All moms must have at least a few different internal voices, one of which can get pretty mean at times. I’m referring to that voice that asks whether or not my kids are legitimately insane or comes up with cruel punishments like destroying a favorite toy (something sentimental me could never actually do).
My mean-mom internal voice has a favorite phrase: “Calm the fuck down!” With a 5-, 3-, and almost 1-year-old, it’s used quite often. Toddlers are like bouncy balls of electricity ricocheting around the house. Enthusiasm can be a good thing, but sometimes it, along with other emotions, boils over to uncontrollable levels. I usually find myself shouting at them to CTFD many times every day, in my head, at least for now.
Can I wake up yet? What about now? It’s light outside. Don’t we need to start getting ready for that fun thing we have planned for today? No, I’ve been up all night with the baby, it’s barely sunrise, and that fun thing isn’t until after lunch. Please CTFD and go back to bed.
Two of them come running up to me, incoherent words tumbling out at a rapid speed. They’re each trying to tell their side of a story, and incrementally increasing their volume in order to drown each other out. They don’t seem to be taking any breaths between sentences as their pace quickens. The loud hum of their melded voices is like a swarm of bees inside my skull. I find myself trying to stifle the cacophony by chanting CTFD, CTFD, CTFD.
He’s playing with Legos. She’s playing with a Barbie. They’re supposed to be having fun. Then the pieces won’t fit together just right, and she can’t find a matching shoe. Suddenly, playtime turns into a national disaster. There are crossed arms, stomping feet, tears, and toys thrown across the room. I know you’re frustrated, but if you would just CTFD right now, these problems can easily be fixed.
You were bad. You have to be punished. It’s a freaking three minute time-out in your room. Is it really necessary to imitate a shrieking banshee? Your face is getting all blotchy and is already soaked with tears. Now you’re ripping off your clothes. Seriously, three minutes, CTFD already.
They’re just mashed potatoes, not toxic sludge. You love French fries, even thick steak-cut ones. Are you really pretending to gag on your food? Now you’re making sounds like you’re going to throw up, and crying. That’s more than enough drama at the dinner table. I need you to CTFD and eat.
Grocery shopping was going just fine. One little “no” changed everything. Now I can feel my face getting hot as people are noticing your escalating cries. Panic sets in as I realize that the next step will be a full-out tantrum, complete with you throwing your body down on the dirty floor. The mean-mom voice is begging for you to please, please CTFD.
Yes, I even use this with the baby. It’s 3:30 a.m. and he’s crying—again. I watch the clock tick off the hours and minutes left before my alarm will go off. He’s arching his body and screaming. The other two kids will definitely wake up soon. He’s been fed, burped, and changed. There are no new teeth forcing their way out. He’s not sick. My arms and eyes are fighting a losing battle with exhaustion. Sweetie, you’re adorable, but it really is time to CTFD.
Thankfully, in the moment, I’ve always had enough restraint to keep from using these words out loud. The statement in my head is usually accompanied by a deep breath before I attempt to remedy the situation. Perhaps this statement is not directed toward my children after all. I might just be reminding myself to CTFD because this too shall pass. Children have light-switch emotions. I just need to remain calm, give them a minute, and they’ll be smiling again—at least until the next episode.