I’m not sure bad night really captures the essence of disaster that went down this evening. It. Was. Bad. And it really began the moment I walked through the door. Complaints. Complaints about dinner. About homework. About brothers wielding swords, eyes getting poked, arms being scraped. To walk in the door to negativity greeting you with a kick in the shins kind of sets the mood for the next few hours.
My oldest is my complainer. Nothing is ever fair. Ever. He’s seven and very smart. But can also be a little negative. My expectations are higher for him (we put all our faith in the oldest, right? I am just hoping my other two won’t be playing video games in the basement when they are 30…) and because of this, nothing is fair. But tonight, it was more about him being in a shitty mood and taking it out on everyone. He has a bit of a cough so for the first 20 minutes or so, I chalked the attitude up to post nasal drip and fatigue. And then came the name-calling, talking back and general meanness toward his brothers. And me.
We barely got through dinner. His meatball sucked. His spaghetti was too long. He didn’t get to share about his day first. His brother was sitting to close to him. Buddy, what’s up tonight? Stop saying that to me! Why do you always think it’s my fault. He’s the one looking at me like that. Really. Finally got through dinner. Consequences racked up by meal’s end included: no video game time tonight (or tomorrow, but that was just dumb- who takes away privileges for the next day? Dumb.), and threats of a cancelled playdate. But to no avail, the attitude continued.
Homework. He didn’t want to do it. Refused to sit at the table. Threw the pencil. Crumpled the paper. That. Was. It. I yelled. That’s it! No outside time. No homework. You can do it in the morning. Straight to bed. NOW. He went stomping up the stairs, claiming that I didn’t love him. That no one loved him. That if he fell off a the edge of a cliff, no one would care or look for him. I do love you. I don’t love your behavior tonight. You must be feeling really frustrated and angry. And I’m really disappointed that you made these choices tonight. (For those of you who don’t know, I am a social worker for my day job so I can empathize, paraphrase and use ‘I statements’ like a pro- yes, I am well aware of how annoying this can be.) He stomps up the stairs and yells over his shoulder to me: Wimp. Wimp? How am I wimp? I want to tell him that was a ridiculous thing to say but I resist the urge to further infuriate the fuming dragon. Door slams.
All is quiet. I finish picking up the table and decide to go up for a chat. I knock on his door. Waiting. “What.” Said as more of a statement than question. Can I please come in? I’m ready to talk. Are you? The door creaks open without an answer but clearly it’s an invite. Breathe. We sit down on the bed. What’s up honey? Help me to understand why you are having such a tough night. Nothing. Is everything okay at school? Did you have any disagreements with friends? No. Were there any parts of your day that made you nervous or sad? Well, we needed to finish writing our book by today or we have to finish it during free choice tomorrow. Did you finish? No. Everyone else is done and I’m not. I don’t think I will even be done tomorrow. I get it.
We connected. He’d had a really stressful, upsetting day. He feels insecure. He carried that like a boulder on his adorably delicate back all day and all evening. Let it out. He cried. Said he had been looking forward to free choice all week and now, the last day before vacation, he’s not going to get to play with his friends. His tears rolled down his soft innocent cheeks as my eyes filled and I tried to swallow that ache in my throat. I’m sorry you had such a bad day. It’s okay, he says and buries his forehead into my chest. Breathe. Can you read to me? He asks. Sure.
He had a bad day. He lashed out. I yelled. We talked. I understood. He forgave me. It was a tough night. I’m so glad I took the time to talk it through. I didn’t give in and he couldn’t go outside after dinner or have his video game time. He will have to finish his homework in the morning before school. And he will miss his free choice tomorrow. But now I have a reason for his angst tonight. God, I adore this child. He can be a tough kid sometimes. But he makes me want to be a better Mama.