How Do You Handle A Child’s Fiery Temper

It’s confession time for Good Enough Mother and it’s not something I am especially proud of.  I almost don’t want to admit this for fear he will find out, but here goes. I am afraid of my son. Maybe fear is not the proper description. Yes it is. I’ll tell you why.

I came to the realization on Monday afternoon. Casey had an eye appointment so I picked the kids up from school after driving from the computer store across the county (I was dropping off a laptop the cat had peed on during our holiday road trip. Don’t ask).  Of course I was 15 minutes late but come on now, those kids are 12 and 14 and I have been 15 minutes late since the day they were both yanked from my womb. Today was no different.  Cole tired and now teed off, dragged his feet all the way to the eye doctor, which was in the middle of a busy mall. Casey was called in at 4:43 for a 4:00 pm appointment. You know what Cole did that entire time? Seethed. I tried to soothe the man-child by allowing him to play with one of the approximately 57 gun aps he placed on my iPhone but even shooting imaginary bullets at pretend people did not make it better.

But what happened when we got home shook me to my core.  For the record and in case you didn’t know, I can stand up to nearly anyone; I have a wit quick enough and a voice loud enough to shout down most. I’m pretty smart and can figure out most things that don’t involve addition, subtraction or any other aspect of math. But video games, well, they’re right up there with math. So before I even had a chance to plow through eight days worth of vacation mail, Cole was on me, asking me to help him change the parental settings so he can use the video chat feature of his new Xbox Kinect. Only one problem; I could not, for the life of me, recall the password for his account that I set up roughly a year and a half ago. And that’s what precipitated my near breakdown.

You have to understand, though they would never say it aloud, my kids think my sole purpose on this planet is to serve them.  Oh yes they do. It is why I drive them to school everyday  and why, when Cole climbed into the front seat next to me today (15 minutes late), the first words out of his mouth were, “What have you been doing all day?”

Okay back to home. It was comical when he handed me the Xbox controller, like I could enter my password using a glorified joystick. I tried to log onto the site, but when I ran through all the passwords I typically use, not a single one of them was correct. Cole, already like a raw nerve from an afternoon wasted making sure his sister had proper vision, started with the heavy breathing. Then the sighing. Then shuffling around the room with a periodic glances in my direction which gave way to him sitting on the bed, staring a hole in the back of my head. My hands began to tremble as I felt his gaze beating down on me like the Arizona sun on asphalt.

“Why can’t you remember the password for my game?” It took every fiber in my being not to scream “YOU’VE GOT TO BE FREAKING KIDDING ME?” I didn’t even waste my breath telling him I have about 98 passwords to various accounts around the world and by the way, couldn’t remember what I had for breakfast, never mind a two-year-old password.

I tried to live chat with the Xbox folks before picking up the phone to call. Ever the multi-tasker, while I was on hold I sent out a series of Facebook and Twitter messages that went something like this:

Rene Syler HELP! I chose a password so good I cannot remember for Cole’s Xbox and the reset password setting is not taking me where I need to go. I need gamers to help before I scar my son for life. Thanks!

I finally got a live person on the phone who walked me through resetting my password and we were able to make the changes Cole wanted. But as I hung up the phone with the angelic 25-year-old gamer on the Xbox payroll, I started wondering how I, who has spent more than two decades in television, handling some of the prickliest interviews in the world, could be so badly shaken by a 12-year-old boy. I mean please, I have had live interviews where the subject showed up bombed out of his mind or had to deal with politicians who clam up when you ask things not pertaining to their talking points. What gives?

Here’s what I came up with.  The boy is just like me. We have an interesting and unique relationship, marked by fiery and intense interactions. We laugh until we cry, get very animated when making a point, we can be intensely saddened by things and we love deeply. Yep, two peas in a pod, alternating between throwing angry looks at each other and hugging so hard we can barely breathe. My reticence when dealing with him I suspect is the same Buff has with me. I think it boils down to the feeling that because the reaction will be so forceful, it’s really just not worth the drama.

Is that a good thing? Sometimes – but I think the people who are hit by the shrapnel of our interactions pay a price. My Casey – quiet, shy, reserved by nature, is easily shaken when Cole and I are having a “spirited discussions” and I think she too feels like crossing her brother just isn’t worth the hassle.  Is it really fair to reward his bad behavior by allowing him to have his way or go unchallenged? In a word, no.

So to my growing list of New Year’s Resolutions, I am going to add learning how to stand my ground with my son, even when he’s in one of his moods.  I think everyone will be better for it.

Do you have a child like that? One whose response is so explosive and passionate you would just rather not go there? Tell us about it; we don’t judge around here…