What is my most important parenting tool?
I used to think patience but I blew through my wad of patience a long time ago and that leaves me with restraint. Yes, restraint, the invaluable backup to patience and love. It’s the thing that kept me from becoming a statistic when my baby girl cried day and night and I understood why people shake babies. It’s the thing that made me bite my tongue instead of swearing a blue streak when Libby accidentally walloped me in the nose yesterday. It’s the thing that keeps me from doing harm of all kinds.
And what did I do today?
Today I lost it with Isaac. I got so stupidly angry with him for refusing to be the slightest bit flexible, I lost it for every single time he has dug his heels in and refused, for all the times he has whined through reading homework, for all the times I have had to cajole and coerce him into trying something new or breaking with routine, and worst of all, for the simple fact that I see so much of my own stubborn self in him.
And what did this lack of restraint look like?
It went something like this… we had plans to hit the freshly covered sledding hill with a friend, an opportunity for Isaac to try out his brand new birthday gift, a snowboard. But apparently I picked the wrong hill and he responded with pouting and refusal to even take the thing along. It was the proverbial straw that sent me into hysterics. And I proceeded to yell questions at him like, “why did you ask for a snowboard if you won’t even consider trying it out?” What I DID NOT say was something like “what the hell is wrong with you? Why is it always NO with you, you little brat?” because thankfully restraint works on a sliding scale. But while the words I did say were angrily spewing from my mouth my mind was already racing to figure out how I was going to apologize to him and take it all back.
And how did this all end?
Hours after sledding (snowboard left in the snow bank next to the garage where I threw it) and hours after my apologies I got my answer. At dinner Kramer asked him in a perfectly reasonable tone of voice why he hadn’t wanted to try the new board and he explained that we met his friend at the busy hill and he didn’t want anyone to see him practicing. Who’s the brat now? Yep, he was just uneasy about his beginner status and wanted a chance to try it out on a quieter hill but he couldn’t put that into words with his enraged mother demanding an explanation.
As I tucked Isaac in tonight I apologized again, this time for not taking the time to understand why he wanted to leave the board home this time and for losing my temper and I can only hope that my weakness, my lack of restraint didn’t do as much harm as it feels like.