Relationship Reboot | Susie Trigg Tucker
If you’re part of the modern world, you own a computer, smart phone, tablet, etc. At any given point in the day, you most likely have at least 5-10+ windows open, multi-tasking your device’s little cyber heart out. Phone calls come through, while you’re simultaneously texting 4 people (that’s not including the extended family group text your mom put you on that’s blowing up every 5 seconds.) Meanwhile your 3 email inboxes are pinging at an alarming rate, you’re watching a hilarious YouTube video of America’s Funniest Cats, and let’s not forget those 3-minute home videos of the kids’ latest antics that you’re sending to grandma.
Our trusty digital comrade enables us to feed into the FOMO (fear of missing out) culture, but even it has its limits. It may hold up at this rate for days, weeks, maybe even months if you’re lucky. But inevitably the day will come when you need to make a call, send an email, or pull up an app, and your phone won’t budge- it’s capped out, overused, unable to think anymore… frozen. When no amount of swiping, finger pecking, or swearing will revive it, it’s time to power off for a minute. It’s time for a reboot.
We’re not so different, are we?
Last month was hectic for my family. Dad had the flu and tagged out for 8 days straight, back to back with a stomach virus for brother. Sister’s chronic cough and fear of the dark made for many sleepless nights and long days to follow for everyone in our shared bed. Top that with mama being gone for 4 days of work travel, 3 costumes to make in one week for school events, soccer season starting, the list could go on. It makes me tired just recapping it. Too many windows open, too many things trying to download at once, battery in the red.
I wish I could say that I handled the February frenzy gracefully, but after about the first week, the stress got the best of me. As my patience thinned, so did my compassion for my family. They were driving me nuts. Everyone was way needier than usual and OMG the whining. Every day seemed to bring a new set of challenges and a new level of tired. For every dish I cleaned and put away, they dirtied three. For every hamper of clothes I washed and folded, they were three more waiting in the wings. I couldn’t keep up. One morning I woke up before everyone to try to get a minute of quiet and enjoy the somewhat clean house before the wrecking crew arose, only to find that one of my dogs had lost their bowels all over the mudroom. Oh. Joy. When everyone woke up, my already short fuse was rapidly diminishing.
During the day while I was away from everyone or at night after everyone was tucked in, I would look at their pictures and feel regretful for being so short and irritable. Overwhelming pangs of love in its truest form (aka mom guilt) would hit me and I would think to myself, What is wrong with me? These people, the loves of my life, my family- they love me, they need me, they want me, they trust me to take care of them and I’m blowing it! I’m the worst mom and wife ever! All I’ve been doing lately is yelling and griping and complaining. Do they even know how much I love them? Tomorrow I’m going to be better. Famous last words. The days went on like this for a while. Daytime mom (ideas of what I would be like when I got home to them) vs. reality mom, whose patience lasted an hour at best.
Finally after a few weeks, the time came. My family had met its cap. We were all on edge and in need of some serious TLC. It was a Wednesday afternoon. I had gotten a note home from my 3 year old daughter’s teacher that she had had some trouble at preschool that day. I felt horrible about the whole situation. Things had been off at home and it was affecting more than just our family dynamic. Things couldn’t go on like this anymore. It was time to power down and reboot. That afternoon I excused homework and our rigid weekly routine and played outside with the kids until almost dark. I made frozen chicken nuggets for dinner and when dad got home we gathered together around our dinner table and prayed and talked about each other’s day. After bath, rather than getting straight to bed, we turned on some Michael Jackson and had an 8pm dance party and belly laughed at dad’s dance moves.
We read an extra story at tuck-in time and snuggled just a little longer than usual. There were still dirty dishes and laundry and unsigned folders, but our world felt right again.
Reflecting back, I think everyone was totally feeding off of my negative vibes. Our chorus was out of sync and I was the choir director. You know that saying “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”? (Which I’ve always hated, but mostly because I cannot stomach the word “ain’t.”) Well, despite my grammatical objection, I have found in my experience as a mama, it can feel true. Once, early on in parenthood, my husband said to me “Susie, you control the temperature of this family,” insinuating that I held our family’s happiness or unhappiness in my hands. It really pissed me off. How dare he suggest that the happiness level in our household hang hinged on my mood?
I understand now why his comment bothered me so much all those years ago. It’s a lot of pressure to be a good mom- to raise little humans. We provide, we teach, we nourish, and we keep them safe. We work or we stay home, we clean, we survive on coffee from lack of sleep! We entertain, we taxi, we love so much that sometimes we forget about loving ourselves… AND we’re to be responsible for their happiness?! That’s a tall, tall order. I thought we’re not responsible for anyone’s happiness but our own? Don’t tell my husband that he was right, but now I understand where he was going with it. The thing is, all of the said above do, in a way, hold us responsible for our children’s happiness. While we cannot promise our children’s happiness, we can lay the foundation of a positive life. The tone we set for handling the pressures of parenting teaches our children how to roll with life’s punches and how to choose joy or not. Through our actions and reactions we can teach them that when life rips you apart and you feel like giving up, you don’t. We can teach them that even in the darkest times, there is always light. We can teach them to say I’m sorry and back it up with actions. We can teach them kindness and compassion. We can show them that sometimes we fail as parents, but we learn from those mistakes and strive to be better. We can show them that in real life, things get hectic and sometimes relationships suffer for it. It is my greatest hope that my children know, whether things are rocky with their siblings, friends, parents or whomever, that when these things happen, happiness is within their reach. They always have the choice to power down and reboot.
Essay by: Susie Trigg Tucker