Wednesday, March 13, 2013

OF COURSE It Happened in the Mall.

I messed up yesterday.  In the throes of a fit, in the mall, in the middle of my exercise class (yes, we meet in the mall because it is large, not busy, and under cover during these rainy winter months), I told Charles that I was through and that, for all I cared, he could just stay in the middle of the mall and throw his tantrum, I was leaving.

 

I immediately regretted the words that came out of my mouth.  Of course I would never leave my child at the mall.  But he didn’t know that.  He didn’t realize that the farthest away I would move from him would be the next set of benches, which was closer than he had been any of the times in the previous half hour when I admonished him and lightly disciplined him and reminded him to “stay where I can see you, don’t run away.”  We had gone from a gentle reminder of the rules, to a “you must now walk with mommy and the stroller,” to my telling him in no uncertain terms that he must get in the stroller and ride because he couldn’t follow the rules.  That’s when he started kicking and screaming and hitting and trying to bite me as I tried to wrestle him into the stroller.  Which doesn’t work very well because he’s a strong, forty-five-pound four-year-old.

 

So then I scared him.  And I wish I hadn’t.  He thought I would really leave him.  He started to wail.  I managed to buckle him into the stroller and rejoin the class, hissing at him to “settle down and stop screaming, don’t hurt your brother, I’m not going to leave you!” but he was screaming at the top of his lungs, “I want to WALK!  I don’t want to RIDE!”  It took him a good fifteen minutes to calm down. 

 

And then I explained to him that his behavior made me angry.  And that time outs are for cooling down and calming down and we all need them.  And finally, that I was going to take a time out when we got home and leave him and Jamie with Tony.  And he started to wail again, this time with giant, scared alligator tears.

 

After many promises that I would come back, some hugs and kisses and a calm discussion about appropriate behavior, he settled and stuck by me voluntarily, without restraints, for the rest of class.

 

Tomorrow, he’ll probably act out again.

 

I’m trying to give myself grace.  I look around and I don’t see a whole lot of parents who deal with strong-willed children like Charles, but I have a few friends who understand.  And they remind me that a lot of love, a lot of discipline, and a lot of self-affirmations in front of the mirror (“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”) will get me through Charles’s childhood.  If I don’t screw it up too badly, he’ll end up a strong-willed adult with respect for boundaries, something that is pretty universally admired.

 

I learn every day how to be a better mom to Charles.  And because I’m a person who likes to have a plan, I have a new one.  I am going to get up early from now on.  Now, I don’t get enough sleep, I don’t know anyone who does, but if I got up at 6 and had everything packed and ready for the day before the kids get up, perhaps we could read an extra story before school.  I think the serenity that would come with being mostly ready by the time those boys come crashing through the house at 6:45 am would be well worth the sacrifice of snoozing in the early morning.  Perhaps I can figure out how to get to bed earlier, too. 

 

If not, I’ll just make more coffee.  One step at a time, right?

2 comments:

Roger Holeman said...

Gee, do I know someone who was like that? I think I put you and your brother out on a street corner once, because I was going to kill you both otherwise. It scared both of you for awhile - which is as good as it got! I survived; you will too!
Love, m

Mom and Dad said...

I too left Tony in a grocery store around the corner much to the horror of my sister....I waited for about 30 seconds then went back and gave him the same lecture it sounds like you gave Charles....Geeeeeee, judging from the comment above maybe it is a gene pool you and Tony combined. Although you know I struggled more with Sarah. Tony must have had the recessive gene....