A girlfriend came to see me today.
She was wrecked with guilt.
The day before she yelled at her son.
And not just yelled, shouted.
Never had she done this before.
She felt sick.
He is two, and he didn’t act any different to a normal two year old who is adjusting to a new younger sibling in the family. He wanted attention from his mother even if it was negative. This meant he kicked, hit, jumped off the couch, threw his toys and did raspberries in his mothers face because any attention was good attention.
And although my friend is bigger, stronger, wiser than her son, yesterday she wasn’t.
She went through her tool box of tricks – reflecting empathy, getting her son involved, negative reinforcement, distraction and so on, but after she ran out of tricks and her tool box was empty, like completely empty, I’m talking finger-nail-scratches-on-the-bottom-of-the-box-empty, she had nothing left.
Yesterday, she reached breaking point.
And, today she came and cried on my couch.
She is a good mum, but she is under so much pressure from herself – the decisions she has made, the goals she has set, the fast-paced life she is living that she had no reserve of patience.
She has a newborn baby. A two year old son. Is moving overseas. Is supporting a husband who is competing in an Ironman event. And to top it off, she runs a small business.
She is not superwoman, she is far from it.
And she is not a saint, she is far from that too.
So why does my friend continually try and live a super human, saint-like life?
Yelling at her son was a sign that she wasn’t coping, but if she was being honest with herself she would have realised it wasn’t her first sign.
Crashing her husbands bike into the roof of the garage might have been the first sign. Or not engaging in a respectable level of self-care might be another (I’m talking the basics here like having a shower). Not eating well, not sleeping well, could have all been the first signs that she was stressed too.
But she ignored them.
She can’t take back her actions from yesterday.
She has done it now, there’s no going back.
But what she did afterwards impressed me and told me that the bigger, stronger, wiser mum was still in there somewhere.
She realised it wasn’t her son’s fault that she and her husband had made these life decisions, so it was unfair of them to expect him, a child of two, to be a ‘good’ child and not have a period of maladjustment.
Then she took a day off.
She took a day off from packing, from writing, from cleaning, from doing everything she ought to be doing and just had a break. With me. And a cup of tea. And a red velvet cupcake with chocolate icing and sprinkles.
At the end of the day, my friend knew that she shouldn’t have yelled at her son. This isn’t the kind of parent she wants to be, and never, ever did she imagine she would be in this situation.
But she also has to stop being so hard on herself.
Her son is two.
Will he remember this isolated incident? Probably not.
Will he forgive her? Most definitely, in fact he probably already has.
While these two things don’t mean it’s okay to yell at your child, it goes some way to relieving her guilt.
The questions remain, however….
Will she remember this incident?
Will she ever forgive herself?
All my friend can do now is to learn from her mistakes and recognize her breaking point signs before they manifest into something she will regret forever.
She is a good mum with and without all these extra things in her life. She was doing her best, but she needed to stop and just be herself.
As my friend walked away from my house, I thought to myself, this could be me. And as I turned and looked in the mirror, I realised something… my ‘friend’, was me.
Mums and dads, you are not superhuman even though every day you expect super human powers from yourself. Take a load off, take a chill pill, look after yourselves and your family and maybe you can recognise your breaking point signs early, or better yet, prevent them from occurring in the first place.
Have you ever reached breaking point with your kids? What did it look like, and how did you overcome it?