Sigh. I had a mommy fail this afternoon. It was not a total mommy meltdown thank God but it was still far from my best moment. I ask myself why and the usual reasons are not there. I wasn’t over tired, feeling sick, or unreasonably stressed out. I was not running behind nor was any one standing around being all “judgy.” So why did I descend into a battle of wills over such a foolish thing with Little Man?
I’m writing to try and figure it out so bare with me here. I was picking him up at school and his teacher had reported he was having an “off” day, not terrible, but being a little unusually sassy and belligerent in attitude. We both agreed that people have off days and let it go at that. Except, did I really let it go? Was I already starting to brood on that? I don’t think so but until I started typing this out I hadn’t really even remember that exchange.
The gist of what happened is this - on our way out of the school – out of nowhere Little Man reached up and turned off the lights in the hallway. It caught me by surprise. I said something like “What did you do?” and I’m fairly sure it was probably not in a “wow what an amazing accomplishment” tone of voice. He went into toddler / fear mode and practically tackled me.
I don’t know why my being any kind of upset with him affects him that way sometimes and not others but it does. I know what works best in those situations. Lots of hugs reassurance and snuggles until he is ready to discuss what ever the transgression was. I KNOW THAT. And I usually do it. For some reason today though – I was determined he was going to turn the lights back on himself. Now. Not in 10 to 15 minutes. NOW. Soothing would come after he had done so. The more I demanded he turn the lights back on the more (and more loudly) he refused. In the end we landed somewhere in between - I managed to force him to point at which switch he had touched and ask me to fix it for him. He managed to force some closeness by locking himself in a strangle hold around my neck.
It was so foolish, foolish, foolish to start that power struggle in the first place so why did I? Sitting and thinking, and writing, and thinking some more I believe the answer is fear. So much of the less than stellar parenting I do comes from fear. I do believe it is important for him to acknowledge when he does wrong and to try to make it right. I also believe he is going to need people to like him and be willing to help him all his life. And so I believe if he can acknowledge when he does wrong and to try to make it right he will be more likely to have that help and support. But I believe all of that so passionately and irrationally in specific moments because I am AFRAID. I am afraid of what will happen to him when I am gone, especially if he is not a sweet, lovable, compliant person that people want to help.
What a long chain of if’s and when’s, and fears, and projection from that one moment in a hallway to the rest of his life. Did I make the possible outcome of his whole life better with that scene this afternoon? Of course not. Hopefully I didn’t make it any worse either.
Tonight I pray that next time – every next time – he has a hard day or just a hard moment I respond from love not fear.