I don’t know about you, but there are days when I feel like George Costanza’s father, “Frank” from the tv series Seinfeld. You know the episode where he is trying to start his computer sales business and he is yelling “Serenity Now… Serenity Now” ironically in order to keep his stress level down. I believe in the episode Kramer also tries this form of centering back to his usual Zen self with mixed results.
Or maybe you’re a bit older like me and remember those commercials for Calgon bath salts. It was the one with the screaming kids and the mom (again yelling like Frank so the Universe is sure to hear!) shuts herself in the bathroom and says “Calgon!! Take me away!!” then in a flash, her bathroom is instantly transformed into a tropical oasis with a large drawn bath full of well… Calgon and of course… bubbles!!
As a kid, I never understood those commercials. Like, what was so wrong that would drive this mother to such desperation that she needed to bathe? Maybe it was also weird because, well… kids usually don’t like to take baths and to think to have to take one in the middle of the day… well, that would be just horrible! Yet the mom in the commercial seemed happy and later when all cleaned up from her bath… calmer, when speaking with her kids… again so weird!
Flash forward a few decades and several kids of my own. I TOTALLY get the mom in the commercial AND Kramer AND Frank Costanza. I don’t know what sick games the Universe is trying to play with me some days, but JUST when I think “yeah, you know we got this…” it all comes crashing to a chaotic, loud, seemingly never-ending bombardment of “this sh#t is so out of control, my head is spinning and I want OFF NOW!!” and that… is when… I hear myself yelling “SERENITY NOW, CALGON COME GET ME!!”
And for a moment, it’s quiet. The kids stop running, the crazy excited screaming stops, Oskar’s whining stops, the older kids stop with all their overlapping random conversations, the phone stops ringing, the dogs outside stop barking… and I think even nature pauses for a moment to say “what??!!” Well that “what” is the sound of me losing it. Of being totally overwhelmed and feeling like I am falling down the hole with Alice and I need to regain control of everything. Like come on, aren’t I the parent? Really, why was no one listening to me anyway? Well, we have all been there and on a good day I can usually rein the chaos in a bit and use all my “super awesome mommy powers” to get the little girl noise levels to drop. That usually helps Oskar. I ask the older kids to help out and with a few raps on the window usually get the furry beasts to take it down a notch too.
However, if I am overtired, trying to fight off some cold or there is a perfect storm of crappy gut day, impending headache and sore back… ENOUGH!! PLEASE STOP FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!! Comes flying out of my mouth. Oh, yeah THAT expression… what is “for crying out loud”?? I say it and I hear my mum and remember wondering what she was “crying” about. Now I think I get that too… because when I yell… which I HATE and have read numerous parenting books and self-help to stop the habit along with its cousin – the NAG!! But sometimes I do and I think, wow YOU ARE the one “crying” now and whining like all the kids you are so desperate to quiet so you can think. One book I read said it was the equivalent of saying ‘hey I can’t seem to calm myself on my own so I need you to do it for me” – selfish it said. Hmmmmm, well now I feel like crap, double crap. However, I do see the truth in it. Kids will be kids. You do not raise your kids in ONE day, it takes years and years. So when I think of perfection in them, that’s the first mistake. The second is not “using my words” something I always tell my kids when they are young. “Sweetie, try and use your words so we can understand why you’re upset.” I should take my own advice eh? But just as our kids aren’t perfect, neither are we… so as humans we WILL slip up sometimes, not be our best and true self. And on those days I will say “Serenity NOW!!” and hope that it is done with an air of humour, in a normal tone of voice, and that the kids are paying attention… and they all take it down a notch so that maybe… just maybe… I can remember what the hell I was just thinking!