Hard days.

Sometimes, we have hard days. We hear about hard days at school, or have hard days at home. Maybe something gets thrown, or someone screams. Maybe everything’s a mess and now there’s a hole in the wall. Hard shows up in lots of ways. When hard shows up, the first instinct is to MAKE THINGS CHANGE. We are taught by society, by our own upbringing, to threaten, to punish, to consequence. “Go to your room!” “If you don’t stop that, we are not having pancakes!” “That’s enough!” “Get back here this instant!” (And, yes, most of those lines do show up in the book No David. They are said way too much.)

We often feel afraid — what if I don’t get control over this? What if this happens everyday? What am I teaching? Am I a good parent? Am I doing this right? What if every day becomes hard? What do the teachers think of us? What will the world think of us? Why is this happening? Indeed, our minds are really quite good at playing games and spinning us in fear circles of “what if”.

But what happens when you have a hard day? What do you want from your best friend? From your partner?

I know that I’ve come home, slammed doors, stomped my feet, and been in a bad mood. I’ve been tired. I’ve been cranky. I’ve raised my voice when I didn’t mean to. I know that Husband does not send me to my room. I’m pretty sure doing that would make me slam another door. He doesn’t tell me that he won’t cook my favorite dinner unless I get it together, or that my actions will mean that we can’t go to the movies this weekend. Think of saying those things to your peers. Would that relationship last?

Instead, I might get a hug, or a hot chocolate. I get time to watch a show or take a nap, on a lucky day. I always get understanding. I get nurturing. I get questions of — “what can I do to help?” Why do we choose differently for our kids?

Today was a hard day for some of the members of our family. So we came home and didn’t bring it up. We followed our normal routine. We watched The Avengers and Diego and used the swing, doing all the after school things that help everyone wind their bodies down. We played video games and ate baked ziti (a favorite meal). We talked a little, asked a few questions, probed for feelings and underlying things. We briefly talked about how “stick together” means stick together on field trips AND at school AND at home (a point of confusion). Then we moved on to bath, with lots and lots of toys, and George. We compromised. Over the evening, the tension began to dissipate. The goofy antics of anxiety around “What’s going to happen? I had a hard day! Oh no! I’m in trouble!” relaxed. We snuggled and hung out. We acted out of love, instead of fear.

Tomorrow might still be hard. I don’t act out of love to manipulate tomorrow into being easy. I choose connection because of respect. I choose connection because that’s what we value, now and long-term. People will tell me that I didn’t do enough. People will say that I am not teaching about the real world. Here’s the thing — I think the real world has enough natural consequences of its own, and I don’t see my job as making up fake ones.  I see my job as being a soft place to land when things are hard. I see my job as working together to form proactive solutions for tomorrow. I see my job as meeting needs. I trust that kids do well if they can. I’ve lived the experience of kids doing well if they can. I know that everyone in our family CAN.

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