There we were — bB and I in a staring duel, both of us refusing to flinch first. I asked him nicely to tidy up the playroom. I even reminded him that I asked him nicely. I’m about four-five seconds from wildin’, and his definitive “no” and light saber pointed right at me are sure to put me over the edge.
In that moment, I’m sure my love for bB is still in my heart… somewhere.
Okay, I’m exaggerating. Of course, I love my kids. Do I love them unconditionally? Ummm… I want to say yes, because what kind of parent doesn’t love their kids unconditionally? Only a scumbag parent.
Well, that’s me. I admit it.
You didn’t say it. I did. Because I feel like it’s true sometimes.
Don’t get me wrong. I will always love my kids, no matter what. But, I’ve noticed that I only show them that I love them when they’re good — well-behaved, listening, following rules and instructions, and being nice to other people.
When they’re ‘bad’ and experiencing these big emotions that disrupt the flow of my life’s schedule, that’s when my first reaction is to get upset, angry, frustrated, annoyed, and impatient.
To me, that is not love. Here I am, turning my back and my heart on my kids when I should be loving them, especially at those times. These are the moments where they need the most guidance and patience.
But, you know who loves me unconditionally? bB does. And this is how I know. Even after he commits his crime, and even after I yell at him and give him the cold shoulder, he takes all of five minutes to get over it. He cleans up by himself (give or take twenty minutes of distractions from rediscovering toys he forgot lived in that room), and he still manages to come to me and talk to me… normally… like nothing happened. Asks for a hug, even…
And this is where I feel like a jerk. Because why am I holding a grudge with a two-year old? To me, that definitely seems like
unconditional love. I can’t believe that I have to wait for him to make peace with me before I can feel good about talking to him or playing with him again. What’s worse is that, if he didn’t come up to me first, I don’t know how often I would be the one to wave the white flag. I would still feel like my actions and my yelling are justified. I mean, come on, he complains about always having to clean the same mess he makes… everyday.
Yet, here he is. Mind you, he has already forgiven me for yelling at him. He may have created this hurricane of a mess in the middle of our playroom, but I am the parent. I am the one who should be reminding him of what he should be doing, then working with him to move past it. I shouldn’t be reminding him that this is the million-and-first time he’s made this mistake and why hasn’t he learned yet, and this, that, and the other.
I’ve learned that pride plays a huge part in the parent-child power struggle. It takes a lot for me to stand down — I’m a scorpio, what do you expect? — but as bB shows me more and more each day, I don’t want to keep my pride in tact at the cost of damaging his self-esteem, or shortening his temper, or creating this pressure for him to be perfect.
Sometimes, with parenting, we just need to stop, take a breath, and step back. We need to re-evaluate the situation.
In the grand scheme of life, is this battle worth winning? Can we not concede just this one time and promise to avoid a situation like this in the future? Can we not work toward a compromise so both parties are somewhat satisfied? Can we not find another way of delivering our demands so that our kids don’t feel attacked or embarrassed?
Trust me. I would love nothing more than to stand firm, especially when bB cries and whines, demanding me to tidy up his toys. In my head, I feel like giving in today means chocolate for breakfast tomorrow, ten hours of non-stop YouTube videos the next, and before you know it, I’m the doormat mom who gives her son anything he demands to show him that she loves him. I want bB to grow up with a sense of respect, and not entitlement.
But I also know the feeling of regret that washes over me immediately after I’ve lost my cool, staring at my little boy with tears racing down his cheeks. I know it too well. And it’s all because I couldn’t keep it together for two seconds. As much as I want to rewind time and choose the more rational option (or fast forward to tomorrow when I promise myself I’ll try harder), I’m stuck with the reality of not only owning my actions, but of repairing the connection with bB that I obliterated in ten raging seconds of non-restraint.
It’s a conscious effort that I have to promise to make myself every day… heck every minute. I’m simply too busy juggling duties of cleaning the house, cooking dinner, tending to our social calendar (and the list goes on), that I have no energy left to be creative with my kids. But, that’s exactly what is missing.
One of these days, the light will turn on in bB’s head. He’ll finally learn the lessons I’ve been trying to teach him. So, I guess I should do the same and take a page out of his book. Learn to swallow my pride. Show a little more patience and a lot more love. And don’t beat myself up too much about being human and making mistakes.
You be the judge. I know it’s much easier to be objective when you’re emotionally detached from the situation. So feel free to use me as your shining example. The next time you see your kids emptying the contents of every basket in the playroom, or <insert ultimate trigger here>, think to yourself how you can love your kid unconditionally through this moment.
How do you stop yourself from going off when your kids press your buttons? How do you take a moment of frustration with your kids, and turn it into a learning opportunity? I’d desperately love to know.