The Witching Hour Is Real & It’s The Absolute Worst

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I love my children. I really do. But during the hours between dinnertime and bedtime — when the kids meltdown into tantrums and grouchy attitudes — I want to ship them off to grandma’s house while I take deep calming breaths into a paper bag. In our family, we call this hellish time of day Arsenic Hour, although I’ve also heard it called The Witching Hour. It’s the most intense part of my day, and Arsenic Hour tests my patience in a core shaking way.

The sparks that lead to explosive frictions always start small. One kid asks to watch a movie and I think, Oh, this is perfect, some quiet time with a movie while I rush to get dinner on the table and the laundry folded! But then the other kiddo is personally offended that he wasn’t consulted on the movie choice. So he starts whining, which leads to the older child telling him to, “Stop it! Nooo! Don’t shut the TV off! Mom said I could choose the movie this time! I’M TELLING MOM!” From there the situation escalates until both of them are red in the face and tears are shed (the tears are mostly from me, but you get what I’m saying) and I have to stop what I am doing so that I can swoop in and play referee to two irrationally upset children.

Dinners have been burned over crap like this, people.

For a while there, I tried to use a diversion method. With one child fully engrossed in a tablet, I would usher the other child to the play room or vice versa. I would save their favorite activities until that blasted part of the day. Hell, I even tried bribing calmness from my children, but no matter what I did, they would inevitably fall apart during Arsenic Hour.

The part about this daily meltdown that bugs me the most though, is not that my kids can be tyrants for two hours a day. I expect that from them to some degree. They are tired and hungry and after a full day of being busy little kids they just need to decompress. Kids cannot possibly be expected to behave perfectly at all times and rationally, I understand this fact implicitly. It’s that I also lose my cool.  And that is why Arsenic Hour is the absolute worst and makes me feel like a garbage mom.

My mom friends all rally around to say things like, “Don’t beat yourself up, you’re an awesome mom!” Or, “You got this, girl!” Or, “Your kids love you, you’re a great mom, you do you, mama!” The kind sentiments roll in and for a few minutes, I feel better, but that feeling of “better” is usually temporary.

It’s taken three kids and nearly a decade of practice but I have finally come to see Arsenic Hour as a daily challenge from the universe for me to try to be a more kind, patient, and compassionate mom. The kids will literally be screaming at each other, or trashing the living room, or refusing to follow my directions and in the past, I would yell and shriek in response.

Geez, I wonder where they learned to meltdown, right?

I’m definitely not perfect and I fail at least some aspect of trying to remain cool, calm, and collected, but I’m trying. I take those deep breaths and try to slowly count in my head. I separate the kids and keep dinner as quick and simple as possible. I’m trying to “lean in” and give out love instead of threats of a timeout. But I’m only human, and I’m an overwhelmed mom.

I’m not getting it right just yet. But that’s cool with me because I suspect that Arsenic Hour will hold more valuable lessons in patience and loving kindness as I begin to unfurl into a more evolved mom.

Photo: Getty