Guest Blogger April
Vacations are over-rated in my single parenting life. It’s days like today I really do wish I was married. At the moment, I’m recovering from a day of “fun” with my 8, 7 and 4-year-old daughters. I love my girls, but they can wear me out!
It’s amazing how stressful parenting becomes when you go outside your comfortable zone and venture into new places. It’s like my girls forget acceptable behavior and start the “let’s-see-what-we-can-get-away-with” game. All children play this game. Solo parents, whether they are just solo for the day, or single long-term, have to deal with the logistical challenge of how to discipline when their kids act out in public. There is no one to wait with the other kids while you take the defiant child to the bathroom for a quick correction. It becomes a family affair.
You have to trudge through a restaurant with the whole crew, hoping the wait staff doesn’t remove your plates while you’re gone. Add in the whining from the other “good” (albeit temporarily) children to your list of grievances, since they have had to leave their food and they are “hangry.” If you are like me, you are “plumb wore out” (as my grandma would say). By the time you get back from your discipline adventure, your meal is cold.
My question to you is…what do you do when, in approximately two minutes from returning, child number two has repeated the offense child number one was just corrected for? Do you trudge back or do you just throw in the towel and admit they have commandeered the vacation? Honestly, it depends on the moment. I know the “right” thing to do but sometimes I just can’t physically or emotionally cope with another challenge?
We all know the well-meaning how-to books on parenting tell you consistency is key, but does anyone really do that 100% of the time? I think not. I think most people would agree, we single parents struggle even more. When I was married and had reached my “good parenting” limit, I could hand over the reins. I could say, “I can’t deal with it this time.” I miss that, especially when I know I have reached my good parenting limit and there is no one there to help….my kids are then doomed to my bad parenting moments.
I am not proud of this, but I can’t deny these times occur. These are the moments when my “crazy mama scream” comes out, as my friend so aptly titled these times when she loses it. The day goes from bad to worse and I don’t often find my way out to the good again. I can tell you at some point, my sanity returns and I end up needing to apologize to my kids. I pray I can cope a little better the next time around. Then I let it go. I have to give myself grace, otherwise the downward cycle will continue.
Speaking of grace, I’m reminded about yesterday. We were on our vacation and the girls had already begun the maddening game of “let’s-see-what-we-can-get-away-with.” I had planned fun activities for us once we got to our destination, careful not to pack in too much, but incorporating ideas that would last a couple hours. Of course, one of the things that excited the girls most was the pool and spa at the hotel.
By the end of our first day, I didn’t feel they deserved to go to the pool, but I also didn’t want to spend our whole vacation in the hotel room. Besides, by this point, I desperately needed the spa to melt away my own stress. So… I decided to turn this into a life lesson and teach my children about grace. I explained that grace is unmerited favor and that God gives us grace by allowing us to accept the gift of Jesus. We did nothing to deserve such a gift, but God gives us grace so we can spend eternity with Him. I told them I was choosing to extend grace and allow them the opportunity to do something fun…even though their actions didn’t warrant it. I’m not sure they cared about the reason they received my grace, but I know they were happy to have it come their way. Good thing I taught them a little about it, because I needed grace from them the next day!
I know I am making it sound like a vacation was a bad idea and I want to clarify that….it wasn’t a bad idea…..it was a horrible idea. Just kidding. It is tough though. I always have this picture in my mind about how things will turn out. I think I need to dismantle the picture into bite-size moments. Instead of imagining how much fun the girls are going to have and how they are going to be so happy and grateful I have taken them on an awesome vacation, I need to be a little more realistic. Things will be up and down, we will laugh and we will fight, but we will be storing up family memories. Hopefully, their minds will dwell on the laughter and fun experiences long after we have gone back home. As for me, I have learned an important lesson as well….the next time I will bring a “helper.” There’s got to be a teenager I could trick…I mean talk, into coming with us for a little extra cash! It would be money well spent!!
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