Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Miss E and the Tree and a Fight

Today Miss E and I had a fight. A huge, yelling, lose your temper in a big way, knock down drag out, fight. And oh, it has been a long time since we have had one of those. From the time she was little (in utero really) I knew that she was independent. Stubborn. Strong-willed. She is the independent, stubborn, strong-willed child born of an independent, stubborn and strong-willed mother. My first real clue as to how this was going to play out was potty training. I royally screwed that up by not getting to know my kid before starting out. I listened to books, instead of her. She is not a kid who would use the potty just because you promised her an M&M. No way, no how. She would refuse to pee for an entire day just because I WANTED HER TO USE THE POTTY. She doesn't do what others tell her to just because she is told, bribed, threatened, coaxed, cajoled or anything else. The minute she senses a power struggle, there is a line in the sand that she will not cross for anything.

I have to say, that while these personality traits can be difficult in a kid because she is not always compliant, I do want her to be a strong-willed, independent adult and before that, a teenager who can make up her own mind. As soon as I learned a bit about her and stopped reading parenting books, things got a lot better. I figured out how to side-step power struggles, ignore the behavior that I knew was just button pushing and when to tell if her acting out meant that she really wanted a hug. She is a good natured girl. She is smart and sweet and empathetic and bright and interesting and funny. She can be difficult at times and she has really made me look at myself and learn about managing temper and control issues. (Ahem, not that I have any of those...)
In time, I have come to feel pretty good about my mothering of her. I think I'm a really good mother to her and I think that I have learned to handle her in a manner that works for all of us and avoids some of the hugs blow out fights that we used to have, which is good for both of us.

But every once in awhile, I slip. Today I was tired, I've been working a lot and feeling a bit down. Not at my best for sure and everything blew up in my face. The worst part, is that I had a huge screaming yelling fight with my 6 year old over pretty much nothing. I asked her if she wanted to help me set up my new ipod. She was holding it and dropped it. At this point, I wasn't angry. I mean, I let a 6 year old hold my ipod, you can't exactly yell at her for dropping it, that's what 6 year olds do. Instead I said "oh honey, we have to be careful with that, that's how my last one broke". In response she stomped off to her room. A minute later, I followed her in and explained that while I wasn't mad, she needed to apologize, that when you do something like that on accident, or hurt someone on accident, you still have to say you're sorry. She looked at my, said "whatever, I'll just play in here". Oh now that pissed me off. And it began. In hindsight, I know she was just really worried about being in trouble and how she handled that flood of "feeling bad" emotions was to stomp to her room. I should have given her more time to let those feelings dissipate and then talked to her about it. But I didn't.

I'm ashamed to say that this was one of my worst moments in parenting in awhile. I put her in time out, she wouldn't go, she told Mr. T she hated him, I yelled at her to get in her room, she wouldn't go. On and on and on. After we had reached some resolution and CALMED DOWN, we talked. About how time outs are to help us both calm down and about the choices that we each made every step of the way that led to this and what we could have done differently. Then I told her I was sorry, so very very sorry that I yelled at her and that I grabbed her arm and that even though I was angry, I shouldn't have done those things. And then I told her that she still needed to apologize to me and her brother (for saying she hated him) which she did. Then, because the kids are still working on put words to feelings, she and I both sat down and wrote the end to these sentences:

I felt sad when...

I felt scared when....

I felt angry when...

 I felt sorry when....

And then we read our papers to each other and ripped them up. It was exhausting folks. The whole thing took so much energy. But I really feel like one of our duties as parents is to teach them how to handle anger and other strong emotions. Peter and I argue in front of the kids and they know that it is a given that people who live together will get in fights. The tough part about losing it with your kids, really losing it, is that you can't take it back. Not entirely. When I get overly angry at Peter, I can apologize and explain that I was over the top about something and he understands. You can't do that with kids, not in the same way. Oh, you can apologize, but it doesn't take it away. Needless to say, even after numerous hugs and I love you's, I still went to bed feeling bad for both of us. However, I also know that I need to brush it off, get up tomorrow and get over it. Parents lose it sometimes. They do. Or they drink way too much. I'm not sure which is better for the kids - probably the realistic non-drinking method. Only time will tell though..only time will tell.


  1. Absolutely the realistic non-drinking method. No question about that.

  2. I ditto Lynda, having grown up in an alcoholic home seeing parents and siblings and EVERYBODY fighting, fighting, fighting. Not good. Not at all. But, where love abounds--love is the thing that can end it. You know how to end it, and choose love, and so do---no worries, dear momma!