This morning, my 2.5 year old son came downstairs, ready for breakfast. But he was cranky. And for no reason, he pushed his sister.
In that moment, I must admit, my patience bar was charged to 100%. I slept well and later than typical. I hadn’t seen my twins since the night before and was willing and able to put my best face on (unlike at night, when my battery runs out and I’m running on empty). Therefore, I didn’t let this go – I chose it, not realizing what I might be getting myself into.
After removing him from the situation, he proceeded to hit the dog hard, and then hit me. As I continued to put him back in the living room, I added that he needed to say he was sorry to his sister, to the dog, and to me. Yes, I know that’s a lot of apologies. But it felt right at the time and I went with it.
For the next 45 minutes he stayed in that living room. He wailed, he screamed, he shouted, “I want to HIT! I want to THROW THINGS!” His sister had her entire breakfast and he still wouldn’t apologize. Every few minutes I checked in on him – “Are you ready to say you’re sorry to C for pushing her?” “NO I’M NOT READY! I just want to eat!” I knew I couldn’t back down, and my patience was surprisingly still intact, even through the sobbing, “Let me out, Mommy!”
I held firm. Finally, almost an hour in, over the baby gate blocking him from us, he mumbled, “Sorry, Mommy.” “Sorry for what?” I asked. “Sorry for hitting you.” And he gave me a hug. Fabulous. 1 down, 2 apologies to go.
He wouldn’t apologize to the others even after I told him how proud I was that he did the right thing and apologized to me, and that he could be eating breakfast right now. Stubborn, stubborn. But finally – finally, he did it. He apologized to C, he apologized to the dog. Success!
Unfortunately, the meltdown didn’t end there. It was time now to pick out his bib and the one he wanted was dirty. I sat with him in the den, surrounded by other bibs he could choose and after screaming and throwing himself on the floor, he laid on a dog bed and calmed himself. 10-15 minutes more passed. And finally, he chose a bib.
He was ready for breakfast now, an hour and 15 minutes later. He pulled back his chair, and…..couldn’t get the straps “right”. Didn’t want to climb in himself. Didn’t want me to put him in. Didn’t want Daddy to put him in. Wanted to eat cereal and milk on the floor. (Answer: no.) More screaming, sobbing, and the threat of a hit.
And then – he let me put him in his chair. Except there wasn’t enough cereal for his liking. He typically puts it in the bowl himself but this time he wanted me to do it. Until I did it. Then he wanted me NOT to do it. So I dumped it on the table (no milk, yet). More screaming. Attempts at hitting. I ignored him and his hand hit the table, hard.
Finally, I said, “Would you like a piece of pear?” Yes, he did. Two bites of pear in, the switch flipped – all better. He ate, and he ate, and he ate.
The rest of the day has been fine.
I’ve learned a few lessons after this morning.
1)My son is sensitive to his food and sleep needs. I suppose he got that one from me. When he’s tired or hungry, he can be a bear. I knew that he just needed to eat, and that once he did he would be much better, but I couldn’t let him get away with hitting and pushing. I chose to allow this to continue instead of backing down, which I don’t always do.
2)I can be a good mom. Look, after spending 7 hours a day with 24 5th graders, I come home exhausted, with the patience bar mighty low. Too low. I frequently put the twins to bed and think, “I sucked at mom-ing tonight.” Lacking patience isn’t the kind of parent (or teacher) I want to be, yet it frequently is. The allure of a Sunday with my family, of sleeping an hour later, and being with my children in the morning as opposed to just the evening made all the difference.
And I have to admit – it felt good, when it was finally over, knowing I did the right things. That I didn’t back down, that I remained calm. That B did, eventually, do what he needed to do when I wasn’t sure he ever would.
3)Lastly, parenting is hard. Parenting, I’ve realized, isn’t the goodnight hugs, the “I love you, Mommy”‘s , the sensory bins, the playdough spaghetti, the book reading. Those are the perks that come with having children, the caretaking, the loving. The best parts, for sure.
No, parenting is the worst part of having children. Making decisions and not knowing if they are the right ones. Getting in an uncomfortable, crappy situation with your children and finding your way out. Finding patience when there’s none. I suppose it’ll continue for many, many years. Curfew fights, refusing to let them take the car out into the snow (pulled that one from my own history book), dating, drinking, doing well in school. Oh, and toddler meltdowns. These are hard issues that require a lot from us, and this, now, is what I believe parenting really is.
Today, I made it. Today, I parented.