The moments where my patience finally hits that tilt level and I begin shouting and yelling at the kids rather than taking the 10 seconds to count backwards and breathe, or any of the other ‘calm down’ tricks I’ve read about over the years, am I doing the best I can?
That’s a tricky question.
Many, many, years ago, I went to a workshop that focused on managing behaviors of children with disabilities, particularly children on the autism spectrum in school settings. I learned two important things at that workshop. One, peppermint helps stimulate your brain and keeps you more alert; the presenter passed out peppermint candies after our lunch break to help fight off the sleepiness that oh so often occurs after lunch! Two, everyone is always doing the best they can at that given moment.
The presenter asked our group if we thought that our students were always doing the best they can regarding behaviors that they were known to display. This created some grumbling, and ‘oh no way’ comments with some smiles. Then the presenter explained that these students were doing the best they could at that given moment. That even though you have witnessed times where your students have behaved much more positively, at that given moment, they were doing the best they could. So, say, a student was having a meltdown, and just hit someone across the face. Given the circumstances of their day, perhaps their night before, those details need to be taken into account, because those details lend to their present situation, and that being the best they could do. We don’t know all the details that go into someone’s daily experience, there could be a lack of sleep, there could be trigger points that we don’t know about, there are so many things that can influence people that we are unaware of. The point is, even if someone can do better under different circumstances, that was the very best they could do at that moment. I hope I’m explaining her point accurately, because it’s stuck with me all this time.
The other night I came across and read a really funny, very clever blog post. It was written from a toddler’s perspective to his/her mother. I thought it was hysterical, probably because I related to it very well. What surprised me as I glanced down at the comments left below her post, was that there were negative comments made by readers regarding the article. I won’t ruin all the funny details from the post (the link is below, you’ve got to read it), but the negative comments I saw focused on the one thing I think I identified with most and laughed out loud about:
Waking up in the middle of the night to a kid’s wet bed, and placing a towel under the child rather than changing all of the sheets.
I have done this multiple times.
3:00 am waking up to crying, then cleaning up either vomit, or urine off of the floor/bed/windows/doors/walls, and cleaning the kid enough to slip them in some clean jammies then back to a bed stripped of sheets and blankets, but with laid out towels over the wet spots to lay on top of, and a throw blanket to place over them is as much as I can muster. It’s the best I can do at that moment. And honestly, I think it’s pretty great. Adam Sandler in Big Daddy used newspapers, I stepped up his game and used a dry towel, and left the rest to be dealt with in the morning.
We are all doing the best we can at any given moment. At those moments where I think I’m an utter parenting failure for x, y or z, I can count on my good friends to chime in and have a pissing contest of ‘Oh you think that’s bad? Last week, I _____’ (fill in the blank), leaving me to feel much better after laughing, and a bit more normal (whatever that is). We’re all in this together, doing the best we can. I think being able to laugh at yourself while acknowledging your practices aren’t always taken out of a book on parenting is in itself, doing awesome.
If you’ve ever had a toddler, or if you may have one one day, be sure to read this from ‘The Honest Toddler’, I thought it was hysterical. http://www.thehonesttoddler.com/2012/06/i-sorry_6.html?m=1