At dinner, my husband and I were trying to talk to each other about our days. He was trying to get Kaylee to eat her dinner, which she would only do while sitting in his lap. Zach was sitting next to them and kept distracting her. We repeatedly told him to stop and just sit facing the table. After a few warnings, we told him he had to sit next to me at the table. He kept being disruptive, and I yelled at him again to stop. He put his head on his arms on the table and started to cry so I sent him to his room.
Now, to be fair, I had nearly run myself into the ground all day doing errands and walking over 17,000 steps (Thank you Fitbit for being such a slave driver!). I was trying to eat my dinner, listen to my husband talk about his day, get credit for the dozens of things I got done, and get Kaylee to eat her dinner. And I absolutely can’t stand having to repeat myself. I realize that’s my issue, but it’s really true that if my kids did what I asked the first, second, or even third time, I wouldn’t have to lose my “shit.”
So, Zach went to his room and proceeded to scream about how angry he was, and how unfair I was being. I started cleaning up the kitchen and putting away the leftovers. I specifically waited a few minutes so that he could vent, and I could calm myself before I went to talk to him. I’m well aware that my usual reaction is to get defensive and angrier, which isn’t particularly effective, as you might expect.
I went to Zach’s room, sat down, and asked him to sit down so that we talk eye-to-eye. Once he sat down, I felt the urge to explain myself, when instead I had the idea to ask him, “So, how do you feel?” He said, “Mad,” of course. I looked him in the eye, and said, “Yeah, I see that you’re really mad.” He looked surprised that I was listening to him and acknowledging him instead of trying to control him. I asked him, “Could you please tell me more about that?”
Instead of trying to “make him wrong,” I showed him that he did have a reason to be mad, and I empathized with him. I told him that I felt hurt that he was disrupting my conversation with my husband. He admitted it was fair that Daddy and I get to talk to each other sometimes. He said he was acting out because he wanted to tell his dad more about his day, but he couldn’t while we were talking. I told him I hadn’t known that and asked him to say, “Excuse me, may I please share something?” the next time. I promised to ask him next time whether there is something he wants to share, rather than just assume that he’s behaving badly.
I’ve come a long way since I wrote “You Gotta Know When to Walk Away.” It feels really good. I’m still not a great parent, but I’m getting more confident and skilled, mostly by watching my friends parent their kids and picking up their tips.
Do you have any success stories you’d like to share? We’re all so hard on ourselves, we deserve to toot our horns once in a while!