After a fairly harmonious several weeks with my children, I started to have conflict again with my oldest (5.5 year old son), sometimes multiple times a day. My son was increasingly attacking his younger sister (3.5 years old), both physically and emotionally. He was scaring her to tears, and going against house rules such as standing on the kitchen counters with dirty feet. I was quick to anger, had little patience, and used almost no playfulness or creativity in responding to sibling fights. I was giving myself time outs, parking the car on the side of the road and stepping out to cool off.
Two to three weeks into this cycle, I wondered what was going on and why. I realized that I had spent no time with my children. No Special Time, no Playlistening, nothing outside of caring for their basic needs. Why? Self-imposed pressure to complete several household projects was absorbing all my time, leading me to cut out exercise, sleep, and even eating regularly. I was stressed and depleted, but feeling productive, which is highly seductive for me.
But the cost had been high: I felt at the absolute lowest point in my 5+ years of parenting. I was doing everything wrong; using threats, power plays, belittling language. Luckily, I had been aware enough to apologize every time, but my children seemed weary of apologies. They would rather have mom not screw up in the first place.
I told them that I was going to spend Special Time with each of them. They decreed that it should be 51 minutes of Special Time for each, and so it was. Each Special Time was wonderful: both had wanted to swim, and thoroughly enjoy their splashing in the pool. Later, at dinnertime, my patience started to ebb as my son refused to eat dinner (a common cause for our conflicts). But this time, rather than completely polarizing, we both pulled it together and found something he was willing to eat that is reasonably nutritious and did not involve much time-consuming preparation. The Special Time seemed to give both of us the energy and good will to avert a showdown. Whew!
–A mom in Silicon Valley