I long to exhibit grace under pressure, but still remain true to who I am, without putting on any kind of act. It's a fine line that I have yet to learn to navigate. I spent too many years of my life being fake, working hard to be accepted by others, and that is the way madness lies, and I will never walk that road again. But the flip side of being authentically myself at all times, is that I end up spazzing out sometimes in a public way, and generally at my kids.
Part of me feels that this true side of me might be inspiring to others, because it offers other parents the chance to stop pretending and be okay with the fact that we all lose our tempers sometimes. And then fear creeps in, and I begin to worry that people think I'm mean and crabby with my children, and maybe they are right.
No one is patient with their kids all of the time. We are all human, and prone to tiredness and frustration, often when we least expect it. We hosted a variety of friends in our home on the weekend to discuss the upcoming municipal election, and I jumped up and down many times over the course of the afternoon to refill the snack plate, solve spats among the kids for toys, and keep babies from falling down our steep stairs into the basement.
I had good energy and patience for the bulk of the afternoon, and all the way through dinner with some friends, and only reached my breaking point when we had two separate juice incidents. William spilled iced tea on the living room carpet right before we put our ham dinner on the table (the rule is no juice anywhere but the kitchen table) and I was irritated, but cleaned it up and maintained that accidents happen, and it's not a big deal. We enjoyed dinner and dessert, and just as the evening was winding to a pleasant close, Ava poured iced tea into a cup on the island and shook the juice jug, dislodging the lid and flooding the kitchen with sticky, syrupy juice.
I would love to report that I smiled tensely and began cleaning it up, but that would be a falsehood of the highest order. I flipped out, yelling about the mess and how I just washed the floor on Saturday (my most hated household chore) and why couldn't she just pour juice without spilling it everywhere? She was already crying and upset the instant the lid flew off; it wasn't like I needed to hammer the point home for her sake. I simply saw a huge mess that had to be cleaned up before I could sit down and relax, and I knew at that moment that once again, I had crammed too much into a twelve hour period.
Our friends grabbed their kids and hustled out of the house, and I hated having the evening end on such a dour note, but life with kids is filled with messes and mistakes and rage where you would prefer to feel love and mercy. Jason got the kids in their PJ's and teeth brushed while I sopped up the mess, opening the island drawers to find more juice all over dishes and cutlery, and feeling very hard done by indeed.
By the time it was clean, and I had calmed down and tried to put it all in perspective, I was able to go to Ava and apologize for my outburst, and remind her that no one is perfect all of the time. Not her, as she tried to pour juice and experienced imperfection, and certainly not me, as I overloaded my own personal applecart and took out my exhaustion on my seven year old child. We both cried and hugged and said we were sorry.
I'm grateful for our friends who didn't judge me for my meltdown. I'm also glad that I'm willing to say sorry to my child, and that she feels the freedom to apologize in return. We can forgive each other, reminding ourselves that we aren't perfect and it's okay to make mistakes, and our relationship can be restored. I can work on my character so the next time I'm under pressure and there is a juice explosion (or something similar), perhaps I'll demonstrate a little grace mixed in with my anger.