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When parenting gets too hard, sometimes you just have to reset

She’s not listening. She keeps sticking out her tongue at me. She keeps making that awful face. She calls it her “mad face.” I call it, “please stop it.”

We walked out from the library where she was short with me, argued at every turn, and then demanded that I open the door to leave. She added in a please at the end with as much 5-year-old attitude as she could pull together for me. As we walked, I got a bit ahead of her and she didn’t notice.

We had planned to go out for a cupcake after the library. We were going to have some time together, like we do on Tuesdays. As I walked, my thoughts quickly jumped to what that would look like. How it would be more of this. More of the not listening. More of the attitude. Soon I had unraveled the rest of the night into much more than I could handle. We were surely going to have a terrible night. In that time, she stopped walking. A stone column now stood between us so she couldn’t see me. She cried out for me, thinking I had somehow disappeared. In a split second, her tiny world felt like it had crashed around her, much like mine had just been. She was alone and scared. She wanted her mommy. Realizing what had happened, I quickly took a step forward into her view.

Recognition and relief washed over her face as she saw me.

All at once, we both reset. She dropped her attitude. I let my ideas about what was to come fall away. We held hands and crossed the street. Let’s go get a cupcake.


She got a cupcake with rainbow sprinkles. We worked on her typing on the iPad. She got bored and was still hungry. She didn’t want to go home. She yelled at me on the sidewalk. She cried in the car.


She wouldn’t get out of the car when we got home. I was carrying my two bags, her school bag, our library bag, and it was snowing. It was a real uphill both ways kind of moment.


When we got inside, I gave her a few things to do: Hang up your coat, put away your shoes and hat, turn on the living room lights. I started dinner, switched the laundry and put on some music.


Hard days are so hard. Without the reset again and again, I couldn’t get out of it. Without the reset, there’s no opening, no chance for that light to come in. The reset doesn’t change everything. Our night didn’t magically get better. In fact, in a lot of ways it got harder, but I chose to continually reset. I chose to make sure there was enough space for the beautiful moments to peek through in between. Because that’s what resetting does: It makes space. We all need more of that.

More on parenting on hard days

7 Tips to stop temper tantrums in public
Getting over a bad parenting day
What motherhood looks like on a bad day

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