Another test of parenthood

Last night was an incredibly hard night for me as a mother.  Let me stress to you IN-cred-ib-ly hard.  One of those moments where I doubted every choice I have made since seeing those two blue lines and how the hell did I get here and shouldn’t there be men in white coats at the door?

I have a very dramatic child.  We’ve taken to calling her the Emo one of the family (yes people, Emo, not Elmo).  She is bright and cheery and loves all things pink and girly.  She is smart and finds math to be her favorite subject in school.  She is expressive and creative and “puts on shows” at the drop of a hat that lead you to believe I’ll have a second house in Hawaii one day on her coat tails.

There is also a dark side to my child.  She spins webs of despair in a New York minute.  She easily gives up when things aren’t going how she would like them to – or if she doesn’t learn it quick enough.  She tells us she is stupid because she can’t do something right.  When she goes low – she goes really low.

Last night she had a friend here for a sleep over.  This is a little girl from her pre-school/daycare.  It’s been very hard on them since September as they are in different elementary schools.  They are also fire and ice – professing undying love at 3:00 pm and not 9 minutes later scream hate at each other for whatever button was pushed.

A was quite excited for this sleepover.  She was also anxious because she told me she knew she wouldn’t behave.  Being an only child, A hasn’t had much experience in home-front compromise.  She’s also still learning how to be a gracious hostess and take care of her guests properly.  I reviewed the schedule of activities with her and assured her that she will be having so much fun with her friend, it wouldn’t be an issue.  Yea….I can’t believe she bought that either.

In fact, all did go very well.  We went to a children’s theater performance, playground, made popovers, did arts and crafts….ate dinner and had a treat and watched some Fraggle Rock.  At 8:30 it was time to go to bed.  We set up the futon in the guest room so they could sleep together and tell girly secrets and read books together until gentle slumber.

8:30pm – we go up for jammies and teeth brushing and story picking.  It was the point we sat down for stories when things started going downhill.  Which book do we read first?  A’s?  Or our guest?  This very quickly melted into a battle of wills. 

  • Why does my friend get to pick the side of the bed she sleeps on?
  • Fighting over how many blankets are on the bed.  Guest wanted 3, A wanted 1.
  • Why can we only have 3 books each to read in bed?!  I want to have 5!
  • Meltdown over deciding who got the HSM book light and who had the flashlight
  • Why one could read in her head while the other had to speak out loud and now i can’t hear what’s in my head because she’s talking too loud!!
  • I don’t care you are offering to read my book first, She is my guest and you have to read hers first.  I won’t let you change that rule.
  • Oh great! Now you are reading her book when you said you would read mine first and you went back on your promise…

I could go on for many more bullet points.  A total of 44 minutes of arguments that changed over every 90 seconds.  I was on the verge of locking the door and walking away.  I really wanted to give up.  I tried all my Patient Parenting tricks.  Instead, I grabbed A.  I took her into her room, put on her bed and told her not to move and not to talk until I came back.  I took a walk around the house and took a few deep breaths.  I apologized to our guest and explained A was very very tired.  Went back into A’s room to invite her to come in and read stories together.

She slithered down the side of her bed to the floor.  She crawled into the hallway and continues to scream at me.  Throwing things back at me like “you told me not to move out of my room” – “you told me not to talk” – “you told me if I didn’t behave we would have to sleep in separate bedrooms!”  I got her into the guest room, her little friend suggested that A take 10 deep breaths to help her calm down.  We started doing deep breaths, except for A.  When we got to the fourth, A looked at my directly, hardcore eye contact, sobbing, heaving breaths, her face full of exhaustion and fiery anger screams “JUST KILL ME!  JUST KILL ME ALREADY!” 

I lost it.  I started crying.  “Why would I ever want to kill you?  You are my A and I love you and I would never ever never want to hurt you.”  She continued to chant Just Kill Me over and over and over while sobbing.  I took her out of the room and tried to calm her down, hold her and rub her back.  Well that just pissed her off more – I picked up the phone to call Norman (who was 2 blocks away baby-sitting for friends) and through tears gave the condensed version and said he needed to talk to her.  I had to hold the phone to her ear.  Hearing one side of the story it was more Kill Me and Yes and No and We Tried That and I Don’t Care and You Don’t Love Me….  She walks away.

I go back in the guest room and she is quietly on the bed, holding her teddy bear, calm.  Looks up at me with those over tired eyes “I’m sorry Mommy, I told you I wouldn’t cooperate.  I love you.”  I read them stories.  I put them in bed.  Night light on, talking off and shut the door.  They only got up once to ask for music.  Asleep at 10:14pm.

My nerves were shot.  I didn’t want to watch TV, didn’t want a drink, I didn’t even want to eat – I just sat on the couch dazed.  I started obsessing on how I could have a child that at 6 years old looks at her parent screaming Kill Me like she really meant it.  Where did I go wrong?  What lesson did I miss way back when that could have avoided this?  How have I scarred her young brain?  Why the fuck am I a mother and what am I doing here and can I run away?  Seriously.  I was concocting scenarios of how I could get out of the mother gig and crawl into a cave somewhere.  I could not find any grace for myself.

I eventually fell asleep. 

So how does this story end?  I was woken up at 6:21am this morning.  By two incredibly happy, bubbly girls giggling and asking if we can have breakfast.  As if last night never happened.  I went downstairs, turning on the coffee machine first.  They were rattling off and talking about what to do next.  Throwing questions at me like can they go outside yet and when is swim lessons and are we taking them together today.  It was as if the time between 8:30pm – 10:14pm the previous night never occurred.

I was still destroyed.  I felt broken.  I wished I could crawl back into bed and ignore life and the day.  Wake up Monday morning to start working and get away from this incredibly hard parenting thing.  But when you are a parent, that cannot happen. Life goes on and 6 year olds can only do so much for themselves.  I took a deep breath with every question and request thrown at me.  I took a deep breath before I responded to either of them.  I took deep breaths and while they were doing more crafts – I snuck off to the living room with my coffee and Sunday paper.

Now it’s 5:43pm and I’ve had some time alone in the house.  No spouse, no child, my 2 hour, 45 minute respite every Sunday afternoon called Hebrew School.  I am feeling much better.  No longer shattered or thinking I’m not a fit mother.  Just wondering, where the hell do I go from here? 

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One thought on “Another test of parenthood

  1. You do it again next time. You try not to have an internal KILL ME response every time she does this – I mean, who did she learn that from? 🙂 You learn. She learns. It will get worse, and also get better. I think you’re a great parent, Jen – thoughtful, creative, intelligent, and more importantly, completely in love with your daughter. But daughters are put on this Earth to bewilder and challenge – isn’t that what we did?

    I’m so glad you took the time to write about this; every mother can relate. This is also an awesome opportunity to start a conversation with A while she’s relatively calm – ask questions about why her responses are her responses, as her why she wants to go all apeshit on your ass, ask her if she can think of other ways to react; she’ll continue to do these things when she gets the reaction, so finding alternative routes of expressing herself might be good for her. She can get in on the solution.

    I love you – hang in there!

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