Dear The Intuitive Parent,
I need your help ...
Here's the scenario:
I proceeded to pick up my children as they stay with me regularly and two of my children decided to bring their American Girl dolls, and every accessory they own, to my house. When I questioned why, they said "We don't have homework tonight and we want to play with our dolls at your house." When I say ... every accessory ... I mean EVERY accessory. My youngest was carrying a doll, a wire frame bed for two dolls, all the bedding, a motor scooter and helmet.
Normally I would take them home and make dinner for them but I did not feel like cooking, so I took them to the "golden arches". Yes, I know ... that is a topic for another day. We arrived at my house and I got out and started to corral the children out of the car. Now before I let you in on what happened next ... you should know this ... my children have developed my bad habit of carrying as much as you possibly can all at once to avoid multiple trips out of the car and up the stairs.
I had just exited the car and was emptying the trunk, when I heard a crash and then crying. I went around to make sure my youngest was alright, to see before me her American Girl doll, the wire framed bed and, are you ready for it ... her full vanilla shake minus a sip or two on the road next to my car. As I looked a bit closer I realized that the doll got the worst of it. The shake was all over her, mostly in her hair.
I reacted in the moment and lost it. I yelled, I swore ... not at my children, but at the situation. I was carrying on and ranting and raving like a lunatic. While this was going on an innocent passerby happened down the sidewalk past us. He didn't say a word, but I can only imagine what he was thinking of my parenting abilities. I pulled it together, threw all the stuff that was on the ground, including my youngest' meal, doll, wire frame bed, and bedding into the recycle bin that happened to be next to my car; not because I was throwing them away as she thought and begged me not to. I needed one large container to carry the debacle that was dinner and fun upstairs.
Once I got upstairs and my children situated at the dinner table, I took a deep breath and told my daughter I was sorry. Sorry I yelled, sorry I reacted, and that it was an accident and accidents happen. I also expressed to her that she could have waited and asked me for help rather than trying to carry everything as she unbuckled her seat belt and stepped out of the car.
I am embarrassed by my reaction, by my words, by my actions, and worse of all how I made a bad situation worse. My daughter was already upset and now I was yelling at the situation. And while this was all going on, she said to me with tears in her eyes "Daddy I'm sorry, I couldn't hold it all and they slipped".
How I could have handled this situation so much better in the moment!
I did recognize the error of my ways and apologized for it to my children, but I wish I could have not reacted the way I did in the moment. Every day is a challenge, and I try to improve as a parent. I'm getting there ... but its very slow going.
How could I have handled this situation better?
Before I answer and comment, I want to make it clear to my readers that I am not like a lot of other advice websites out there. I coach through observation and assist my clients in self-discovery and problem solving. And I also disclose that this was submitted for publication, with permission, from a current coaching client.
I would like to start by addressing the language you used about yourself and the situation because it reveals a lot about how you see yourself as a parent.
You stated -
“Normally I would take them home and make dinner for them but I did not feel like cooking, so I took them to the "golden arches". Yes, I know ... that is a topic for another day.”
“I was carrying on and ranting and raving like a lunatic. While this was going on an innocent passer by happened down the sidewalk past us. He didn't say a word, but I can only imagine what he was thinking of my parenting abilities.”
These phrasings jumped out at me right away. It sounds to me like you have a lot of self-judgment, as opposed to confidence in yourself that you are doing the best you can. What do you think of that observation?
I also noticed that you said you pulled it together after the innocent passerby walked by; who you assumed was also judging you negatively. How do you know that? Maybe he has kids and reacts similarly. Maybe he doesn’t and didn’t blame you at all. Or maybe he did. My point is, it sounds like you are projecting your own judgment of yourself onto the perception of a stranger. The fact is, you don’t know what they were thinking if they didn’t share it with you. And that you also stated he was "innocent" tells me you thought that he would be offended by what they heard and witnessed in some way.
Another observation I have is that it sounds like you have a lot of guilt about how you made your daughter feel by your reactions. And you also possibly feel like the whole situation was ultimately your fault because you said, “my children have developed my bad habit of carrying as much as you possibly can.”
Again, you are my client so I do know you well enough to know that you will most likely be more aware of your children carrying too much and potentially creating another situation like this. If you want a practical idea for preventing this, I would suggest going to a dollar store and picking up a few extra large, re-usable bags to put in your trunk.
I would next challenge you to consider looking at your relationship with your children a little differently. I want to go back again to what shifted your perspective: What you perceived the passerby was thinking. It sounds like that was your catalyst for you to shift out of how you were reacting.
Knowing this, if my observation is correct, how can you apply it to a future situation? Do you need it to be an outside force that gives you the wake-up to move from reacting to problem-solving? Is there a way that the outside force could be your own children? Is there a way for you to act in partnership with them so that the next time something else happens that you feel yourself reacting to, they can get your attention, in a mutually supportive way?
I know from my experience with you that it is very important to you that you have a close relationship with your kids. I will support you in finding ways that work for you, and your kids, to accomplish that. I also look forward to exploring with you further, if you would like, how your self judgment may be affecting your parenting in ways that may be keeping you from having the kind of relationship you want.
If you have a situation you would love to submit for feedback, please send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will only edit submissions to retain confidentiality.
As a Parent Coach and Mentor, my passion lies in empowering parents to make the best decisions they can for their children and their families as a whole. As a well-trained coach, I can be your facilitator and accountability partner for long-lasting, meaningful change that has a permanent, positive impact for your family. By focusing on the values that you hold most important in your life, I can help you create and maintain the type of parenting relationship you want to have with your children, now and into their adulthood.
I am a homeschooling mom of four children in Massachusetts. I am also the author of a book called The Herbal Beverage Book, which can be found on amazon. When not coaching, writing or spending time with the family, I enjoy Hayao Miyazaki films, new and classic Dr. Who episodes, anything related to American history and a great glass of mead.
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This blog is a collection of thoughts, articles and perspectives I have at any one time. While I am pretty consistent in my beliefs, life changes and evolves along with experiences. You may feel a connection with me through my writing yet I never want any of my readers to misunderstand that the connection you feel is with a perspective I have shared and not me as a person. I am continually humbled that I am able to connect with my readers, and I hope to continue to be able to for many years to come, but it doesn't make us connected in any way beyond this. If you connect with what I write and know me as an acquaintance, this in no way reflects that I have any knowledge of you, your situation in life or that I am writing with you in mind. It is merely that I have shared a human experience that most likely very many others have had has well. This also goes for anything I post on my Twitter account, Facebook Page and Facebook personal page. I wanted to make this disclaimer as clear as possible so you know that any misunderstanding you choose to have is not my responsibility.