of the elusive ladder of self-control

Oh, for self-control!

Oh, to be seated in an internal control room supremely above the constant input of minor catastrophe and frenzied activity that requires Mommy’s energy. Oh, to untiringly receive such input and calmly and wisely release gentle and appropriate output to meet it. Oh, for unflappability.

One of the best fragments of advice that I remember from my university education involved a mental ladder. “As a teacher, when you get into a challenging situation or feel your emotions rising, get out a ten-foot imaginary ladder,” said the professor. “Climb slowly to the top and then peer down on the situation below as though you are not involved in it. Think to yourself: how should the teacher respond in this scenario? And then respond that way.” During my years of teaching middle schoolers, I found this advice extremely helpful. But since I became a mother to multiple young children, I seem to have mislaid my imaginary ladder. Did I inadvertently leave it in my last classroom, leaning up against the whiteboard?

Once again, I should have known that today was not destined to be one for future fond remembrance when I woke this morning at seven to hear that sometime in the early hours Harriet had at last discovered her diaper and poop was smeared everywhere. I maintained a calm demeanor as I cheerfully cleaned it up. Well done Mommy, but the day had just begun.

Today Norah has a fever, Harriet has a cough, and both are tired and almost as irritable as I am. I am sore, exhausted, and busy. I am being tested for gestational diabetes, am losing mobility from the increasing sciatic nerve pain, and have broken out in a red itchy rash all over myself. On a doctor’s advice, I ingested antihistamines for this last night, then discovered they are not recommended in pregnancy. This morning around 10:30 things came to a crisis. In a stunning and unexpected potty-training regression Norah released a half gallon of urine into the university furniture. While dealing with it I had recourse to Mommy’s best survival technique: put everyone in bed. I plopped Harriet in the pack & play (she fortunately does not know she can climb out of it) and a scrubbed Norah into her bed. I gave Harriet the beloved wooden dollhouse to keep her busy. While I cleaned the Scene, Harriet somehow managed to smash the dollhouse into two big splintery pieces. While I cleaned that up, I remembered that I had left the laundry (across the backyard) too long and it needed to go into the dryer. Leaving the girls *gasp* alone, I ran all the way back there and found our wet clothes scattered about the room as someone was in a hurry for the machine. On returning I accidentally slammed the heavy door on my foot, scraping a deep gouge into my big toe.

Throughout most of the above exciting scene, Mommy Royally Lost It. I wish I had been calm and wise in my release of output. I wish I had taken time to climb my ladder.

*sigh* I’m glad God is so much more gracious than I am. Now to begin again.

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11 Responses to of the elusive ladder of self-control

  1. Peggy says:

    His mercies are new every morning, my friend! Your perfect Savior stands for you and gives you an A+ for even yesterday because of his gift of justification! I am praying for you and yours right now! I hope you have a much more pleasant day today.

  2. Been there, done that. But I love your mental ladder advice. My university days are useful for medicinal and chemical reactions (veterinary science), but not for self-control. I do agree, that sounds like a tough momma day. If you are looking for some tips, put tight shorts over diaper or use duck tape to secure.

    And, if you need a break, let me know! Also, when will you find out GD results?

  3. Rachel says:

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s so nice to be reminded that I am not alone or the only mom who “looses it.”

    That ladder idea is very good advice.

  4. Mert Tabbut says:

    Betsy, what a walk down memory lane. As it regards unflappable it appears at the doorstep in your 50’s. It has become my favorite vocabulary word.

  5. Krisie says:

    Great visual imagery, I’ll have to try it.

  6. ethicks says:

    This is not as spiritual as Peggy’s aptly dispensed scriptural truths, but in the words of our beloved Anne Shirley, ” Tomorrow is a new day, fresh with no mistakes [ or mommy melt-downs] in it.” 🙂
    Wish I could be there to hug you, eat a big bowl of ice cream (which probably goes against all rules of GD) and take some of the load off your shoulders. You’re doing an amazing job– even from the across the ocean, it’s obvious. Love you to the sky

  7. Ashlea says:

    Oh Betsy, dear. I would have lost it with the poop smeared. Yuck! I read a comment about duck tape for diapers, and my sister-in-law had to do that with her daughter. I like the ladder idea. If I have enough forethought, I’ll have to try that. 🙂 Anyway, take care. I hope you don’t have GD. Sciatic pain stinks!!! Rest, rest, rest. Like I told you before, I was more exhausted and sore with my 3rd than the other two. I know you concurred. Take it easy, friend.

  8. Amberly says:

    “I’m glad God is so much more gracious than I am. Now to begin again.” I feel like this regularly (daily?)! Hope you are able to get some rest this weekend with Alex around a bit more. Can’t wait to catch up on Monday. If you need a break before then give me a call. Love to you, dear friend!

  9. teamtabb says:

    Wow, you really know how to have a bad day, Bets! We’ve had some of those over here, too. Yesterday, our home hospital tally was:

    1 kid with moderate diaper rash
    1 kid with busted lip (same kid)
    1 kid in early stages of pneumonia (different kid, thankfully)

    We are now the proud owners of a nebulizer that looks like a panda bear! Lucky us.

  10. Jill says:

    thanks for your honesty, Betsy. it makes me feel better to hear other mamas struggle some days, too. where are you all moving to?

  11. Catrice Barstow says:

    there are times that nerve pain can be severely debiliating. i also hate high intensity nerve pain which can be quite disturbing.

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