The Fear We’re Feeding

I have only a few minutes, so if you listen to the song whose lyrics provided the title, you will spend more time listening than reading.

This morning I made a big scene with my kids over something that looked like nothing to the six children in the room. The details don’t actually matter. Well, they do to the children, of course, and I did my best to apologize and acknowledge my inappropriate behavior and then follow through with better options. I have gotten very good at sucking it up and apologizing.

It’s how I got there that really matters.

I knew I had set myself up for some trouble because 1) I didn’t get any real exercise this week–maybe a jog on Monday?, 2) I have been getting too little sleep, 3) The kids only had half a week of school and then I didn’t plan ahead for what to do in that second half, so we had a lot of conflict-filled contact hours, 4) I really love my daily post challenge, and I just want kids to simmer down so I can string a few thoughts together, and 5) my husband had been gone all week, so I was fully prepared to enter “come rescue me cuz you’re just upstairs” mode.

Even though I managed to apply various tools and strategies I’ve learned over the past year or so, I just couldn’t shake my desire to have a fight with someone.

The trouble with living in a house with four other adults where the ratio could be nearly 1:1 with kids is that I am the only one in a position to consistently care for kids, so the ratio becomes 1:6 some days. As I watched one person leave for a recreational activity, another leave for work, another use his day off to do outdoor projects, and then of course my husband working from home in his jammies, I let these awful thoughts weedle their way in and take over my emotional navigation equipment.

For example: “You don’t get to talk to grown-ups. That’s because you’re a liability. You always say the wrong things.” Or, “Wow, I would sure love to declare that I’m going to have ‘a little something to eat’ before I get to work. My work was pulling my hair and poking my eyeball before I even woke up.” And probably the one that is most ridiculous because I would want my life right back if we ever traded: “I wish I had a reason to get up and look nice in the morning. I want to go be with grown-ups instead of these disrespectful miscreants who keep YELLING, and forgetting to use their INSIDE VOICES!!”

So after that, it was just a simple putt to start dropping birdies all over the place (not to be confused with birdie droppings–we keep those outside). A child won’t listen when called to breakfast? Proof I’m not worthy of respect. Another child complains about what we’re eating? Proof I can’t even bake a three-ingredient Dutch Baby properly. Eldest won’t hold her thought so I can talk to the whole group? Proof that I don’t count. Well I wanted to count.

And so I started taking things away and assigning arbitrary time-outs and declaring “that’s fine I didn’t want you to eat today anyway!” and whatever else my stupid brain could come up with. So by the time my husband did come racing down, I was telling him “It’s not them! It’s me!,” but it was easier for him to scoop up one ADHD child after another than to get me and my snapped brain away from everyone.

This morning I feared that maybe I didn’t really matter. Labeling fear is the first step. Once I label it, I can trace its little tentacles that have wound themselves into my thought patterns back to my brain stem (ever seen that Star Trek: Next Gen episode with that awful larval parasite? It’s like that) to see how they’re hijacking my ability to self-regulate. Once I’ve addressed this failure to communicate, I can take the control back and end the civil war within.

[Because who needs war anyway? Well, maybe the people who need to be freed from oppression if nothing else works. But that’s a discussion for another day. Thank you, Guns’n’Roses for this great song. Your band always makes me think of Jim M., yet another friend with an October birthday.]

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