There is often tears during dinner clean up at our house.
They can be triggered by the job itself, a sibling, or the music that’s playing – some of us are sick of I’m Blue – and others are not big fans when the three-year- commandeers google and asks it to play songs like Old Macdonald.
The other night was no different. I was lying on the couch reading my book when I heard.
“Why are you made at me?”
“You seem mad at me.”
“Just explain why, so I can stop doing it.”
“Now I’m mad at you! Let it go!”
Before anyone can get me to help sort everything out I make a break for the bedroom – mostly so I don’t scream in irritation too. I pick up my book, read a page, and then put it back down.
I picture those two children of mine – so different from each other – and groan before heading back downstairs.
I find one of them alone in the kitchen. I take in the slumped shoulders.
I see the other child out the window and notice the clenched fists.
We begin to sort it out.
One child is trying to obey a dad’s directive to get everyone to chat during chores instead of retreating into their own worlds.
The other felt stupid after a correction from the first.
Being a present parent means being present not only to my own reality but also to the reality of my kids. To notice not only what I see, hear and feel, but watch them as well – to look for context.
More often than not I fail. Last week I was cleaning the floor under the table on my hands and knees. I’d asked them to stay out of the kitchen until the floor was clean.
A clean floor for thirty seconds – I know – an unattainable dream…. But after the third child came in and grabbed something from the pantry, I screamed “Stop!” so loud that my throat hurt. The shocked, hurt, looks of my kids barely even registered until a half hour later when the floor was completely clean.
But…. when I do stop and bring myself fully into a moment, I can act instead of react.
Which is easier to do when I’m dealing with their emotions rather than my own.