There is screaming ascending the stairs. It is the girl and I assume there must be an axe murderer or at least the hounds of hell chasing her. She rounds the corner and flys into the baby’s room, still screaming. On her heels is her older brother, glaring menacingly. He sees me and stops dead.
*sigh* To your room, I say. He grumbles. He didn’t do anything, it’s all her fault, he always gets the blame, we all hate him. Something along those lines. I stopped paying attention or responding ages ago. He stomps away and I hear the door slam, but not before he sticks his arm out and points directly at his sister, he will finish this later. She squeals. To your room, I say. She cries.
I don’t know why they’re fighting, I don’t care. That particular boat sailed long ago. Getting involved solves nothing. And mostly just makes it worse.
I head downstairs and prepare lunch, half an hour later I call them both down to eat. I say simply and calmly that that behaviour is unacceptable and they are both old enough to know better. They apologize, first to me, then to each other, without me having to prompt them. The problem, whatever it was is forgotten as they talk about their favorite song to listen to and see if it is on guitar hero, while they eat.
It took a long time for me to get to this point. To realize that yelling was not required, ad nausea talking was not required, getting involved in the issue is not required. Previously this sort of incident would have ended in tears all around, yelling, more door slamming, and my son completely shutting down, running off or becoming actually violent. These occurrences are less and less now.
To meet my son you wouldn’t think he was any different from any typical child, I daresay you would even be impressed by his vocabulary and his excellent manners. You would be surprised to know that at three months old he was already trying to rip out his hair with his own hands in anger and frustration. At three years old he was jumping out his second story window and running off during time out and at six he was thrown out of school after he fled his first grade classroom out of frustration and anger and ended up in the pharmacy down the street scared and lost where two policemen grabbed him, handcuffed him and put him in the back of a police car.
These days, it scarcely seems like the same child. We have both learned so much since those days. I have spent so many nights lying awake and wondering why he is the way he is. Is it a medical thing? Is it my fault? But, it seems unlikely that I will ever know for sure, and really it doesnt seem to matter all that much anymore. The damage that was done by the constant assessments, interviews, meetings and reports that lead to no action and no improvement has been done.The damage done by a young mother who had no idea what to do with her screaming, hitting, preschooler, and who probably did the wrong things at first, has been done. We have come out the other side, perhaps bloody but not beaten, and certainly smarter and stronger.
But, it is not all sunshine and roses.
Every mother has the moment. When her child lashes out verbally for the first time, usually with a defiant ” I HATE YOU!”. It leaves the mother stunned and speechless, maybe even in tears. Eventually the child’s tears and anger subside, the problem is corrected and all is again well with the world, but in the mothers heart- there is still a sadness, an echo of those words that will probably remain with her the rest of her life. Long after she has gotten used to such outbursts, has learned to ignore the melodrama, or even bite back with a sarcastic “OH? Then I guess you won’t want me cooking your meals anymore, WILL YOU?!” (That’s not just me, right?) The pain will remain, but eventually the wound scars over and the mother can attribute new found wisdom to it, enabling her to offer sage parenting advice.
How about when the words cut deeper? When your teenager shouts “FUCK OFF!” at you and then runs away? I imagine there are many weathered parents out there who have gone through the teenage years and have had their share of fuck off’s thrown their way, but for me, it was like being thrust back almost 10 years to the first time my son screamed “I hate you!” at me, and then slammed his door. For a moment I could only stand there and watch as he ran down the sidewalk, arms pumping by his sides. Part of me felt so defeated- wanted to sit down on the driveway ,head in hands and cry. But I didn’t. You can’t. Our kids needs us, right? Never so much as when they are trying so hard to push us away.
He come home eventually, and I was at the front door waiting and as soon as he came in the door he threw his arms around me and started crying and saying how sorry he was.
It is not hopeless, though frequently it can feel that way. A young mother learned to hug instead of yell. A boy learned that he could sit silently for a little while and things would work themselves out in head. His mother learned to let him. We are all better off for it. Most of all, him.