Thursday, March 11, 2010

Does a bad morning mean it's going to be a horrible day?

I have to confess: I had a screaming match with my six-year-old this morning. How ridiculous. I'm old enough to know better, yet we stood there, bellowing at the top of our lungs. Sadly, this is nothing new, just another morning fight over what she needs to do so we can get to school in time.

Oh, I try to avoid the fights. I give warnings ("We're leaving in five minutes."). I set up a routine ("No breakfast until you're dressed. No t.v. until you've done everything you NEED to do for school."). I punish her ("You are not allowed to come downstairs until 8:00."). I reward her ("You get to pick the t.v. show if you're dressed and ready.").

Nothing works, and I am at a loss. My son does all these things without being asked. He reads in the morning, studies his spelling words and regales us with wonderful tales of his dreams. He goes to bed with a smile and wakes up beaming even brighter.

But the girl...oh that girl, she makes my blood boil. Why can't she ever get dressed without cajoling? Why can't she ever eat her breakfast without pouting? Why can't we ever get out the door without yelling?

The bad mornings set me up for bad day. I end up screaming (yes, screaming! My throat still hurts an hour later!). She ends up crying. Boy ends up near tears, with his hands over his ears, stunned into silence.

And we're off on a bad journey. I only hope we can reverse our course.

I hope she's fine by the time she gets to school. I imagine her walking into kindergarten with a black cloud over her head. I want to be there and watch her, see if she can shake it off and go about her day normally.

Because I can't. I am going to stew all day about this. I'm going to be distracted at work. There's going to be a pain in my heart and a pit in my stomach because I am a bad, bad, horrible mother. Someone will ask my opinion about a new leadership message and I will feel that I have no right to give it because I yelled at my daughter. I can't get my kids out the door in the morning; how can I possibly add any value to a multi-billion dollar company?

Then I will go into a spiral about my own defective personality. I am the daughter of a yeller. My mother swore at us and said some awful things. I vowed I would never do that. But sometimes, oh, sometimes when I've been so very patient and I've asked and I've said "pretty please" and I've reasoned and I've still gotten no results, then monster mommy comes out. I SCREAM. I scare the kids. I scare myself. Do I have anger-management issues? Control issues? What the hell is wrong with me?

Finally, I will try to rationalize. I didn't swear at her. I didn't hit her. I didn't verbally abuse her. I just yelled at her to put on her coat and put on her shoes and get in the car. I'm okay. Secretly, I pray the damage I've inflicted isn't permanent.

One of my daughter's favorite books is Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes. Our favorite line, one we often tell each other, is this: "Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better."

I wish I'd had the presence of mind to say that to her this morning. And I hope we don't have to wait until tomorrow for things to be better. I'm going to try to have a better afternoon.