Sunday, May 27, 2012

Learning My Limits

I recently had a "Parenting-Sure-Can-Be-Hard" kind of day, also known as "AHHHHHHHHHH!"

We were in southern California for a work event and that meant I got to spend a lot of quality time with Ellie.  It's always a task to figure out where to put the pack 'n play in the hotel room. We had her tucked in a nice corner hidden from view, but on this particular Sunday afternoon she was not into napping. She was into pulling up her mattress and hiding her doll and blanket underneath. And talking and jumping and laughing and playing. And not letting mommy sleep.

This was an afternoon after two long days of walking around and being on my feet, and the first time I have really started feeling super exhausted and sore during this pregnancy. All I wanted to do was take a nap. I was desperate for a nap and silence and Ellie wasn't cooperating with my need for either.

After almost two hours of repeatedly putting the mattress back in place and laying her down again, my patience was thin. At home I would have left her alone but I was worried she'd put a hole in the thin nylon underneath the mattress. I was tired beyond tired, frustrated and cranky. It was 97 degrees outside and hot. Michael was working and not getting back until after dinner and Ellie's bedtime. I was the sole parent.

I wanted to cry I was so tired. That "so exhausted I can't think straight" state of mind. My little girl was laughing and playing and thinking it was all a fun game and I was afraid my impatience would somehow make me lash out. I had a vision of those parents that are so tired or frustrated they start shaking their kids into submission, or even just irrationally yelling or raising their voice. No, I didn't want to harm my baby (I won't even spank or pinch or hit for discipline), but it made me be VERY aware of my own human impulses and limits. I'm learning it's healthy for me to acknowledge when I've reached my patience limit and to walk away, or to let Michael take over if he's around, so that I can regroup.

I made the decision to give up nap time yet still do something to have some "me" time: walk to Starbucks and get myself an iced white mocha. Then we'd return and I would take Ellie to the outdoor pool to swim.

The closest Starbucks was only a few long blocks away but I earned that iced mocha walking in the near-triple digit heat (I was guzzling lots of water too). It helped me to clear my head and the stroller always calms Ellie.

When we were literally right outside the pool entrance Ellie fell asleep. I changed plans again, went upstairs to our room and transferred her to her crib where she got an hour nap and I got to relax. Of course she would finally sleep after I had coffee and no longer felt like napping myself, but I'm not complaining. It was glorious downtime and I soaked up every minute.

We went to the pool and then walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Dinner was a continuation of the hyper, playful girl who wanted nothing to do with food and was very distracted. (Seriously, where did this feisty toddler come from?) I did my best to enjoy my dinner and to cherish my mommy/daughter time, ignoring the chaos and mess at our table.

My hyper girl at dinner.
By the time Ellie got to bed that night I had recalibrated. The day held a few important lessons for me, including acknowledging my own limits and being OK with letting Ellie skip her nap when it is better for both of us. 

Flexibility. Limits. Patience. Appreciating Time With My Daughter.

I know being a parent of two will require me to pursue these things in the midst of chaos, exhaustion, and an uncooperative toddler. These are good lessons for me to learn as life continues to get more interesting every day.

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