My son just approached me gently. "Mamma," he started in a calm, but serious voice, "I want you to understand something and I hope you don't feel sad. When we have a long day and do lots of things or have guests, as soon as everyone leaves, you start to get exhausted and you take out your exhaustion on us. Do you realize that?"
In fact, I had not realized that.
"Can you tell me more about that?" I asked, wearing my "I used to be a pastor" hat so as not to respond out of anger (having a background as both an actor and a pastor helps immensely in parenting).
He paused, drew a breath, and rather rapidly spit out his explanation: "Sure. I notice that as soon as Nectarine leaves, you are more cranky and tired than all day long. So it seems like you don't want to be cranky when Nectarine is here but then you don't mind being cranky when it's just us. So, it's like you are taking out your cranky on us. That doesn't feel very fair."
Darn it all. He has a point. I do tend to try and be "on" when Nectarine is here, which apparently results in me turing "off" after he leaves. The key to solving this dilemma, of course, is finding a balance. Perhaps the fact that Nectarine's presence comes with a paycheck leaves me feeling more pressure than necessary. Obviously, I need to find a way to navigate this struggle. I don't yet know how.
I do know that my sweet boy has noticed the change and that it is not okay with him.
But that's not actually why I decided to write this down. What moves me about this moment is that my sweet boy is able to tell me these things. Despite my obvious parenting FAIL regarding my afternoon crankiness, the fact that my son can tell me how he feels is a parenting victory.
Occasionally, it's a good idea to pat ourselves on the back when we get something right. I get plenty wrong. This one, I got right. That he can tell me when I am hurting him means we have fairly open lines of communication -- a good thing when I consider that in a few weeks, he will be ten years old -- which is dangerously close to the pre-teen years.
Perhaps just the knowledge of that alone might propel me into greater balance between my morning moods and afternoon moods.