Parenting 101

Yesterday was one of those days that started out with a broken glass shattered across my kitchen floor and ended with kids antagonizing one another and generally acting like brats.  Yeah.  Fun.  Finally, at 7:15, I’d had enough and declared it bedtime.  I might have lost my temper just a little bit.

It was like I’d suggested we cancel a Disney vacation with the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth that followed my proclamation.  Both girls collapsed into bawling heaps on the floor, just further evidence of the necessity of the early bedtime.

I calmly herded them upstairs and started the PJ/teeth/potty routine.  Hub heard the wailing and came in from outdoors and took over with the 2-year-old.  I got C into bed and then lay down with her as is our habit.  We chatted briefly and then I kissed her and got up to leave.  As I turned away, I heard a plaintive, “Mama?”

“What, babe?”

“But what did I do?”

I stopped in my tracks and did a mental head slap.  The child didn’t even know what she’d done wrong.  No wonder she was so upset.

As I went back and explained gently that it was her attitude and tone of voice and the way she was speaking to her sister, I wondered how many times I get upset with her and she doesn’t even know why.  Isn’t that like Parenting 101?

With my first-born, I read the parenting books and very intentionally laid out my expectations and the consequences of good and bad behavior and did my best to follow through with firmness and love.  With my second and third, I fear that I have regressed into knee-jerk parenting — reacting rather than responding.  It’s so much easier to give into my short tempter and impatience when what the kids need is a loving, caring, thoughtful parent.

Last night was a wake-up call.  I only have one chance.  I don’t want to mess it up.  I can’t afford the therapy.