Maybe this is what she needs more now. A composed mom, a warm plain background for her colorful emotions.
I mastered the ability to take a deep breath and not react. I used to see my natural emotions as a right and a tool to put a stop to nonsensical behavior. I would give her two warnings. The third time I would snap, a brief shout. Or something. Unapologetic. It was always so effective. She would unequivocally stop. But as she learned I have a limit of patience, I wondered if she would rely too much on my limitations. Because I wanted her to figure out her own. And to reason with kindness. To empower her to be her own person, and own her emotions and decisions.
It’s been a long time since I last got mad. In overarching retrospect parenting had worn my patience thin, drip-drip. I felt convicted. I didn’t like the inconsistency in my heart and behavior. I longed for composure. The power to remain calm, like I’ve seen so many parents do, even when their kids are brats, hellions, obnoxious, disrespectful button pushers. The parents who kindly smiled at their kids, with a gentle correction looked like they were high to me. How can they be so calm?
Here is an incursion into my own childhood. After a (second-third) pushback I would be stopped in my tracks by a gut reaction of a raised voice. I learned pretty darn fast to observe and read adults’ behavior. And I confess this skill served me well throughout my life. Not sure if it was honed or just triggered, but out of adversity there is always something good coming out. A good sense fear was something I was familiar with.
For two decades I haven’t gotten angry nor had I been on the receiving end of such outbursts. We embraced the proper professional behavior of adulthood early on. Anger is one of those emotions that is stuffed down and excluded, before its point of view is properly expressed.
A year or so into parenting I have heard myself shouting “STOP! This is my limit. This is your limit. Enough is enough. Enough whining. Enough demanding. Enough button pushing.”
So that was a season. With long stretches of calm and joy and fun, and then a few weeks of struggles, of irritable behavior due to disconnection. I could see it clearly. Sometimes I was just too tired to course correct as the adult I was. To be bigger, stronger, wiser and kinder.
It must have been late last year, that I made some promises to myself, about my gut reactions. To take a deep breath and not react. To trust that my daughter is reasonable enough and eventually she comes around, if I reason at her level of understanding. She got a taste for peace. Most often though her attitude is due to tiredness, hunger, or sugar crash. They are rare but after three years, I can read her pretty clearly.
I can count on the fingers of my hands how many times I got angry and my blood boiled. Never premeditated. I think the premeditation itself would have caused a different cause of action.
Raising my voice startled Jackie. And I only needed a short burst to snap her out of her tantrum. It was effective short term but I realized I wanted her to learn to manage her own decisions and emotions and not comply due to mine.
One upside is that she learned I had a boundary, a limitation. Which was very real. Often we had followup conversations about where and what I could have done better myself. I owned it. And for better or worse she knows we are just humans. With a little head start in this life business.
We negotiate or not even. We communicate. We still give ultimatums and put time limits and own our parenting responsibilities based on their due importance. But I don’t yell anymore. And I discovered I don’t get angry so easily anymore. I just passed that boiling point or something. I learned to dodge it. Or release the valve before it explodes.
The only problem is… I learned to detach a bit too well. My highs are not as high as they used to be. I feel leveled to a fault. And when conrad gets irritated for something that to me seems small, I am puzzled. I used to be the angry adult. Now he is so easily irritated by late friends, inattentive drivers, disrespectful belligerent smokers and the list goes on. Needless to say, Jackie pushes her boundaries with her daddy. Testing. She craves clarity and predictability. It’s a lifelong journey.