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BATTLE ROYALE

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.


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?

8 Comments

  1. kcmom

    June 26, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    I can relate to your experience I have twin boys that are 13 and I have had several experiences like these, Lately things have been getting better but my confidence is no longer as strong. I choose my battles and make sure to follow up on their angry moments to keep them on track. Thanks for sharing a real life situation!

  2. Jacki

    June 27, 2010 at 2:03 am

    Your instincts to go back when things are calm are along the same lines of my thinking. I usually talk to them when we are in the car alone–captive audience style. It shakes me to my core also, but they’ve and we have always recovered. My youngest is almost 12 and this hasn’t happened with him yet, but I’ve had moments with the older ones like this.

  3. Clarissa

    June 27, 2010 at 7:26 am

    Excellent article Rene!!! Thank you!! Mine are 7 and 3 and am stepping into uncharted territory, as it is daily, and you so beautifully described, so I love hearing these scenarios and good sound reasoning and parental teaching. Well done GEM! We can’t control what happens but can control how we react. Always loved that and oh yeah, need to teach it to my kids! PS-just love the new site!!!

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  5. Lena Cole Dennis

    June 27, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    As a grandparent dragged into babysitting a sixteen year old, moving into his territory, changing his rules and assuming to be wanted I had no idea what I was in for. I tried the talking and bring up the issues at more serene time. I felt the frustration and the fear of losing communication with “my best boy.” I noticed that the first six months I had been living with him..I had not taken one picture of him. I was crushed I was allowing this unhealthy situation to intrude into my grandmother life. I stepped back for review and realized he and his dad had been living a different lifestyle and the both were intrenched in it. I decided to do just what I needed to be happy, what I knew to be healthy and what I know to be loving and left the other crap alone. Towels on the floor, dishes in the sink, dirty clothes dumped in the laundry room and healthy menus ignored were ignored by me. I changed my way of thinking I came to help them not to continue my life as I lived it. Mind you all is not perfect. I snap and say a few choice words, throw a few sneakers and tap a little six foot booty with the brom. I leave the anger with that issue, I don’t drag the the thing through the day. I do what I can without anger. I am back to taking photosI

  6. Ros

    June 27, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    This was interesting to read because Casey, the cause of the problem, basically walked away “this time”. It seems you dealt with one situation, Cole, but not Casey.

    When you push people’s hot buttons, you never know how they might react. Sure, we want to teach our kids to be in control, but we also need to teach them to stay away from the “hot buttons”. Cole was right, Casey should have apologized. What if the situation had escalated totally out of control…. You were so upset about what was happening with Cole, and his being disrespectful, that you overlooked what Casey did.

    Something similar happened to me as a child. My parents were out of town, we were staying with relatives, out “in the country” where we didn’t want to be, (so I was probably in a foul mood to begin with). While there, my sister, told a few of our cousins, “I know how to make Rossie mad” (that’s me, Rossie), and she proceeded to irritate me until I totally lost it. Even though I knew what was happening and that I was being manipulated by my older sister, I totally lost control and attacked her. People had to pull us apart. I was about 12 or 13 at the time. I had never lost control before, it was a scary feeling –what if I had hurt my sister….and while it was happening, there was nothing I could do to calm down until the adults intervened & pulled us apart.

    There are really two lessons here. Sure, there is one for Cole. Try to learn what your “hot buttons” are, and practice ways to stay calm. But there’s also one for Casey — to stay away from people’s hot buttons — it can lead to some “not so good” outcomes. Hopefully Casey learned her lesson also.

    And one other thing I learned as a parent, some of the biggest conflicts with my son occurred over little things that escalated out of control because I felt he had been disrespectful to me. I learned to take a deep breath before reacting. I wonder what would have happened if you had started with, “Cole, you are right. Casey apologize.” and then dealt with the fact that Cole had been disrespectful and out of control.

  7. Rene Syler

    June 27, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Ros thanks so much for your comments and I am so glad you found us here.

    I did not make Casey apologize because as I said the offense was not that egregious. These are two preteen/teen siblings who do stupid stuff to each other all the time. In other words, they push each others’ buttons.

    There are two very big points here. Number one, I was not going to allow my 12-year-old to dictate how I parent. Even if I was in the wrong, which I do not believe I was, it was not his place to tell me how to be a parent. I have way more experience at this than he has.

    And number two, as I said, this was about learning how to control the things you can control and letting go of what you cannot. In life, people are going to do crappy stuff to us; they are going to discover what our buttons are and begin pushing away for no reason other than they can. You can only control how you react, not what they do. This was the main lesson I was trying to impart.

    I did start the conversation calmly as I was walking in from the Novocain stupor only to be yanked out of that when he started yelling. I lost my temper when he threw the candy in my direction. As I said, it was not my finest moment, but it happened. I think Cole would admit this wasn’t his finest moment either.

    Making Casey apologize would have underscored to him that by throwing a fit and screaming and yelling he could get his way. That is not what I am teaching.

    Thanks for weighing in.

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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