Have you ever had one of those days (nights? weeks? months?) where nothing seems to work out? A really, really just bad day? This happens to me (and, in my experience, to most of us) all the time.
Just the other day, my morning started obscenely early because my babies decided to be little marines and wake up before sunrise. My son’s diaper leaked into his pajamas, through his sleep sack, and all over his custom-fit crib sheets — which are a total pain in the ass to remove and replace. Then, everybody wanted something different for breakfast and, of course, refused to eat what they asked for. There was crying and running away and throwing of things… you get the picture.
No matter how “good” you are at parenting, this happens sometimes. Babies have big feelings trapped in little bodies. We all have moods, and don’t always know why.
So, with this in mind, we managed to eat and clean and brush the teeth. Next, undeterred by the morning ick, we got in the car. The babies love animals, so we decided to go to a local animal farm – except when we got there, they told us they were closed for a private party. Determined, we drove to another park. Only to find handwritten signs on the outside saying they were closed, too, but for no specific reason.
At this point we’d been in the car 1 1/2 hours total. And I was close to done, thinking: “I need more coffee.” “Everyone will need to eat again soon.” “What can I make for lunch anyway?” Normal mom mindset stuff. And then my husband says: “Let’s just drive down to the sea for the day.” Normal husband mindset stuff.
I’m a planner, so my immediate reaction was “But I don’t have enough extra diapers in the car!” “How can they stay in car seats for another 90 minutes without extra books or toys?” “What about lunch?” Then I remembered a golden rule…
The big question isn’t “What’s happening?” It’s “What happens next?”
What happened for us is that I chose to go with the flow, instead of force what clearly wasn’t working. We had a great day exploring a new village – and playing in wet sand, eating ice cream, and riding ponies (thank g*d for Water Wipes).
You see what I’m getting at. We can choose to respond to a morning that doesn’t go as we expect it to. (By the way, this rule also applies to afternoons, crap naps, toddler pushback about putting on their shoes, fights with your partner, last-minute appointment cancellations, house moves, getting sick at the most inconvenient time, etc.).
Now, I’m not saying this is always easy in the moment. But it does get easier with practice. Your mental habits are like muscles – you’ve gotta’ use them to make them stronger. And when they’re stronger, they work more quickly and efficiently, without as much effort. It’s just one way that your stress actually builds your resilience reserves, ready to go when you need them.
Give it a try: control more of your life by choosing how you respond to it.
When something seemingly crappy happens (traffic, tantrums, or anything else unexpected count), honor it. See what’s going on, but also see the space that comes just afterward. In most cases, you can breathe through this. You can notice that space that lets you choose your response (even if it calls for something other than breathing). And you can choose whatever you want – to go to the sea and eat the ice cream, or to be miserable. No judgment, all choice. I’ve chosen both.
And if you’re saying “No offense, Kelly, but this breathing and ‘going with the flow’ is woo-woo ridiculous. I need more control in my life.” Remember that seeing and owning your choices in responding to any situation IS the ultimate control. No one can touch it. You get to decide.