It’s an all-too-familiar scene in my house: I’m standing at the stove, stirring the mac and cheese while occasionally checking email or text messages on my phone. Meanwhile, my older daughter is at the kitchen table, asking for help with her homework and her sister is in the other room, yelling for me to come look at her latest Lego creation. I’m in constant motion, draining noodles, answering math questions, tapping out texts and stepping on Legos.
It’s all going along well enough, or so it seems. But my tension is rising, even if I’m not aware of it. Eventually, something gives. I spill the milk or drop my phone or step on a Lego or the girls start bickering; whatever it is, something sends me over the edge and I explode. I lose it at my kids, and the evening starts to unravel.
Some version of this happens to many parents on a regular basis. In fact, these episodes are so common that many of us have come to think of them as an unavoidable part of daily life with kids. If we do happen to stop and wonder what happened, we often assume it’s because we had a rough day at work or the kids were tired or getting sick. While these things may be true, they’re not the whole story.