little flashback this morning while on my walk with the dogs. I passed a house and already from far I could heard crying. There are different kind of crying, I think. There is the angry one, the tantrum one, the hurt one and then there is the sad one and the desperate one. Today I heard the desperate one. And I started wondering what would make that child so desperate. Given the time it would probably be either about a parent leave to work and leaving the child behind with someone or getting the child ready to go to childcare.
When I got closer there was an open garage door and the door from the garage into the house was open too. So clearly someone was about to leave the house. There was an empty car with running motor and I heard a guy calmly talking. And there was the child crying. As one of my dogs decided to get its business done more or less in front of the house I had to stop. The man was still calmly talking to the child, the child still crying. And then suddenly out of the blue almost like a thunder on a clear blue day, I heard the mom.
And she was angry. Even I, standing outside and not even related to them in any way, got scared.
“I don’t care what you want or don’t want. I want you out of here and now!”
It broke my heart hearing this. So much came to my mind. While I understand that she probably “simply” lost it because she felt some kind of pressure to get her child to childcare or wherever and is most likely exhausted as they just only had a baby too, the words she chose couldn’t have been heavier.
Maybe I’m over analyzing. Maybe I’m reading more into it than the child will ever do. But those two sentences are harsh. They leave a clear and brutal message for the child.
“I don’t care” in itself can be brutal. The combination with the “what you want or don’t want” just kills it. Even saying this to an adult can leave deep marks. Imagine what it can do to a little child when said over and over again.
“I want you out of here and now!” Another bomb dropped. This would be a sentence I would use if I want to kick a cheating partner out the door.
I’m aware that in the heat of the moment, in the exhaustion, we say things we later regret. I know because I am guilty of that. I also understand the impact things like this can have on you. I only heard “you will never make it without my help” once in my life. But it stuck to me and it still pops up like a roadblock and messes with my confidence 30 years later.
Our words have an impact. Especially when not chosen wisely towards a child.
I don’t know what lead to the fact that she ticked off in such a way. I know that sometimes only tiny things can get you to boil over. I know that in some cases and depending on how you are wired you can lose it and overreact and in doing so choose the wrong words in the wrong tone. The situation seemed so harsh because the child was not crying in a demanding and pushing sense. It was desperate. It was a sad cry. It was a “please understand me” way of crying.
I don’t know how often she had already tried to explain to the kid that there is no other way. I don’t know the story behind hit. I don’t know the build up and I don’t know their situation in general. I only got a glimpse of a moment. I overheard a reaction that might as well have been the first and last of its kind. And yet, it got to me.
It was a good reminder to choose my words and the tone of voice carefully. Words can hurt. Your tone of voice can hurt. If you combine them it can blow up like a nuclear bomb.