After 2.5 weeks of incorporating the Toddlercalm approach successfully, my parenting confidence grew. By ‘successful’ I meant no yelling and spanking, only gentle ways of managing tantrums. I read the Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids book whenever I have the time.
Then came the London trip. The first two days were tougher, with the cold, rain and the kids adjusting to the time difference and living out of a suitcase. My patience wore thin as E whined and demanded for 101 things, one after another. He was feeling powerless with having to follow us here and there, especially when the attractions did not have anything that interest him. On the other hand, I was feeling stressed out with Hubby for some reasons. On the second night we were there, I finally snapped. We just returned to our hotel room and was getting ready to wash up the kids.
E started making all sorts of irritating noise for not being able to take off his pants on his own. Hubby and I were washing and cleaning up after Xan’s messy, poopy bum. I was already very exhausted and agitated. The more I tried to ignore him, the louder he became. I exploded. I screamed and smacked him. Feeling exasperated for holding it so well for the past weeks only to lose it during a family holiday, I was extremely mad at myself. Thinking back now, I don’t think I was upset with him but rather, the stress accumulated from many influencing factors aggravated the situation and my control of emotions. He was a victim.
In the peak of anger, I remember yelling something I didn’t mean: “Why do you make it so hard for me to be a good mom? Why can’t you help me? Why do you have to keep pushing the limits?” We both cried in the shower. I apologised profusely and reminded him that what I did was very wrong and he should never follow suit. “Do only the good things mommy does, not this. Hitting or screaming is NOT okay. Mommy is not perfect and mommy is trying very, very hard to be a better parent. I want to stop getting angry at you. I don’t want to scream or hit you anymore.”
I have never known that my son is rather mature emotionally up until that moment when he said to me, “I’m trying hard to be a good boy too, mommy. I don’t like mommy to be angry at Ewan. It makes me blue. Ewan wants mommy to be yellow and rainbow” Yellow meaning ‘happy’, rainbow – ‘love’. He came up with these colour codes to represent all the feelings: blue for sad, red for angry, pink for sorry, green for upset and orange for excited.
I was surprised with how much he knows about my effort to change and how supportive he is by reciprocating the effort. As always, he forgave me instantly. We made up quickly, I hugged him for the longest time in the shower and he was back to his cheerful, chirpy self again.
That night, while we were chilling out in the hotel room, he came up to me with my Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids book and said, “Mommy, you need to read this and learn how not to yell or be angry at Ewan again.” Before he dozed off, he whispered, “Mommy, I love you”
I love you too, my dear son. For you – and for whatever it takes – I will not stop trying.