Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"Those" parenting moments

It's been a busy 4 weeks for my crew. Not only have we been adjusting to being a family of 7, we've battled strep throat, overflowing toilets, continuous never-ending  laundry, and a myriad of other appointments and mishaps. It's all enough to make a person's head spin.. and I know that mine does! It's so easy to get wrapped up in it all that I get to the point where I can explode over the littlest of things. My feelings become so fragile, its as if I'm competing with my newborn or even my 3 year olds on which of us has the least amount of emotional stability!

In those moments of breakdown, my attitude isn't about simply enjoying my family life, and the beauty of having us all together. Oh no.. my internal statements become very negative, and accusatory to my kids.. and spouse. You know those statement you say to yourself and don't mean, but in the moment you don't know any better. The exhaustion has truly taken over, and you become a troll-like version of your true self. It's not pretty, and everyone in the house is typically becoming just as fried as you, so then it becomes a raucous family of trolls trying to fight over any bit of self worth that can be found. It's something quite disgusting, but I'm sure, as a third party, very entertaining to watch!

When the troll-like behavior finally leaves, I feel terrible. How could I become "that" dad that loses his temper? How could I think, and sometime say those things? I never imagined that I would have those types of meltdowns or crazy parent moments. I know that these frustrations are typical of parents, but it doesn't make the aftermath feel any better.

It so happens that with these weeks of change in our family aligning with the start of the new year, I've been very focused on how to "fix" my controllable reactions. It hasn't been easy, but I've started generating a quick list of things that have been helping me stay away from being "that" dad:

1) Wear a positive attitude. I know after a long day of teaching I'm pretty spent, but I've accepted that the tired I feel has to stop at the door. I focus my drive home on pumping myself up for being home. I listen to my favorite music. I plan out a few fun things the crew can do together. But most of all, I make sure to feel excited to be home. This is the family I've always wanted and it needs to show. I want my attitude to be contagious... But in a good way! 

2) Get outside. After spending 10 winters living in Alaska, my kids can handle the Washington weather. I've been focusing on getting them outside each afternoon. Even if it's just to walk around the block, being outside grounds us all, and helps us clear our heads... and readjust our attitudes. 

3) Tap out! My wife and I have become great at tag teaming the stressful family moments, so if either of us sense  frustrations rising, we can send the other to a break to settle back down. The key here is to acknowledge the "tap out" and to go take the break. We all know that sometimes it's easy to get wrapped up in the moment, and not walk away. But, it is in acknowledging the "tap out" that you become the better parent and partner. Also, it's super important that neither you or your parenting partner  keep track of who taps out who more. AND if you've just come back from a long day at work you do NOT get first tap out, especially if your partner has been home all day with the kids!

4) Work stays at work. I'm a high school teacher. Teachers are notorious for working at home after school hours. There are papers to grade, lessons to write, emails to send, and forms to fill. The stress of all that can pull me away from being daddy and send me straight into stressville. I've accepted that any work I have needs to be done at work or during my home hours when I'm not wearing my daddy/husband hat. Is it hard? Of course, but when I'm focused on my kids and not on work, I'm a much better and happier daddio.

5) Keep it healthy. As parents, we often neglect our own health or diet while we focus on the care of our kids. Knowing that, my wife and I have focused on making sure that we keep foods in the house that will benefit all of us. We've stayed away from high sugary drinks like juices and sodas. Snacks have become fruits, veggies, nuts, pretzels, and sesame sticks. And while we aren't members of a fancy gym, we do what we can to get exercise as often as possible. By keeping ourselves healthy, we have noticed that we feel better and in feeling better, it is easier to bring that positive contagious attitude each day.

I've found that by simply making myself aware of this list throughout the day has helped me avoid hitting the low points as often and as severely as in the past. I'm not perfect. No parent is perfect. But I know that by having this plan or focus each time I'm with my family, that I will always be the best dad and husband for them. And ultimately, that's my goal. I want to be the best dad and husband for them for as long as I can.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you have suggestions that help you through "those" parenting moments, please let me know in the comments below. Also, if you found this post helpful or informative, please feel free to share it and/or my site with your parenting allies!

Have a great day, because you can and should for your kids!

The Teacher-Dad