Sunday, July 13, 2014

Don't Poke The Bear: Why it is okay to be grumpy once in a while.

In our house we have a warning "Don't poke the bear". 

It is code for two conditions:

mom has a headache 


mom didn't sleep enough last night

You know those mornings where you wake up and all you want to do it go back to sleep?  Those are the mornings when I warn the family - Yes, husband included...

Don't poke the bear.

And it is a warning, because those mornings I am not at my best.  I am really at my worst.  And a whine, a gripe, a snipe, or sometimes just a look, can invoke a swift and far too critical response from the mother-figure in our house.

So I warn them.  Don't poke the bear.

And they get it.  Mom is nasty right now.  Maybe she needs to go back to bed, maybe she needs to take her migraine medicine, maybe she needs a replacement figure to step in for a few hours. But whatever MOM needs, the kids know that THEY need to be pretty close to perfect until mom returns to normal.  And my husband, well he just tries to keep everything calm.  They often make themselves scarce on those mornings.  Now that it is summer break, the kids may hang out together in one bedroom and play cards or build LEGO's.  The may keep a low profile as they play together (nicely!) and wait for the storm to pass.

Disclaimer time - I am referring to this as a rare occurrence and not abusive behavior.   I am talking about those days when we are more irritable than normal and we know it.  If you are abusive, or find yourself having more bad days than good, or find yourself feeling like this for more than just a few hours, please talk to a professional about it and get help.  That is not healthy for you or your family and may be a sign of depression (postpartum or otherwise).

Before we came up with the saying, I was filled with mamma guilt.  I would wake up and know that I was being unreasonable. I would worry that I was scarring my poor kids or alienating them with my cranky behavior.  I would snap at something that normally would just irritate me, and then I would feel horrible and it would make it all even worse.

Now the guilt is nominal, because they have been given notice.   I know I am being difficult and try as I may to return to normal, it isn't an easy mind-over-matter thing.  I can't just turn my nasty mood around with happy thoughts.  So instead I tell the kids "Don't poke the bear" and they know.  Steer clear and be nice.  Really nice.  And I give them a greater than normal responsibility for the atmosphere in the home.  If I do snap, they know it isn't totally their fault, but they also know that they usually "poked the bear" and they got her claws.

And in my crazy (or brilliant?) mind I have justified that this is really a good thing rather than a bad thing for them.  In their lives they are going to have encounters with crazy people.  Maybe it will be a teacher, or a roommate, or a coworker, or heaven forbid a boss.  They will all encounter someone who is just hyper-sensitive to everything they say or do.   I am teaching my kids how to deal with those irrational people.  I am teaching my kids how to show compassion even when they feel wronged, because on those mornings when I am not at my best, my kids DO feel compassion towards me.  They do try to be super sweet.  They adapt their behavior.   They know I am trying and it is not their fault I am cranky.  Well, often it is precisely their fault I didn't get any sleep… but you know what I mean.  They learn that even their mamma bear isn't perfect.   And on those mornings it is best not to poke me!   None of us is perfect and I have peace with the knowledge that my kids KNOW that I KNOW I am not perfect, but that I am trying.  

A few days ago my little Gracie had her feelings hurt when a playmate didn't want to play with her.  I took her in my arms and said "Honey, sometime nice, loving people say mean things.  I love you SOOOOO much and even I get cranky and say things that hurt your feelings right?"  She nodded.  "See I still love you even when I am cranky and I know your friend does too. So just be patient and soon she will be ready to play again.  Until then, give her space".  

So what about you… How do you handle those super cranky mornings when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed?  If you are under the illusion that you are perfect and are never cranky then I want your spouse to answer this question about you instead!
Do you have anyone in your day to day living that is a like a bear waiting to be poked? How do you handle him or her?  

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