This week was right up there on my list of My Top Ten Worst Parenting Weeks Ever. Daylight Savings destroyed our happy family. The girls started waking up at 5 am instead of 7 or 8. And about 15 seconds after they woke up, the meltdowns started. And never stopped until bedtime. For five days straight. I knew they were having a hard time. So I dedicated every second of my day to helping them through the week. The dishes piled up. I made paths in the living room so the girls could still walk across the room without tripping on toys. I mean I literally did nothing but play with them and try to keep them happy. "Try" is the key word there, because Emerald never lasted longer than 5 minutes in between meltdowns. And Mercedes' meltdowns were only slightly farther apart. After 3 days of this, I lost every ounce of my patience and I started having meltdowns and adult tantrums too. Of course this made me feel like a total failure as a mom and every time one of them burst out crying I thought, "I can't do this. Not for a single second longer," and "there is no way I'm going to make it through this day". I think all of us mommies feel like that at one time or another. Like life is overwhelming, out of our control, nothing we do matters and we can't handle it anymore. It's a terrible feeling and I refuse to stay that way for long.
So I made a list of ways to keep our home peaceful and turned it into a poster. I used a piece of white poster board and covered it with "peaceful" pictures from an old calender.
The poster is a way to remind me of things I need to model and remind the girls. The rules are for all of us. So when I say in our home we listen, that means the girls need to listen to me, but I need to listen to them too. I need to try to understand where they're coming from and let them know I hear them and I'm doing my best to help them. When I say we are never disrespectful, that means the girls need to show me respect, but I also need to treat them with respect and remember that they are their own little people with their own feelings and emotions and opinions and needs. By modeling how I want them to act and how I expect them to treat people, it helps them to have that same kind of respectful attitude towards me and towards each other. I have noticed even with infants that if I am calm, they will calm down faster. If I am stressed out, even if I don't verbalize it, they can sense it and it stresses them out more.
I added the list of feelings because lately when Mercedes gets upset I've been making educated guesses about which emotion she's feeling and explaining to her what it means. She LOVES this and being able to name and recognize her emotions helps her to calm down faster, and it also makes her feel like I understand what she's going through. I'll ask her, "Are you feeling jealous because Mommy is holding Emerald and not you?" Or, "Are you feeling disappointed because you want to go outside but it's raining?" Or, "Are you feeling frustrated because you want to put your shoes on all by yourself but you're having some trouble?" As soon as I name her feelings, her face lights up, she nods her head and we move on to talk about possible solutions. I want to keep practicing this and implement it during her chill spot times so eventually she can name her own feelings, which will help her to feel more in control of them.
When Mercedes is angry, she chills out in her "Chill Spot". When Emerald is angry she goes to her "Tantrum Spot". Since I am working on modeling how I want my kids to act, I realized I needed a spot to cool off as well. There were many times this week when our house was utter chaos, both girls were screaming at once and I found myself screaming too. Usually something like, "You girls are driving me insane!" Or, "How come nothing I do makes you happy?" When I really should have stuck them both in a safe place and cooled off, counted to ten, took some deep breaths, maybe took a 60 second facebook break, then have a better frame of mind to deal with the problem. So I stuck a "Mommy's Chill Room" sign on my bedroom door (with some help from Emerald who stuck all the stickers on it) and told the girls that when Mommy gets angry or frustrated or needs to cool down, I would be doing it in my Chill Room from now on.
Both girls love the poster and as I read it to them and talked about all of it, both girls nodded their heads, smiled, and said "yeah" or "okay" to each of the rules. Even Emerald at 18 months understood every word I said about how to keep our home peaceful. Today has been a total turn around day. We've had a couple meltdowns that have ended quickly and Mercedes has even named her emotions a few times for me. She told me she was disappointed that I told her she needed to wait a while before she played with my phone, and she said she was impatient about waiting for her turn with a toy that Emerald had. A couple times she stuck her tongue out at me, then caught herself and said, "Sorry Mommy. I need to be respectful." And then substituted the sticking out of the tongue for the words, "Mommy, I don't like that. You're making me mad." Which opened the door for me to talk to her about the decision I made and why I made it.
Goodbye chaos, hello peaceful home. It's so nice to have my happy girls back.