12 Kislev 5781 / Saturday, November 28, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayeitzei
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Sergeant Mom    

Sergeant Mom

As that time of day nears, she puts on her uniform, takes out her weapons and tenses up like a soldier in battle. These are moments when parenting feels like a battleground…


Translated by Chana Cohen


You know that feeling when your child starts with the tantrums, running around, crying, screaming and going crazy?? When that happens, I immediately feel my body tense up and the adrenaline flowing, alert as any soldier or army commander.


This happens at least once a day in my house. When the kids come home from school it’s always the same story, with the same distressing and upsetting behaviors, which can last anywhere from half an hour to an hour and a half.


I already know to be mentally prepared for these difficult afternoon hours when each child takes his turn crying, ranting, shouting and fighting with everyone else. Or they just leave and slam the door behind them as if to say, “Leave me alone!”


Sometimes when all these challenges come packaged together, I do and say things which I later regret and feel really guilty about.

Every mother has her own breaking point when the tension rises and she feels like she is losing all sense of direction and self-control. Our reaction is usually anger, shouting and nervousness.


When I think back to the time before I became a parent, I cannot recall raising my voice even once.


The hardest part for me is that when things go wrong, I feel like I need to get involved and solve the problem right away. I immediately take out my “mothering” toolbox and try to pull out solutions one by one until the box is empty and so am I.


It all begins with me speaking to the child and trying to understand exactly what the problem is.


When that doesn’t help I try to lift the child and hug him. When all I face is a stubborn refusal I revert to the opposite tactic - I lie beside him on the floor and try to imitate him and get him to laugh. Usually, all this causes is more screams and hysterics. Then I start to get irritated and threaten with punishments. The next minute I follow through with the threat and send the child to his room to “relax.” When that doesn’t help, I come back and hug him. If someone would be watching this scene without sound it would look like a comedy of errors with a slightly tragic tone to it.


Of course this endless cycle is emotionally exhausting especially since I feel like I’m shooting in every direction without really hitting any targets. Obviously I am not waging this war wisely. I lack an organized strategy or sufficient tools to deal with the situation. So I decide to go to a parenting class where I can learn new tactics to deal with the situation.


I gained some deep insights from the very first class. First of all, I was wrongly excusing my children's “bad” behavior.


As parents we have a natural tendency to empathize with and understand our children. And the ability to see who our child really is makes us good parents. But I learned that constantly coming up with reasons to excuse bad behavior can lead to my downfall.


“He’s hungry, that’s why he’s so cranky”, “She doesn’t feel good, leave her alone”, “I know why he’s screaming like that, he’s extremely tired since he went to sleep so late, poor kid”... these are only some of the excuses that I can come up with to justify the way they’re acting.


Beyond all of the justifiable reasons there is one important factor which I neglect to take into account: the fact that everyone has free will. Of course there is always cause and effect but at the end of the day we all have our choices to make.


An astonishing study was done in the U.S. in which newborn infants of deaf parents changed their behavior after arriving home from the hospital. When the babies realized that their crying was not accomplishing anything they began to cry silently, by moving their limbs and shedding tears without making any noise.


I realized from this study that if a day old infant has the ability to make a choice and change his behavior, then surely an older child with a much higher intelligence can do the same.


All week long I observed my habit of providing reasons for my children's behavior. I also remembered my husband's reaction whenever I shared them with him. He always had the same answer, ''So what?" As if he had already learned this lesson.


I realized that I was justifying my children’s bad behavior under the guise of being an understanding and caring mother. Instead of giving them the space to choose how to act, I had essentially helped them form these bad habits which are so hard on me and on them.


This really struck a chord and although I don’t have the tools to change anything yet, I feel like the understanding alone has impacted everyone in my home.


I hope to continue sharing insights in the future as I continue on my journey toward a more enjoyable motherhood.



* * *

Sharon Roter is a wife, mother, musician and writer. She loves asking questions and getting answers. She can be contacted at sharonroter@gmail.com

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