Z.’s had some trouble at school lately. I am a mix of emotions about it…everything from sadness to anger.
It’s a pattern of behavior where she lashes out when angry or scared. It’s just that she’s so black and white. On one end she is incredibly loving and social but on the other end she is equally big in her emotions. Her angry/scared behavior of late ranges from coloring on another kids coloring sheet when the kid didn’t give her the crayon she wanted, to cutting a kid’s skirt with scissors when the kid threatened to tell on Z. to the teacher. Once you might say “oops” and talk to her about making better decisions when she is angry. However, this is now a pattern of behavior that we know must correct immediately. I mean, we heard scissors and thought sh*t, what the hell was she thinking? We are taking all of this very seriously. We talked to her. We wanted her to fully understand the consequences, even the social consequences. We prepared her for the fact that most likely those kids won’t want to play with her anymore.
Social consequences. I guess we weren’t prepared enough though. These social consequences are making me angry and sad . Z. has had more than one incident with one kid in her class. That child’s parent has first told her child not to play with Z. and second had her child moved away from Z. in both class and in the after school program. I expected some of this but it also doesn’t feel right anymore. Instead of Z. dealing with those consequences privately, it has been made known to many of the kids why it is happening. I am sure the violated kid told some of the story but A. also knows that whole story. We kept it between Z, mommy and me at home so that Z. would have some privacy to deal with her issue. A. knows the whole story and it didn’t come from us. This makes me think that it is likely that the after school teachers also made it known to kids. If I am right about this, then this is really upsetting.
Here is where I struggle with the question of how much? How much branding her a bad kid worth it? Z. knows all of this is happening. She tears up knowing that her actions mean that she is now being ostracized for her behavior. Is she being labeled? Will she have the opportunity to make this mistake, learn from it and then move on or is she now stuck in a behavior label? I am not sure and I know now that what we thought was an issue that was addressed and Z. could move forward is now something Z. is having to face emotionally over and over. Seems like enough is enough already.
Now, I am just trying to figure out how to help Z. change the soundtrack that I am guessing is forming in her mind and heart right now.
I have been in a parenting role for more than two years now. Truth be told, I never expected to be a parent but in my huberous I thought I’d be the type who would let my children be free spirits. Life would be one great big beautiful experience. I would let my children make their own mistakes and be there to gently guide them. I would be honest and communicate everything. I would use humor. I would laugh with them, play with them and hold them close … always.
I work in youth development. I’ve been the favorite camp counselor. Kids love me. Yes, I was that arrogant and naive.
The philosophy of parenting is not the reality.
Some days I don’t really like the type of parent I am with the girls. The first time I said “because I said so”, I died a little inside. I raise my voice way more than I want. Despite every intellectual instinct to let them have life experience and to let them fail, I actually stop them from doing things just so I can avoid the predictable outcomes. Sometimes the sheer noise of them makes me want to walk into my room, shut the door and shut them out. I remind myself hourly that they are 6 and 8 but sometimes it doesn’t help. When I have to say brush your teeth for the 8th time in 20 minutes, I literally want to bang my head into a wall. Other times I do things that have my feelings so conflicted, I have no idea if I am right in doing them. Like the times when I don’t hug one of the girls when she needs it just because I think it will help her to be better at taking care of herself. I am ashamed to have caught myself more than once manipulating the girl’s need to please just to get something done. The hardest thing for me is that I can’t tell them there is no way they can ever be treated the same. It’s impossible. Yet they expect it EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. sigh.
I fail daily. As an individual responsible only to myself I was used to this. As a parent, it kills me because I think I am ruining them.
Unfortunately Fortunately, there is nothing in the unwritten rule books that says what kind of parent you have to be.
There were so many models of parenting I witnessed growing up…my own parents, my friends parents. For me, the emotional connection I had with my grandparents and my mother played the most significant role in my life. My grandmother, who died when I was young, is someone I have easily idealized. My grandfather raised me through my teen years. I’ve never met my genetic father but I had a wicked drunk and emotionally abusive stepfather for a few of my formative years. I had a mother who made me rely on myself maybe too much. But through them I gained valuable experience. My grandmother taught me love and joy. My gramps’s stoic nature was a comfort and he gave me the gift of knowing I could rely on someone. My stepfather taught me to be cautious with crazy people. My mom gave me a number of self-reliance skills. I can say without hesitation that these are fundamental parts of me that I would never give up just to have had been raised with a different parenting style.
I won’t say if I had it good or bad because for me that just isn’t realistic. I can’t say if my friends had it good or bad. Each person has to own that. I learned early on that there are as many types of parents as there are kids. Not one single one was the same as another. Now as an adult I know we all get our strengths and weaknesses from this experience of growing up. To give any of it away is unthinkable. So, I am certainly not the kind who thought that I would do it better than my parents. People do it every day from every pulpit but for me no one can say “What is better?”. My experiences made me and for the most part I really like me.
However, if I am honest, I don’t want these girls saying one day that they would do it differently than I did. I don’t want them thinking they could have had it “better”. It’s cliche’ but if they are to be happier with me as a parent, then I must be happier with me as a parent. This has to inspire me to improve each day. That’s why I have to remember to be honest about each and every misstep. I have to experiment and try new things especially when the last thing failed so miserably. Old patterns die hard but they must. This is why I must find a way to be more patient. I need to choose kindness EVERY TIME. Most important for my sanity, I must find a way to let them know I am going to parent them each differently. This had got to be my way. They are not the same person. Each one has a unique personality, unique emotional needs and a unique motivation. I hope this experimentation in parenting doesn’t ruin us all in the trying.
I will fail daily.