I’ll admit it. Sometimes, when I read articles on being a “calm parent”, I roll my eyes and feel a bit stabby. Neither of which is exactly a calm parent, zen-like reaction. Of course I know that yoga is good for my body and mind, I practise it at least once every six months. Meditation makes a slightly more regular appearance for me, but it’s not exactly baked right into my over-flowing life either.
So it might be comforting to know that despite the lack of yoga and meditation in my life, I have been told several times that I’m considered a patient and calm person when it comes to my kids. Don’t get me wrong – when I blow up, I do so in spectacular fashion. It just seems to take me a little longer to get there.
No matter the size of it, we all have a limited bandwidth. We tolerate all kinds of things and then hit a point where just can’t maintain the calm for even a moment longer. For me, it could be the tiniest thing that edges me off the cliff. When I dive, I collect the family along for the ride. Then we all have to reassemble ourselves in the guilt-soaked aftermath.
I’d like to avoid the dive. I’d like to avoid the aftermath. It seems to me that I can do that in two ways. Expand the gap between calm and crazy lady or reduce the acceleration between those two points.
I value calm. I work best with stress just nipping at my heels and a calm approach backed by meticulous organisation. While I’m terrible in the eye of a crisis – it’s too much and I freeze – I’m very good at managing the immediate thereafter. That’s my sweet spot. I know what I can handle well and what support structures I need to keep me there.
Personally, I need to feel organised and in control. So lists feature prominently in my life. Writing them feels like delegating the stress to a benign piece of paper. For some, it might end up in overwhelm, so it’s really about what works for each of us.
Calm the Farm
When I think about the things that hurtle me to me the edge of tolerance, they are things that make me feel out of control. Not being able to find the keys, having misjudged the amount of time it takes the kids to get ready, being late, not getting work done within in a time-frame. A litany of little things, that by and large are avoidable. If I leave the keys in one place only, well, that’s where they will always be. If I finally learn that it takes the kids three times longer than myself to get ready, we will make it out the door without the yelling. If I pause and say “I’ll get back to you,” rather than an immediate “yes”, I can judge whether I actually have capacity to fulfill all the promises. In all these things, there is a pause. There is a little forward thinking.
These are the things that shorten the acceleration to losing it. There are also ways to expand the gap itself.
Time Out for Me
Doing things for myself, reading, writing, soaking in the tub, spending time with friends — all those things that we are regularly admonished as mothers to do for ourselves – are the things that save me on a regular basis. I need to schedule that down time, otherwise it just doesn’t occur. And it definitely doesn’t tend to occur when I am riding the crest of tolerance topping out (see above). When I’m in the midst of tackling all the things and forgetting to pause, I cannot think of anything but the next thing. It’s not a great way to live, so a little forward thinking to schedule in some down time means I can layer the buffers into my life before I desperately need them.
Let It Go
The final thing that helps me stay a calm parent, is just letting things go. My house isn’t going to look like a Pinterest Board. And that’s okay, I’m not going to let it rob my calm. There are times the kids are messy, when they don’t do what they are told, when they aren’t as polite as they should be. That’s when I need to separate my immediate emotions from my immediate reaction. I need to hit the pause button and try to harness that split second to deliver discipline without the boil over. We know that a measured message delivered in a low and completely in control voice is going to work a thousand times better than yelling.
Staying in the calm isn’t always easy. But it is where I prefer to live.