The realization crept up on me slowly, the way clouds slowly gather in front of the sun and you don’t realize until you look up and it’s dark.
I’m a grouch. And I hate it.
In my family growing up, my parents were practically polar opposites in temperament. My mom was mostly easy-going, only showing temper on the rare occasion when she was truly pushed beyond the limits of her patience and stress level. My dad was mostly cranky, always quick to correct the error of our ways or sigh in exasperation at whatever noise we were making. The older I got, the more I swore I wouldn’t be like that.
While out in public I’m generally pleasant and good-natured (though sometimes while leading kids I do break out my “teacher voice”), but at home I’m grouchy more often than not. I criticize much more than I praise. My tone is often one of impatience, annoyance, or frustration. I generally react, rather than respond. And then I internally beat myself up for being such a crappy parent, partner, and human being.
So, I’m doing my best to work on. The first step is awareness, right? Ok, check. I’ve also been trying to become aware of when I’m most cranky–hunger is a huge trigger, as are being over-tired, stressed, or getting interrupted while I’m working on something.
Now comes the tricky, more difficult part: actually changing. I recently started reading a book called Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn. I also picked up How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk at our local swap shop. I’m hoping they will help increase my awareness of my own internal responses, as well as helpful hints about how to respond differently to get a better result.
See, I can clearly see the consequences of my cranktastic attitude. E is learning, as I did, the same patterns. Girl-E and C argue with me and the positive interactions with all have greatly decreased. Now, granted, they are all adolescents, or close to it–developmentally, it is the time to argue. But still. Dude has commented multiple times on how angry I get. He doesn’t really get angry often, so he doesn’t understand. For me, it’s visceral. It’s a complete physiological response that feels out of my control.
But it’s not, and I know it, and I don’t want to teach this way of being in a family to another generation. I want to model kindness, and empathy, and listening, not snark and dismissal. I need to figure out a way to parent differently, to have high standards and expectations without constantly criticizing. I want to be the kind of mom that my kids feel comfortable talking to about anything, and right now, I think they’d pick anyone but me. I want to have more fun with my family, to relax more. Being grouchy is not actually a good feeling, at all, and frankly I think if it continues, I will be at risk for depression. (Note: it has occurred to me that it may actually be a low level of depression causing the grump, and that even that may be caused by hormone levels or other things–I’m keeping a close eye).
So, see ya, Ms. Cranky Pants. While I may not turn into one of those irrepressible happy, positive people all the time, I’m hoping that after some time, I’ll begin to earn back my children’s trust and repair our strained relationships. And hey, maybe I’ll have more fun, too. Laughing more isn’t such a bad thing.