And Then She Blows a Gasket…
“Hand over ANYTHING THAT HAS A SCREEN!” I hollered at my kids the other night while blowing a gasket. They are used to me getting mad, but not this mad. They were petrified. I’m pretty sure the neighbors three houses down were also petrified.
I was mad that they are always fighting. Every time they walk past each other, they fight about it. Every time someone has to use the bathroom, they fight about it. Every time someone has to set the table, they fight about it. I had had enough. So I ranted for a while, yelling things like, “WHY CAN’T YOU JUST BE NICE TO EACH OTHER, HUH? WHY CAN’T YOU TREAT EACH OTHER WITH RESPECT, HUH? WHERE DID YOUR KINDNESS GO?”
My two youngest girls started crying as I screamed at them to find their kindness.
And when the irony of this finally struck me, I wanted to curl up in a corner and disappear. I SUCK AT PARENTING, the voice in my head scolded me. I AM NOT EQUIPPED FOR THIS. I MAKE EVERYTHING WORSE.
I paced up and down the hall for a while trying to cool down, collect my thoughts, and think of something a good parent would do. I wanted to right my wrong and comfort my kids but I was still mad and clinging to my principle.
“Everyone grab a piece of paper,” I said calmly, walking back into the dining room.
Wow, they did that quickly, I thought as they scurried back to the table. I AM A CRAPPY MOM FOR SCARING THEM INTO GOOD BEHAVIOR, the voice reminded me.
I got myself a piece of paper, too. The four of us sat down with our pencils. “Now I want you to write ideas for how we can solve this problem.” I said. “How can we treat each other with more kindness? What can each of us do to make this family better and fight less?” They started writing furiously. I sat there, pencil in hand, looking at them.
Oldest Daughter kept her head down, wisely sensing at this juncture that an eye roll would not work in her favor. Middle Daughter’s tears stopped the instant she understood that her assignment was to write new rules, because for our well-meaning little Officer Salatka, the only thing better than creating rules is enforcing them. But Youngest Child, she continued sobbing.
I pulled my chair next to her. “Maybe you can help me with my list now,” I said as her writing slowed. “How can I do a better job? Do you have any suggestions?”
“Don’t yell,” she said, sniveling. Her legs were pulled up to her chest and she spoke softly, timidly.
“Okay, that’s a good one for me to work on. Number one, I will try not to yell.”
“Don’t be mean,” she whispered.
“Yes, okay,” I sighed and wrote it down. “What else?” I asked.
“Buy me more toys,” she whimpered.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that one.”
“I need more toys. You never buy me toys,” she said a little louder.
“Oh. But what about all the toys in your room? And in the cupboards? And in the closet? And in the garage?”
“No, I don’t like those toys anymore. I need new toys,” she said morosely, eyes blinking, still wet.
Right then, my heart filled with pride. This tiny person was trying to work me, to pole vault off my guilt onto a pad of new merchandise. I had to respect it. This little girl may need loads of therapy in her adulthood for all the havoc I knowingly wreak and probably even more for the havoc I unknowingly wreak, but her determined Youngest Child Spirit is strong. She can take a situation that is composed of manure and built on a foundation of fatigue and unrealistic expectations and still attempt to manipulate it to her advantage. That’s my little faker, I thought.
“I think we’re pretty good on toys, but let’s take a closer look at what you have tomorrow.” I said, giving her a squeeze. She hugged me back and ran into her room.
So goes another night in the life.
Do you have any suggestions for how not to blow a gasket? Because I’d like to keep my promise. If yes, please hit the comments. Muchas gracias.