A little more on this –
I had an assumption that the greatest challenges to being a zen motherfucker (as a parent) would be about things like: the child breaks your coffee cup, then spills cereal everywhere, then does a poo on the lounge room rug, then treks the poo through the house, then puts your car key down the heater vent. You know?
But I was wrong. All those things are fine.
I’d prepared myself to let go, to an extent (and I had a long time to adjust to it – from the day the cute little baby does a little piddle on a bath towel) – for example, I can be bummed about a coffee cup breaking, but I know that it’s only a coffee cup, and I know that my kid didn’t mean to upset me, and I know that from now on, I need to push everything further back from the edge of the kitchen bench. I might get annoyed, or be fed up with cleaning up messes again and again and again and again and again, but I can still keep my cool.
Nope, it’s something else that’s the big threat to my Zen MF intention: it’s the inability to proactively and healthily address your issues with irrational toddlers.
Like – if you’re in a relationship, and your partner is doing a bunch of small things that grate on you, you can unhealthily bottle up your frustrations and then bam!, one day you explode. Stupidly and unhelpfully. Or you can figure out a way to proactively address it, maturely and calmly.
Or in the workplace, if you keep being given excuses about why you can’t get a raise to go with your recent advancement in job title (and job responsibilities), and you keep being put on projects as a project manager instead of as a designer (your actual role), you can get all passive-aggressive about it and do rubbish work and surf Facebook all day and furiously bad-mouth the company to everyone you know, or you can proactively and healthily draw a boundary as to how you’re being treated, and choose a path like: a) I will work here for one more year to get a brilliant portfolio and then go for a job at this other company I really like, or b) I will quit and find a better place for me.
But with toddlers! Hahahhahahahah, no.
[Aside: I didn’t understand the distinction of “toddler” before I had kids. I didn’t really know anyone with babies and I lumped all babies together as “babies” and then every other small child was “little kids” and then I guess they eventually looked like “school kids.”]
Toddlers – these cute little energetic balls of curiosity and impulse-driven-behaviour (and love and destruction) – are no longer babies and also not yet ready for kindergarten/preschool, so they’re not preschoolers. You think maybe they can understand things on a logical level, a rational level (“If you pour your water on the floor, I’m taking you to your room, do you want me to take you to your room? No? Okay then, don’t pour your water on the floor.”) – but their curiosity and impulses gets the better of them almost every time, and then they do whatever the heck they want to do, for the 1,207th time. And the 1,208th. And you take them to their room and they cry like THEY NEVER EXPECTED AND NEVER WANTED THIS TO HAPPEN AND HOW CAN YOU BE SO MEAN and then when you let them out maybe they tip some water on the floor for the 1,209th time and then run off happily to up-end a bucket of Lego and hit their sister on the head with a toy saucepan.
So, I can plan to take my breaks. I have (maybe) a couple of hours break every day when the kids are sleeping. If the day’s been hard, then when James comes home from work, he can take over, and I can go for a walk outside. I get my Saturday mornings off. But sometimes you have a certain prepared amount of patience and resilience, and something else comes along – the kids are sick, you get sick too, you can’t take them to play group or occasional care or do the usual activities that would get everyone out of the house and legs-stretched. And then, maybe, you feel like you need help, but you feel silly for asking for help – come on, surely you can deal with the kids, at home, for just one more day? And you’ve all only got the common cold, it’s not that big a deal? And while the younger toddler is having a nap, you can give the older toddler your tablet to play games on, so you get a break for an hour? Like, you can deal, right? It’s hardly a huge deal, compared to so many other possible tough situations in life, right?
And then maybe the younger toddler wakes up from their nap, and the older one has had enough of playing with the tablet, and your down-time is O.V.E.R. and now you are faced with several hours with them and getting everyone lunch-fed (but they’re refusing all their normal foods because they have colds) and then your older toddler takes his toddler headphones apart (they’re not even broken – just taken apart – no big deal, really) and for some reason, it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. It doesn’t make logical sense. But you get upset. And the older toddler runs over and bops you with a egg-flipper from the kitchen and the younger toddler is eating a book and then the older toddler grabs you from behind and jumps on your back and strangles you and says, “I WANT A PIG BACK RIDE!” and you pull them off and shout, “JUST LEAVE ME ALONE FOR ONE MINUTE,” as you take the parts of the headphones and try to put them back together, and the older toddler runs and jumps on you, “I WANT A PIG BACK RIDE!” and you walk to the bathroom and slam the door shut (I know, what? Am I a teenager?) and they run and grab their step stool and open the bathroom door and you hold the door knob and shout, “JUST LEAVE ME ALONE FOR ONE MINUTE,” and they look stunned as you’re shouting, and you close the door in their face and sit down and try to put the headphones back together with your back against the bathroom door, so they can’t open it, and you can hear them crying and yelling and crying…
And you take a few minutes to calm down.
And then think, what the hell just happened.
And, how can I make sure this never happens again.
And you go back out and start finding some lunch food for everyone (which will be rejected and rejected and rejected and eventually they will eat two pieces of popcorn each and 1/4 banana and a handful of cereal and sultanas) and think, my goodness, really, how did that happen.
So – all I can think is, if I can see that things might be harder than usual – if everyone is sick, or activities are cancelled or prevented from happening, or whatever – I need to pre-emptively ask for help. I need to ask my family, ask my partner, and say – I am running out of resilience and patience and mind-space at the moment. Maybe?