It’s pretty easy to pat yourself on the back and be a ‘good parent’ when your kids are sweet and funny or are hurt and needing you. But when they’re screaming at you about how much of a bastard you are and how they hate you and wish they’d never been born or when they’re turning red with rage and are crying and shaking and screaming that you’re a ‘fucking liar because you don’t even follow your own rules’, it’s not so good.
There comes a time when the little angel screaming at the television because he’s not doing well in the video game, becomes a total douche-canoe. And then he goes beyond that stage, and begins screaming at his brother, telling him “you’re just a useless little asshole; why can’t you just push a button!?”. And it’s shocking how quickly this progresses from the two of them sitting nicely on the couch playing Mario Galaxy, for God’s sake.
It’s a touchy subject in the verbing-the-noun ‘parenting’ world. People talk about teenagers being difficult and two year olds testing your patience, but let me tell you, in my experience, the worst has been 8+. I don’t recall our kids having a single temper tantrum before the age of 8. And we only have one kid who’s over 8.
Nobody tells you…or rather, very few “modern parent” magazines tell you about the times when you want to toss your kids out in a snowy ditch five miles from home and tell them that by the time they get back to the house, they ought to have cooled off and had some time to think about all of the privileges they have and how thankful they ought to be.
There’s no “what to do when my ten year old threatens to stab himself or his father with a steak knife before he runs out of the house in March wearing only a sweater and runners” chapter in Doctor Spock’s books. Very, very few people will tell you that there are times you will shake with rage at how much you hate what your children are doing. You will look at the little assholes and you will absolutely forget watching them in their sleep and holding their pudgy little hands as they learned to walk and every time they ever came to you crying because they needed you. You will look at them and think “what the hell have I done wrong”?
It’s a funny thing, I think. It’s a funny thing about families. We would never, *ever* treat most people on the face of the planet the way we treat our family members. Just think; would you ever say to your co-workers the kinds of things you say/have said to your siblings? Would you face off with your boss the way you face off with your parents? Chances are good you wouldn’t. My crackpot theory on this is that we only really truly let down our guard when we feel totally safe. We only really lash out when we know it’s okay to do it.
My mother and I fought like jungle wildcats scrapping over a hunk of rotting meat. We fought about *everything*. We fought about whether we should just use the effing dishwasher already (we couldn’t), or what kind of jacket was appropriate to wear at first snow (not my denim one), or whether to have pets (a resounding ‘no’), or who was going to drive me across town at forty below for my swimming exams (nobody). We said horrible, awful things to each other (actually, I said most of the horrible, awful things). There was baggage there, of course. But in the end, I never, ever doubted that I could tell my mother everything and anything. I trusted her. When I moved away from home, I thought I would be relieved to get away from my mum’s and my fighting.
I discovered that I was in a world where there was no one I could just be utterly unguarded with. Nobody I felt safe enough with that I could say what was really on my mind. Does that always mean ‘fight with’? I don’t think so.
But the point here is that as a parent, you don’t really know what to do when your kid starts acting like Hitler finding out that something has not gone his way. It’s really, really difficult not to lose your temper and scream right back, or not to react in anger. And you don’t hate your *kid*. You never hate your *kid*. But you sure as hell hate the way s/he is acting. Which makes it even more difficult, because you watch the screaming, cursing ball of mini-you, and you think ‘dude. I just don’t want to be anywhere near you right now. I don’t like you at *all* right now’.
Because when someone in the Real World (read: not family) yells at you, or calls you an asshole, or turns red in the face and punches the wall right in front of you, what do you do? You either get your back up and let your own adrenaline take over or you take off and/or call the police. This is called ‘fight or flight’. If you’re in a restaurant enjoying your meal and someone comes up to you and starts screaming at you that you’re the worst person EVER and that it doesn’t matter what you say, they’re going to hate you forever, and that you’re the worst parents EVER INVENTED. You’re either going to laugh or you’re going to be a bit freaked out and you’re going to attack the ‘crazy person’.
But we take it from our families. Kind of.
You try to enforce the “no acting like a douche” rule at home. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But the end result is that you don’t feel like such a good parent when you have to drag your kids to their room by their ears and just walk away as they scream at you about what a horrible person you are. Because trust me. At that minute, you absolutely feel like a horrible person.
This is an awesome comment for this post. It’s the CotD (Comment of the Day):
13 November 2010 at 11:27 am
Dont buy into the tension. My daughter only recently stopped with tantrums, at about 13 (kind of backwards, right?) I would separate her from the rest of us, give her her own space in which to rant, and then not raise the level by joining in. Reasoning will not work at that time. I finally figured that part out. I also got better at getting her to recognize the early signs of “going off”, and we would try to divert our energies to something else before things got tantrum-tense. My biggest successes were staying calm. My biggest failures were yelling louder than did.