Good Enough Mother, after 2 ½ hours in the dental chair (root canal), came home and walked into a war zone. The appointment was early in the morning and the kids, still sleeping when I left, were supposed to be enjoying their first day of summer break. Instead all the countries were at war.
Cole was pointing a finger at Casey, yelling “YOU APOLOGIZE RIGHT NOW!” Casey was fiddling with her phone, and to make matters worse, Cole’s best buddy, Julian was there to witness the entire thing.
What I was able to comprehend through the fog of Novocain was that Casey woke Cole up by putting her cell phone next to his ear and playing the most obnoxious ring tone she had in her collection. He was mad as a hornet, being stirred from his rapid eye movement sleep in that way and I walked in at the zenith of that argument.
‘YOU TELL HER TO APOLOGIZE TO ME!” He was apoplectic about the whole situation. I was able to deduce from the screaming, all from Cole, that the offense wasn’t THAT egregious but Cole, being completely fatigued, popped off and went right to DEF-CON 1.
But what pissed me off was having my son, the child I sweated and strained through hours of labor with (okay, I had a planned c-section but this sounds better) tell ME how to parent.
It only got worse from there. I ordered him to his room because he was out of control. He stopped by the box that had all the leftover candy from his party (you know, the one I nearly had a nervous breakdown planning and executing) and grabbed two items.” No! You put that back right now!” I barked. And he THREW IT! Not at me but in my general direction. Yes, friends, that is when Good Enough Mother lost it. I went over to him and, not in my finest moment, grabbed his arm. “COLE!” I hissed through my clenched teeth, “ PICK IT UP AND PUT IT BACK IN THE BOX!” He did. “ NOW GET TO YOUR ROOM.” He did.
But the pressure was on because on this, the first day of summer vacation, Cole had friends coming over. And here he was, the diva in him out in full force and me frustrated beyond belief. I went up to his room to have a heart to heart and place a time limit on the tantrum. I told him he basically had about 5 minutes to get this out of his system and then he had to come down and socialize with the friends HE invited over. Of course, there was no calming him down so more screaming followed.
I’m always looking for moments like this to be able to teach my kids about the real world. So I took the opportunity to tell Cole again, that while we cannot control what other people do to us, we CAN control how we react to that. He was not buying what I thought was a pretty well laid out argument.
“What are you going to do when you’re in college and someone treats you wrong? They might not apologize to you. What then?” He said, “Well I will learn to deal with it.” To which I pointed out this was the perfect training ground for that moment. He was not having it, still violently insisting that I make Casey apologize.
I left his room feeling a couple different things. First, I was not going to let him ruin the day for the rest of us. He could stay up there and pout or sulk or whatever he chose to do but the rest of us were going to be outside swimming and rejoicing that the school year was over.
But the thing that was utterly disconcerting to me was the fear I felt. I had never seen Cole that defiant before. I had never seen him get that worked up over something and be unable to pull himself out of it. And I was afraid the tactics I had used in the past, that worked like a charm, were now ineffective. I wasn’t sure where to go from there.
Cole ultimately came downstairs and played with his friends, finally pulling himself out of his funk. He had returned, the funny, carefree boy I love and admire. But the kid shook me to my core that day. Yes GEMs, it left that kind of mark on me.
I thought that perhaps I would bring it up to him later and we could chat at a time when cooler heads would prevail. We might actually be able to accomplish something if we spoke calmly. But I’m going to lay myself bare to you; I don’t have the energy to go there again. Should I? Maybe. Probably. Let me think some more.
So much of parenting is visceral; feeling your way through the dark, with bumps and bruises that go along with that. I was without question, bloodied and bruised after this tete-a-tete. It’s clear that I am on the brink of new challenges with this child and have a lot to figure out before the next battle. Yes, I am worried.
Have you ever felt like you were out of control as the parent? Felt like you could not get a handle on a kid or a situation? What did you do?