To the Stay-at-Home Mom Staring At 12 Long Hours In Front Of Her

12 long hours

One day last month, I experienced 12 long hours

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5:37am

It’s early. The sun has yet to rise. It’s dark. My house is quiet.

I soak up the silence.

The bed is warm. The sheets are soft. My pillow is plush. I feel alive. I feel serene. I feel ready to greet the day.

6:30 am

Oh no, I must have dozed off, kids are going to be up soon. I really need to get up. But the bed is so comfy. Just five more minutes.

6:49am

Mommmmmyyyyyyyy! I pooooooped!

Ugh, Austin’s awake already? It’s too early. I’m not ready.

Mooooooommmmmmmmmaaaaaaayyyyyyy!

The screams are getting louder. I take a deep breath and stand up. It’s go time. 

The next 12 long hours will be the most intense, most frustrating, most exhausting, most emotionally charged hours of your life. Are you ready? 

7:15am

I just got peed on.

7:46am

Seriously?!? The entire living room carpet is covered in cereal. I JUST vacuumed last night.

8:25am

I finally get on the elliptical, my haven. This is where I start my day. This is my meditation. Ahh, serenity once again. I am focused. I am centered. I am grounded.

8:27am

***loud shattering noise followed by screams***

8:28am

I enter the kitchen. All three kids are standing on the kitchen counter throwing cups onto the floor. One of them was glass.

8:35am

No more glass on the floor.

9:46am

My kids are the best. They are playing so nicely together up in the toy room. I love hearing them laugh with each other.

9:52am

I walk up the stairs to breathe in a few minutes of the joy.

9:52am

WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED UP HERE?!?

10:45am

I’m finally done vacuuming up all of the dirt from the flower pot that had been scattered all over the entire upstairs. Literally ALL. OVER. In every single crevice.

11:15am (on the phone with a friend)

I’m not gonna make it today, my kids are a mess. They are having a really bad day. They have just been horrible lately! 

The longer I spoke with my friend the more I found myself complaining about my kids. I told her about all of the things they had done on the past few weeks that qualified them as bad kids. That everyday was beginning to seem like 12 long hours of chaos.

I explained to her that we had to put hotel locks at the top of each of our doors because my four year old has been escaping. Yes, you read that right. Escaping. He has been showing up at neighbors’ houses in his underwear, unannounced, ready to play.

I told her how my three year old has been screaming at the top of his lungs in grocery stores because I won’t ever buy him the candy that they so conveniently put near the checkout.

I vented about how exhausting it is to have a 21 month old who is fighting naps and rarely takes them anymore. By 5:00 he is beside himself and my sweet little baby has turned into Chucky.

My friend listened intently, comforted me by sharing some stories of how her kids had been “terrible” lately as well, we laughed and resolved to try and get together on a different day.

Later that afternoon I overheard my four year old telling his brothers “remember when mommy was yelling…” I have no idea what followed those words, as upon hearing them I felt like my feet had been knocked out from under me.

Is that really how I want my kids to remember me? I thought. Constantly yelling?

I instantly became defensive with myself. But I have to yell. If I don’t yell they don’t hear me. A statement which is generally true, but as I reflected on this particular day the yelling had not been out of necessity to be heard. It had been intentional, deliberate yelling. Yelling that let them know that I was angry. That they were causing me to be angry.

The more I thought about the reality of the situation, the more clearly I saw the truth. My kids were not the ones having a bad day. I was the one having a bad day. I woke up unprepared for the day. I woke up with an agenda, a to-do list for the day, and my focus had been on accomplishing those tasks instead of on my kids.

More often than not, when my kids get into trouble it’s because they are trying to get my attention while I’m busy doing something else. My four year old has said several times over the past few weeks “but if you don’t play with me, I might do something bad.” He knows where my focus is. He sees when I’m not engaged. And he responds the best way he knows how. They all do.

My kids reach out to me for connection. I brush them off. They respond by getting into trouble. I react by yelling. Its a vicious cycle that results in 12 long hours. 

Days when I am distracted with my agenda, I miss the first two steps of that cycle. I come to after they have already done something wrong. But days when I am fully present, I am able to lovingly respond to their first need instead of reacting with anger after they have already responded to my dismissal. 

So my kids are not actually horrible kids. They are just KIDS. Kids that have needs. Kids that desperately want to be seen by me. To spend time with me. To be loved and responded to by me.

Each morning I have a choice. I can wake up and prepare myself for battle. I can pin their needs against my agenda and we all lose. Or I can wake up and choose them.

This morning….

5:49am

It’s early. The sun has yet to rise. It’s dark. My house is quiet.

I soak up the silence.

The bed is warm. The sheets are soft. My pillow is plush. I feel alive. I feel serene. I feel ready to greet the day.

The next 12 hours will be the most critical hours of your child’s life. You have 12 priceless hours to pour everything you have into them. Not 12 long hours, but think about them as 12 short hours to show up for them. To be present for them. To respond to them. Their fragile lives are in your hands. How will you love them today? 

***

This post originally appeared at Feelings and Faith.


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Christine Suhan
Christine Suhan is a wife, stay at home mother to three wild toddler boys, and writer/creator at www.feelingsandfaith.net. She has a master's degree in marriage and family therapy and enjoys helping people through openly and honestly sharing her journey of life, recovery, mental illness, marriage, parenting, and more. You can also find her on her Facebook page.