Nine million seventy one thousand three hundred forty four
I cherish the notes I receive from their children, whether it be a Doodle, scrawled in marker on a yellow post-it notes, or words written in calligraphy on lined paper. But the poem that I received recently on Mother's Day from my 9 year old daughter was especially meaningful to me. In fact, the first line of this poem made me feel warm tears running down my cheeks.
“The important thing is... mom is always there, even when I am in trouble.”
But I have to tell you, it was not always so.
At the peak of my crazy life, I started practicing something very different from how I acted before. I began to scream. It does not happen often, but it was extremely — pumped like a balloon that suddenly bursts and makes everyone in earshot startle with fear.
So, what are the chances my then 3-year-old and 6-year-old girl made me to lose patience? In that moment, when one of them insisted to go back and take three more beaded necklaces and her favorite pink sunglasses when we were already late? Or when the other tried to pour herself cereal and dumped the entire box on the kitchen table? Or when she dropped and shattered my special glass angel, which I told you not to touch? Or when she, like a professional, then, when I needed peace and quiet? Or when two of them fought over ridiculous things: who and how will be the first out of the car or one of them will get more of the sweet sauce for ice cream?
Yes, these are the things — the usual mistakes and typical problems of children and the relationship annoyed me to such an extent that I was losing control of himself.
That was hard for me to write this sentence. And it was hard to relive that time in my life, because, in truth, I hated myself in those moments. What happened to me that I needed to scream at two precious little people who I loved more than life?
Let me tell you about it. About my madness.
Excessive use of mobile phones, overwhelmed with obligations, multipage lists, and the pursuit of perfection consumed me. And the fact that I yelled at people I loved was a direct result of the loss of control over their lives.
Inevitably, I had somewhere to fall apart. So I fell apart behind closed doors in the company of people who matters most to me.
Until that fateful day.
My oldest daughter was standing on a stool and tried to get something from the pantry, when suddenly, she accidentally dropped a package of rice on the floor. When a million tiny grains like rain scattered over the floor, in front of my girls became dimmed with tears. And then I saw It — the fear in her eyes as she braced herself for the tirade of her mother.
She is afraid of me, I thought, and it was the most painful realization, you can imagine. My six year old is afraid of my reaction to her innocent mistake.
With deep sorrow, I realized that wasn't the mother that I wanted to be for their children. And this was not how I wanted to spend the rest of his life.
Within a few weeks after this episode, I had my Breakdown-Breakthrough - that moment of painful awareness, which prompted me to embark on a Hands Free is the way to let go of the daily distractions of business and understand what really matters to me*. It was two and a half years ago — two and a half years to gradual reduce the excess electronic madness in my life... two and a half years to release myself from the unachievable Standard of perfection and social pressure, calling on “all the time”. Once the internal and external fuss was less anger and stress inside me began to slowly dissipate. With reduced loads, I was able to respond to children's mistakes and wrongdoings in a more calm, compassionate and reasonable.
I could say something like: “It's just chocolate syrup. You can erase it and the worktop will be as new.”
(Instead of having to issue an exasperated sigh and roll his eyes.)
I offered to support the broom at a time, as she was sweeping the sea of cereal covering the floor.
(Instead of standing over her with an expression of disapproval and extreme irritation.)
I helped her to think where she could leave her glasses.
(Instead of shaming her for irresponsibility.)
And in the moments when the great fatigue and the incessant nagging was going to get the better of me, I walked into the bathroom, closed the door, and give yourself time to breathe and remind myself that they are children and children make mistakes. Just as I am.
And over time, the fear that flashed in front of my kids in moments of trouble, disappeared. And thank God, I became a haven in their distress, not by the enemy, from which you want to run and hide.
I'm not sure I would have written about these profound transformations, if not for the incident, which occurred last Monday afternoon. In that moment, I again felt the taste of life overwhelmed and the desire to scream was on the tip of my tongue. I approached the final chapters of the book, over which I now work, and my computer froze. Sudden changes three heads disappeared in front of me. I spent a few minutes frantically trying to recover an earlier version of the manuscript.
When that didn't work, I went to back up, only to discover that there had been some mistake. When I realized that the work I did for these three chapters will never recover, I wanted to cry, and even more — I was furious.
But I couldn't afford it, because it was time to pick up the kids from school and take them to swimming lessons. With great caution, I quietly closed the laptop and reminded myself that life can be much, much more serious problems than rewriting these chapters. Then I said to myself that there was absolutely nothing I could do with right now.
When my kids got in the car, they immediately realized something wrong. “What's wrong, mom?” they asked in unison, throwing a fleeting glance at my ashen face.
I felt like I want to scream: “I lost three days of work on my book!”
I felt like I want to hit the steering wheel with his fist, because, being in the car was the last place I wanted to be at that moment. I wanted to go home and fix my book, not to take the kids for a swim, wring out wet bathing suits, comb tangled hair, cook dinner, wash dishes and put everyone to bed.
But instead I calmly said, “I'm having a little trouble right now. I lost part of my book. And I don't want to talk because I feel very upset.”
“We regret,” said the elder for both of them. And then, as if they knew I needed space, they were silent all the way to the pool. We continued that day, and although I was more quiet than usual, I screamed and struggled tried to refrain from thinking about the problem with the book.
Finally, the day was almost done. I put the youngest daughter in the bed and lay down next to the eldest. We had a Night Time Conversation.
“Do you think you will be able to return your head back?”, – she asked quietly.
And that's when I started to cry — not so much about the three chapters, I knew that they can be rewritten. My tears were more associated with fatigue and devastation from writing and editing books. In fact, I was so close to completion. And the fact that it suddenly broke down, was an incredible disappointment.
To my surprise, my child reached out and gently stroked my hair. She said reassuring words like: “Computers can be so frustrating, and I could see if I can find this backup.” And finally: “Mom, you can do this. You're the best writer I know” and “I'll help you as I can.”
During my “troubles”, she was patient and compassionate encourager who never had to kick me when I already fell.
My child never learned this empathetic response if I had remained a Yeller. Because the sound breaks the link; it makes people move away instead of closer.
“The important thing is... my mom is always there, even when I am in trouble.”
My child wrote that about me as a woman who went through a difficult period, which she is not proud of, but through which she learned a lot. And in her words, I see hope for others.
The important thing is... it's never too late to stop the screaming.
The important thing is... children forgive-especially if they see the person they love trying to change.
The important thing is... life is too short to be upset over spilled cereal and scattered shoes.
The important thing is... no matter what happened yesterday, today is a new day.
Today we can choose a peaceful response.
And, in doing so, we will be able to teach our children that peace and tranquility are building bridges — bridges that can carry us through trouble.