Monday, July 18, 2011

Temper Tantrums

Yeah, I throw a tantrum every now and again. I used to call it "venting", but that is when you complain about something to someone else so you don't end up acting it out instead. A temper tantrum in when you act it out. I need to be a grown up and recognize when I do this. It isn't very mature to scream and yell and throw things and then tell the kids it isn't allowed. Gosh, I just realized I added "Hypocrisy" to  "Lack of Self Control" and "Immature Behavior." Three strikes? Sounds like I need a time out.

This past week I reached my limit on patience when it came to boxes and clutter and mess. When we moved here just over three weeks ago, I made a commitment to keep whatever I could as clean as I could so that removing the clutter could be easier. For the most part, that meant sweeping the floor that I could see and making sure the dishes were kept up. Sometime before the weekend, something snapped and dishes and sweeping wasn't good enough for me. I needed a completely clean house and I needed it NOW.

It started, embarrassingly enough, because I found lice on the girls. I hate that. I don't feel it is something to be ashamed of. It isn't really a sign that you are dirty or trashy. It usually means that you sat next to or borrowed a rubber band or brush from someone else who didn't know they had some and before you know it, the creepies are everywhere. Being in public school, it is almost inevitable that it will happen once or twice. Living in the country, it seems that you can pick them up anywhere at anytime. In this case, I think they came from swimming in a friend's pool or maybe in the creek. I'm still not 100% sure. All I know is they gross me out and I want them gone.

I found the first one exactly 24 hours before I found out I had to move here. That of course only added to stress of the situation. I managed to work the cleaning into the packing (as well as the shorter Summer haircuts I had already promised them.) I thought I was thorough enough, but I apparently missed something because I found another one less than a week ago. Finding the little buggers sent me on a spree of cleaning and scrubbing and washing everything that wasn't nailed down and spraying everything else that was. After I went through the whole "shampoo, scrub, rinse, comb, repeat..." process with all the girls  I spent three or more days going from room to room, cleaning off any flat surface, sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, scrubbing, washing, drying, folding, sorting (I don't put the clothes away, except for my own.) By the time yesterday even came around, I was just plain fed up with all of it. It felt like as soon as I cleaned somewhere, the mess was magically recreated in the same spot and I needed to start over. I was in pain, hot, sweaty, tired, hungry, thirsty, and I felt like everyone was making messes without thinking and no one was caring or helping me clean it up.

So, I yelled, I swore, I threw the broom in the corner. I hollered for the kids to "pick this up RIGHT NOW!" I bellowed at the dog to get out of the way.  When the kids came up to ask me for something, I snapped back to tell them to just leave me alone. If I saw them around anywhere, I felt the need to order them back to work and give them another chore to do. No TV, no video games, turn the radio down where I can't hear it. Just get back to work. I saw every mess as a personal attack against my peace.  The kids were just mindless mess makers wandering around the house being selfish and ignoring the work I had been doing. Oh poor me.

DH was there all day yesterday watching TV and trying to recover from his weekend (awake for 24 straight hours with only four hours of sleep and nearly no food.) I'm sure just the TV being on had something to do with my grouchiness (that is a whole different issue,) but that was only part of it. I was angry that he got to leave the house and have fun and socialize and all I ever got to do was run errands and shop when we were broke and waste gas we didn't have.  I was so focused on cleaning and being grouchy about it, that I missed that DH was smiling at me, and staring at me, and doing all the things that make me happy and love him as the Best Husband EVAR. He was simultaneously thanking me for my work and making bedroom eyes at me and I totally missed it. In fact, it took him standing up in front of me and stopping me, broom in my hand, with a big, slow hug, so get me to see what had been going on.

It is moments like those that make me love him even more. I realized that even though I hadn't been nearly as badly behaved as I have in the past, the Pity Party needed to come to an end. I took a deep breath, asked for help (nicely) for the last few things I needed to get finished, and then cooked an amazingly delicious and satisfying dinner for everyone. We all sat down to eat together and then everyone helped clean up. I went to bed, once again, with a shiny sink and happy kiddos and everything was right in the world again.

Today, I feel a little embarrassed for my bad behavior. The younger two really weren't affected by it. They've seen it before and (thankfully!) they know it will pass. They will even tell strangers, "We have heard all those bad words before, but we know better than to say them." Yeah, um...they didn't get it from TV. I really shouldn't have let it get out of hand because, sure as teens are moody, Little Heart came up to me right at bed time and unleashed a whole string of nonsense and started picking a fight. I was already calmed down by then, but I still took the bait and it was another hour or more before we sorted things out and went to bed. I hate fighting with my kids.

I know that one of the leading factors in all of this was that I was suffering from a spike in pain and I was just so tired of sitting still and hurting that I had to do SOMETHING. No, I wasn't really thinking clearly. The latest area the FM has decided to attack is my lower back. Because of the nature of the pain, that doesn't just mean my back hurts. It means by back hurts a LOT, and the stabbing, radiating pain causes my legs, knees, feet, and ankles to hurt like... well you get the idea. Wearing jeans hurts because even the SEAMS press against tender spots. Laying down isn't comfortable unless I have just taken pain meds and are about to fall asleep. Sitting is possibly the worst because even on a good day there isn't anywhere comfy for me to sit. So, I just keep getting up and walking around, and doing little things here and there, and getting worn out and grouchy from hurting.

If I would have forced myself to stick to the normal "rest, move, medicate, nap, move again" plan everything would be fine. Instead, I started working and just kept going. To be fair, I kept a pretty even pace, but I should have stopped more. I know when I don't take enough breaks I get just like a grouchy toddler. I scream, yell, throw things, snap at people, and generally make an ass out of myself.

There are only three things that make toddlers throw fits - Hungry, Tired, or Bored. As you get older, the same concept still applies but it gets a little more complicated. The factors can be listed as Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Thirsty, and Tired. Or, as we like to call it, H.A.L.T.T. (Or simply Call a Halt!) I probably have mentioned it before, but it bears repeating (particularly when I should have been using it myself.) When you get short and snippish and you can see the other people around you getting grouchy, too, you Halt! and ask yourself - Am I hungry? (When did I eat last and was it something that was good for me?) Am I angry at something or someone? (Is it within my control to change it or do I need to forgive and move on?) Am I lonely (and sad that I feel forgotten?) Am I tired? (Do I need a break or a nap?) Am I thirsty? (This one affects us more than we think.)

This isn't my own creation. It came from the wonderful wisdom of FLYLady (like so many other things that have saved my life!) I've taught my kids to use the HALTT system and it works remarkably well. Evil Genius is especially good at remembering this when she gets worked up. We go through the parts together so she can figure out what is wrong and ask for help all at once. Tiny Dancer is really good at taking care of her needs on her own so I don't really hear her use it out loud, but I know it works for her. Even though Little Heart thinks she's too old for it, I use it on her ALL THE TIME. I don't care if she is being all teen-aged-angsty or whatever. There is no excuse for being rude or taking your bad mood out on others. Ask for help or fix it, but don't lash out and bring others down with you. Had I used the HALTT on myself yesterday, I probably could have avoided the tantrum, and the throwing things, and the bad words.

Today, I feel much better than I have in a while. I'm resting more and trying to pace myself better. I've gotten back on track with remembering to eat and rest regularly. Now that the spike of pain has passed, I am much more able to keep my temper and remember what I should be doing. My kids don't seem the worse for my bad attitude yesterday. They've been a little more snuggly than usual, but that might be my imagination. I'm trying very, very hard to keep my cool and keep a smile on my face. I know I mess up but I just want to be able to move forward and do better.

That's what I love about having such an awesome family. Even when you DO mess up and say bad things, they still love you. My kids don't often hold grudges or bring up my past mistakes over and over again (not often, anyway.) They are always ready with a hug when they know you are feeling down, and they are always quick to ask for a hug when they know they have done something to make someone else mad or sad.

So, sound off - Do you still throw temper tantrums? Do your kids fight back or do they run and hide? What is the one thing you do to calm down when you know you are about to lose your cool? What do you do that always lets your family know that you love them?

Here are a few recent pics of a few of my Hearts:
WP Doing what he does best. Being Silly.

DH and FIL Doing what THEY do best (Scouting)
Little Heart on 8th grade graduation day.
Tiny Dancer looking smiley.
Evil Genius with a calculated smile to optimize the most efficient amount of cuteness and sweetness.

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