Yep. You guessed it. The impetus for this article: I had a bad day.

The main contributor to my bad days (besides having a headache) is doubting myself. And that is what happened on Friday of last week.
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I was watching a little girl and it was time for me to wake her from her nap. She was not happy to see me, being that I wasn’t her mom and she was still sleepy. But it was getting late in the afternoon and I couldn’t run the risk of messing up her night sleep schedule. No choice.

I’ve tried a few things to make this transition from sleep to wakefulness smoother, but I find myself feeling lousy and not confident more often than I’d like. So on this particular day, I tried to practice the things that I thought were best: getting her out of bed while she’s still a little asleep, staying quiet while I woke her and giving her some time on my lap. Good. I put her on the potty when she got up. Good. She cried while she was there. Not so good. I then tried to give her a snuggle when she was done to give her some comfort and time to wake up. She would have none of it. Ok, not so good again. She proceeded to cry for the next 20 minutes, while I tried to calm her (no! no! no!) and tacitly keep an eye on her since she didn’t seem to want any interference from me. Sigh.

She finally quieted down on her own. By the time her upsetness was finally through, I needed a hug just as much as she did.

At the end of this, I was convinced of 2 things. #1: I had no clue what I was doing. #2: She really doesn’t like me.

Sound familiar? 

I know that usually this segment is full of suggestions of things to do and not do. But today, I’d just like us all to remember that it’s ok to have a bad day. The bad day doesn’t need to be made worse by beating ourselves up over it, though that is immediately what I did when faced with one (Why am I so bad at this? I’ve been in plenty of situations that are worse. I’m supposed to be good at dealing with kids! Ack!!).

The suggestions that I write here are only meant to help. Hopefully they do not ever add to any parental frustrations that you’re already feeling. Changing behavior and thought patterns is really hard. There are many professionals who exist in the world whose sole job is to help people do just this. In fact, I went to a continuing education course full of social workers last week and one of our mini-assignments during the class was to try a new way of praising a child. We had all received social work training and now ask people to consider changes in their lives on a regular basis, but trying to change this simple use of language came as a real challenge to many of the participants.

Trying to change your behavior when dealing with kids is like learning to drive and going through the checklist of things that we should look for and do every 5-10 seconds: Look in the rearview mirror. Signal first, look over shoulder, then switch lanes. Look in the mirror again. Shoot. When was the last time I looked? Ahh. When did that truck get so close behind me? The only way that we got better at driving was by practicing.

So if you were practicing your parenting today or yesterday or last week and ran into some challenges, don’t panic. There’s always tomorrow… or April. Practice the stuff that you can manage and leave the rest for another day. If all you can manage today is getting everyone out of the house on time, then huzzah! Maybe next week you can add something else, but if not, try try try not to beat yourself up about it.

It’s OK to have a bad day.