I experienced an “Aha” moment yesterday morning. It was due to thinking about this last weekend and how the crying and whining of two-year-olds can push my buttons.
When my children seem to be crying and whining for no apparently good reason (at least that is how it appears to me) I can at first roll with it. Yet as it continues and they seem to drone on and on I find myself cringing inside and the irritation grows with each additional sound that comes out in that loud and unappealing way.
Eventually I find myself even growing angry because I so long for them to stop doing it. I begin to wish I was elsewhere and that I lived in a different house. It can feel really challenging to me to live in an environment where someone is whining and screaming loudly.
When I spoke of this to a friend I could finally find some humor in it all when she said simply “You have some really bad roommates.” Yes, that is it I responded. My mini-roomies are messy, loud, whiny, overly-emotional, selfish, can’t do laundry or clean properly, pick their noses and eat their boogers (we’re really working on that one) and get this – they even poop their pants and even worse I have to clean it up. In an adult situation I would never put up with roommates like this. I should know as during my college years and post college years I had a total of 34 roommates. Most were great, many evolved into wonderful friendships, but there were a few that left a bit to be desired and it was a relief when they finally moved out.
The problem is I can’t really ask my mini-roomies to move out and my moving out isn’t really an option either. The only option really lies within me. I don’t want to be a tense and stressed out person and I sometimes get there during the course of a day when I think I just can’t take anymore outbursts.
My first step was to reflect on what is happening internally for me that leads to my getting so stressed. This is what emerged in my thoughts. When my children cry my first inclination is to soothe, comfort, solve the problem, entertain…anything to make them happy and get them to stop crying. Perhaps this is partially hard-wired into humans so that we are inclined to care for our small children attentively. Yet, when I try several different methods of soothing, comforting, pleasing and entertaining and my child unreasonably won’t stop the crying and instead continues, this is the point I begin to grow frustrated. I am wondering very logically and Spock-like “why are you still crying, why won’t you stop, see how hard I am working, see how hard I am trying to make you happy, to please you?????? Huh – can’t you see that?”
What I have to remind myself is that first of all they are only two years old. They can’t process or think about these things as adults do. Even some adults don’t think things through all the time. Secondly, they are little bundles of juicy emotional passionfruit. They wear their emotions on their sleeves, along with whatever else they’ve gotten into during the day and that most likely includes boogers. They are still learning how to express themselves in order to get what they want and have their needs met. We are slowly trying to teach them that screaming to get what one wants is not necessary in this house. One just needs to ask politely. I am slowly seeing that we are making headway in this area as they are very sweet and say Thank you, You’re welcome and so on.
I think what may help the most though is to come to terms with a few basic facts. They are:
- I cannot please my children.
- I cannot make them happy.
- I cannot fix everything.
- I cannot change anyone.
I may be able to get my daughters to giggle, but really they have to be in the mood or the frame of mind to giggle. I may be able to soothe tears due to a bruised knee, but only if the child is open to me soothing her. It is so much like the saying “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” I can offer my love and care to my daughters but they have to be open to receiving it. My “aha” realization is that it is the expectations I place on myself to try and make them happy that makes me so damn miserable. If I release these expectations and instead make peace with the fact I cannot please my children, I am hopeful that this will lead to my being more at peace and a whole lot less stressed.