I’ve arranged my mornings so that, even though I have to get up when it’s still dark, I have some time to myself to take a shower, get dressed and have a cup of tea in peace. But every now and then someone wakes up when they shouldn’t – that’s life, right? One morning last week, I was 100% mum: standing in front of the bathroom mirror, naked from the waist up, doing my mascara with one hand and holding Giant Baby with the other, while she helped herself to some milk. Not the most auspicious start to the day.
We usually get ready in a flurry, but we have fun, too. We goof around, we sing, we mess about with the baby. But on this day, when I got the others up for breakfast, the mood was off. Middle Child lost her shit over the bowl I’d given her. Really. The wrong bowl. Then Biggest Sister started on about something else – on and on and on. She was whinging, Middle Child was whinging, the baby started whinging … Until I bent down and looked Biggest Sister right in the eyes and told her, more loudly and slowly than I should have, “I don’t care.”
These are words you shouldn’t say to your kids, I know. But the effect they had on her was unprecedented: she burst into tears and sobbed, “I don’t want you to get sick again!” Sometimes we forget – because kids spend half their time acting like blockheads, insulting each other and physically bashing each other about – that they’re actually really sensitive sometimes, and they remember everything. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. Something – the words I said, the crazy look in my eye, the whole atmosphere – triggered something in my daughter’s memory. “I don’t want you to get sick again!” She hasn’t got a clue what mental illness is – she’s eight – but you can bet your life she wasn’t talking about the time I had pneumonia.
It was like a slap in the face. Get a grip, I told myself. We are not doing this again. It was a giant effort at 7:30 in the morning, but I turned against the tide. I didn’t let the current sweep me away – I turned and fought my way back upstream because that is my job.
And it’s my privilege. It’s something you can’t do when you’re depressed – you can’t decide. The current is already too strong and it’s already carrying you away – to a meltdown, a panic attack, suicidal thoughts – wherever. I can’t tell you how great it feels to realise, having once lost that control, that you have it back again. It’s one of those things you don’t know you’ve got till it’s gone.
So why am I telling you this story? Because of how it ends. With me walking to work, having left all three of my kids (on time) where they should have been, and all three with smiles on their faces. I’m not proud of the words I said to my daughter, or of the way I frightened her, but I am proud of how I recovered it. That morning could have really gone sideways, but it didn’t. Because of me.
And this is where it gets good. This is where I got proof I’m changing, and I’m on the right road … I felt good. About myself. About the way I handled the situation. I focused on the good, not the bad. And that’s a giant step forward for me. I gave myself the credit … and I gave myself a break.
We all screw up. We’re human. But we also do amazing little things all the time. Too often, we focus on the mistakes we make during the day, and not the wins. They may be small wins, but they count.
John S. Hall said, “When I’m feeling proud of myself, I should remember to ask myself why I think I am of any value at all. I have done nothing that a hundred thousand other people couldn’t do.” But it works both ways. If you’ve got incredibly low self-esteem (uh … you called?) then the opposite applies. People like you, people like me, we wait for a bad day to get all introspective. Why? Why do we only beat ourselves up when things go wrong? Why do we never say, when things go right – Nice one, self, you really aced that! This is how our sound byte should read: “When I’m feeling negative about myself, I should remember to ask myself why I think I’m of no value at all. I have done something that a hundred thousand other people would congratulate themselves for.”
Let’s start today. Let’s start celebrating our wins. Not on social media, where all that is ever celebrated is success and beauty, but inside ourselves. No one else has to see; no one else has to know. You’re not doing this for them – you’re doing it for YOU.