A couple weeks ago on a Thursday afternoon I got caught in a trap. It’s a common one. Usually I’m on alert for these types of things but for some reason that day I wasn’t. Maybe because it was sunny and I wasn’t ready for the week to end. Maybe I was tired; my youngest has been having a hard time going to sleep lately so I’ve had a hard time getting to sleep.
Who really knows. It just snuck up on me and I walked right into it in the form of ten dollar pizza. Usually a pizza is just a pizza. Sometimes it’s not; sometimes it’s guilt.
Yup, that’s right, guilt.
Divorced parenting guilt.
It’s like regular parenting guilt only a little more intense, a little stronger.
As if regular parenting guilt wasn’t enough. You know they always blame the mom right?
Anyhow, it was Thursday, switch day, and sunny. As usual my week with the kids passed too quickly. They go to their dad’s for the week just before dinner time, my kids. Shiny New Step-Mom would probably have dinner waiting for them. I bought pizza anyhow. It was only ten bucks but it was ten bucks I didn’t really have to throw away.
I threw it away anyhow.
This past Saturday I fell into that same trap. In my defense it was dressed differently and I have poor facial recognition skills. It may have looked different but it was the same trap.
A friend of my daughter’s called. They had an extra ticket to the friend’s dance recital. It was a busy day already and we were tightly booked between a run in the morning and plans in the afternoon. But this was a long time friend, she switched schools last year, and they hadn’t seen each other in a while. So I made it work.
It was frustrating. I don’t know why I did it. I ran around, a little bit late, a lot stressed, and made it work so my daughter could see her friend. As I was doing it I told myself how stupid it was, saying yes when I knew I should’ve said no. I thought of how we seemed to always be running late, how our friends would be waiting for us at the U-pick strawberry farm that was a much farther drive for them than it was for us. How rude! I hate being rude (unless I’m actually trying to be rude which is almost never). I thought about all the time I spend running kids to friends’ houses and how that cuts into my already limited time with them. There is NEVER enough. Then I remembered my daughter needed to go ride her pony because I had failed to get her out to ride the day before. Well that just wasn’t going to happen now.
Layer upon layer of frustration!
But they don’t get to see their friends when they’re with their dad, my kids.
So I always make it work. I say yes when I should say no.
Why? I just do.
Probably the guilt again.
Then there’s the classic bedtime trap. I’m pretty sure all parents are familiar with this one.
As I mentioned my youngest has been having bedtime troubles. He’s four and I’m pretty sure he hates our week on/week off parenting time schedule almost as much as I do but no one listens to four year olds.
Last night was typical. It was late, after 10:30, and he had been “in bed” for about an hour. We had read four stories, he had played on my phone, he asked for his usual snack (which he never wants at the beginning of bedtime when I offer it to him), calm music was playing, the room was dark with the requisite closet light on, the fan was blowing directly on him: conditions were perfect but sleep was not happening. It was knocking on the door but the little bastard just wouldn’t let it in. He was fighting it hard core and ,let me tell you, that boy can fight!
Around 11:00 he played the “lay down with me, mommy” card.
Like I said, a classic trap.
They’re so close to sleep when they look up at you with the heavy eyelids they’re struggling to keep open and ask in their sweet, sleepy little voice. You know it’ll only take a moment of cuddling next to them in bed to tip them over the edge. But you also know THIS IS A TRAP!
Not only will they be asleep in moments, so will you. You’d lay next to them “for just a minute” and wake up hours later groggy and disoriented.
I could not afford to fall in this trap last night. I still needed to go grocery shopping. Like really needed to go grocery shopping.
Yes, at eleven o’clock at night. That’s how it goes sometimes.
Guilt, that wily beast who so cleverly disguises itself, is hiding in everyday activities and occurrences strategically located at the top of a slippery slope.
It’s not the guilt itself that’s the real problem; everyone steps in the guilt trap now and again. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t.
The real problem comes when you stumble onto the hornets nest guilt has laid in your path on a regular basis. When you gradually and suddenly find yourself frustrated, angry, and unhappy because guilt is running your life. That’s the thing of it, you have to pay attention or guilt will sneak up on you like it did on me. Before you know it guilt will be dictating your decisions and controlling your day to day life.
And, guess what, your day to day life…that’s it.
That IS your life.
What’s the point of it, all these emotions? Guilt, anger, fear, whatever.
Some people say you have a choice, you choose what you feel. I don’t buy that. I don’t want to be angry. Fear holds me back. And guilt, guilt is just annoying. If I had a choice I wouldn’t encounter these emotions and life would be grand. It just doesn’t work that way though.
We feel what we feel. It’s a chemical thing.
That’s not to say we don’t have any choices or that we can or should let our emotions dictate our lives. Let’s not get crazy here, people. Wile we may not choose what feelings wash over us we do have a choice as to what we do with those emotions. Guilt is no exception.
The other day the ice cream truck was driving through the neighborhood for the first time this summer. I gave my son two dollars and told him to get something for himself and his younger brother. A few minutes later, with popsicles in hand, the two boys brought me back a dollar. I commented that they could’ve gotten their two older brothers popsicles as well. My son felt pretty bad about it. I didn’t think it was a big deal.
A few hours later at bedtime my son brought it up again; he felt so bad for not getting the other two boys popsicles. In an attempt to reassure him that the popsicle thing really wasn’t a big deal I gave my so some advice that maybe I needed to hear too.
“When you make a mistake in life learn from it then let it go and move on.”
So now that I’ve encountered a couple of guilt traps in the past couple weeks I’m on high alert. Hopefully I’ll take my own advice: learn something and move on.
Maybe that should be my new motto.