Parenting Many Children

a stressed mom and her unhappy little girl
“It was a bit of a nightmare really. Angus, my 3-year-old, needed a diaper change but was really resisting that, screaming, and trying to run away. I finally got it changed and he went back to riding his bike around. It took a lot of energy and I was feeling pretty frustrated with him but had managed to stay calm. I had my 7-month-old baby on my hip who was just starting to get restless and ready for a feed, so I gave my older kids a 5-minute warning that we would head home soon and started to get our things together. Just then, Angus fell off his bike, hurting his knee. I was still feeling frustrated with him, but I did my best to comfort him with one arm, holding onto the baby in the other. He settled but was done with the bike for the day, so I picked that up too, calling out to Sienna (my 6-year-old) that it was time to go. By now, I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted – I felt like we just needed to get home and we could all get settled again before I had to get ready for my Zoom class which was starting in 45 minutes. Holding the baby, the bike and bag and with Angus walking next to me, I started to walk home – it was almost comical how much I was carrying, but also just the norm with 3 young kids. I looked back, expecting to see Sienna right behind me but she was still back at the park, just standing there. That tipped me over the edge, the bubbling irritation turned to anger – “Sienna – we are leaving now!” I yelled angrily, “stop mucking around and come here!”. She didn’t follow but started crying, saying something I couldn’t quite hear. “That’s enough, I don’t have time for this,” I called back, and I started to walk home. I didn’t turn around for a hundred metres or so, knowing that she would follow if she could see I was serious, and soon I heard her behind me, still crying.

Walking through the door, I noisily put down the bag and bike, huffing in frustration. I got some food ready and turned on the TV, needing time to recover. Angus settled in and the baby was happy with some food, but Sienna was still struggling. She was saying over and over again, “I lost the shoe in the grass! It’s at the park. We have to go back.” I soon figured out she was talking about a doll’s shoe that must have fallen off somewhere. It was tiny, barely a kidney bean in size. I felt like rolling my eyes – it seemed trivial and I knew that even if we did go back, we weren’t likely to find it. I said all this, with a fair degree of irritation– “It’s gone Sienna. We won’t be able to find it” and “it’s just a shoe – you have plenty of other doll shoes and you’ve still got the doll.” I was trying to stay calm but it just felt ridiculous – couldn’t she see what else had happened at the park? Couldn’t she tell I was overwhelmed with everything else and this was just unnecessary?

illustration of a shark fin poking out of the water
And then, it was like a Shark swam across my vision. I struggle when I feel overwhelmed; I get mean. Taking charge is no longer, strong and kind – it’s Mean. And that’s just what had happened. I’d stayed calm-ish with the diaper change, but started to feel irked. I’d managed to pack up at the park, giving a calm warning knowing we needed to leave before I felt too flustered, but then the fall off the bike took my last resource.

Yes, I was struggling, but so was Sienna. She loved that doll. Of course she was sad about the shoe. And, of course, I didn’t need to rush off to get the shoe back. This wasn’t about the shoe! I just needed to see her, recognize her needs and respond with kindness and warmth. I looked into her tear-streaked face and felt my way into her sadness. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but something like “you’re so sad the shoe is gone. You love those shoes.” I reached out to offer her a hug and she softened into my body accepting it. “Can we go back?” she soon asked.

I’d taken enough deep breaths by now to think more clearly. “Not right now,” I said, “because I have a class, but let’s go first thing in the morning. We can stop on the way to school.” I didn’t hold much hope we’d find the shoe, because they’re so small. So, I suggested, “Maybe, we can make a little sign with a picture and our phone number so that if someone else finds it, they know who is missing it.”

And, when I got off my Zoom class, she had made a little “Missing” sign with hand-drawn shoe. She felt seen and taken seriously and I knew even if the shoe was gone, I wasn’t Gone as her mum.

I invite you to share with me your comments, reflections, Circle stories and experiences with Circle of Security Parenting. Your submissions may be used in future blog posts, with all identifying information excluded, unless you specifically request to be identified. Contact me at brooke[at]circleofsecurityinternational[dot]com.