That title is not a threat, it's a fact. The mama of the house sets the tone of the house. If she acts unhappy, everybody in the house is going to be unhappy. The recent stress in our life has brought out some negative behaviors and convicted me about my own cranky reactions to things. I initially wrote a really funny story outlining one of my crankiest days, but I deleted it because it was nothing more than excuses. I am a busy woman. I have been ridiculously sleep deprived for an overwhelming majority of the last 12 years. My children are not perfect and they test my patience and strength over and over again. All of that is true. None of that gives me permission to be a cranky mama.
Here's a reality check. My kids need to be fed every day. They need clean clothes and clean diapers every day. They need to have their bottoms and noses wiped every day. In a normal day I will referee a few fights, teach a few lessons, answer a few phone calls, solve a few problems, and take care of more than a few dishes. Those are just the days we stay home. All of these things must be done, whether I have a good attitude or a bad attitude.
If I have a bad attitude, I actually make more work for myself. When I am cranky, the kids misbehave more. I'm not saying that every time they misbehave it is because I am cranky. Mostly they misbehave because they are kids and they are trying to see just how far they can push me before I go up in flames. No, no, the first half of that sentence is absolutely true, but the second half just feels true 90 percent of the time. The fact stands, when I am cranky my children misbehave more than when I am not - and when they misbehave I have to do something about that misbehavior.
Time out, spanking, talking, writing sentences, losing clips, losing privileges, no matter what method you use to discipline your children, their misbehavior creates more work for you. Of course, you would not have little Tommy write out, "I will not shove grapes in the dog's ears" 15 times if it made him happy. So, chances are after you have disciplined your children for their misbehavior, they will be a little cranky for a short period of time. I don't know about you, but the sound that comes from cranky children bores straight to the middle of my brain and causes me to cringe. It's not good. It makes me cranky. You're a smart reader, you see the cycle of cranky going here. Someone needs to hit the brakes on this cranky train, and I'm afraid that someone is me.
Here's the thing that occurred to me and made me decide to put on my big girl pants and suck up the bad attitude: I am the adult and my children are the children. That may seem like a silly statement, but consider the ramifications. When I react to the messiness of life with a cranky bad attitude, I am acting like a child who has no control over her emotional impulses. I am not a child. I am a mom. When I am faced with a messy life situation, I have a little audience watching me to see how the situation should be handled. I have to model an appropriate reaction.
I am happy to be a homeschooling mom. I have beautiful, healthy, brilliant children. My husband is a great dad and my best friend. We have a big house in a nice neighborhood, and I have the most amazing friends ever. I am blessed beyond measure, but I often act like my life is cursed.
It's true, the days are long and the nights are far too short. Most mornings, my first thought upon waking is, "Oh, no. Already?" The process of taking on the care of two elderly parents has made the last two months particularly exhausting. There is a 2-year-old deep inside me who hopes if she screams loud and long enough someone will save her from this mess. There is also a 7-year-old arguing that this whole thing is not fair. I think the reactions I am having are valid, they make sense and most people would feel that way. That does not mean that I should follow the lead of my inner 2- or 7-year-old. I am an adult and I know no amount of complaining or screaming will change this situation or any other.
I am not writing about something I have mastered. I'm not even sure I have made any progress. It is very hard to break a habit I have indulged for over 30 years. When I do complain, act cranky, or show a bad attitude in some other way in front of my children, I apologize. I ask their forgiveness, and pray with them, asking God to give me the strength to do better and my children the grace to truly forgive. Nearly 12 years of imperfect parenting have given me plenty of opportunity to model the skill of apologizing well. I am always amazed and grateful for my children's ability to truly and completely forgive. It's something they are modeling for me.
I am praying for a heart change or at least a tongue that does not pour forth from my cranky heart quite so freely. I am also trying to focus on the permanent nature of my blessings and the temporal nature of all the little troubles I face. Most of my troubles aren't really big deals, but having my children become whiny complaining adults would be a big deal. I must keep in mind the words of a great man, "Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things."