Thanks to our guest writer, Allison Kenny, mother and author, for this post.
You know the moment. When your child’s eyes glaze over and they gear themselves up to throw an epic fit in Target…in the grocery store…at a friend’s house…on an airplane…and there you are: heat rising up the back of your neck, cheeks flushed and mind racing as all eyes turn on you. What’s she going to do? The adults nearby want to know. What’s Mommy gonna do? Your kid wants to know. What am I going to do? You want to know too.
These moments are the stuff mothering is made of. What happens next? For me, my thoughts turn quickly into action, so I’ve learned to pay attention to what I tell myself during tense parenting moments, especially when I’m in public.
After logging 10,000 hours as a therapeutic parent to my daughter who we adopted through foster care, I know that acting calm, narrating the experience in my own head and noting my internal state are key strategies.
My thoughts go something like this…
“Oh, okay…her voice sounds whiny. Did I skip her snack? No. Maybe she’s just overtired. Or overstimulated. Or over it. Hmmm…take 3 deep breaths. Don’t say anything. She’s crying. Maybe she needs a hug and a soothing voice from me.
She did not just hit me! Okay, now I’m angry. Like really really mad. I must be making a scary face. My daughter looks scared. People are looking. Okay, 3 more breaths. Project confidence. Everyone will feel calmer if I look steady. She wants me to freak out. Don’t take the bait.
This is just a big fit. I’ve been through this a million times. Let people judge. I’m the expert on my kid. I don’t have to throw a fit just because she is. My heart is racing. Take 3 deep breaths.
Okay, people are really staring now. My daughter is totally out of control. She’s putting on quite a show. This is super embarrassing.
She is getting all her feelings out and I have to stay calm and contained. So unfair. But if I scream, it will make things worse. I know that for sure. Too bad. I just screamed anyway. That felt really good.
And…it did make it worse. Ugh. Well, I’m human. I get to scream sometimes. I’ve done no permanent damage. We’re almost out of here. We’ll be home soon and can take a break. I can have space to myself and calm down.
Forget it. I’m texting a friend all the horrible things I want to scream right now. It’s a miracle I didn’t swear at her now that I think about it. What are the funniest emoji’s I can send in this particular moment?
I’m actually surviving a stressful situation with a lot of grace. I just smiled at a stranger. I’ve got this.
All is well. Real life is messy and I just did my best. I deserve a small award of some kind. What’s a sweet thing I can do for myself later today? Oh…she’s calmer now. Maybe we can talk a little about feelings. And consequences.
Nah…not yet. I’ll just tell her I love her.”
Allison Kenny is a blogger, business owner, and author living in Oakland, CA with her wife and squirrely daughter. She co-Founded Spotlight:Girls and creates books, on-line media and experiences for girls to take center stage and change the world. Follow her on her blog, www.raisingagogirl.com, on Instagram or Twitter to learn more about her life as an adoptive mama and girl advocate. Check out her book, Starring Celia, on Amazon.