Last week, my daughters’ school held its book fair, so we stopped by the library on the way home to shop. While we were browsing, the school librarian approached me. She gestured at my daughters and asked, “Are you responsible for these young ladies? They are just so sweet. They have the best manners I’ve ever seen.”
I smiled and nodded and thanked her. We finished up shopping, stopped on the way home for a small birthday cake, and ate dinner.
While J went to the bathroom, M and I set the table for dessert. J walked up to the dining table and started pushing at M, claiming that M was in her chair. I asked J to choose another chair, and the surround sound whining got underway. I tried to reason with the children through the drone of their complaining voices, but no one was listening to anyone.
I stood up and lifted M out of her chair.
“No one will sit. We will eat my cake standing,” I told the girls.
“I hate you!” my sweet J told me, her chin jutting out. “You’re a horrible meany mommy.”
“You’re not fair,” the oh-so-well-mannered M added. “You don’t love me.”
I put the cake away, untasted. I tried to tell the girls exactly why no one would be eating any cake, but I doubt they heard me over their screams and drumming feet. I tried to tell them that they needed to get ready for bed, but they couldn’t hear that either.
Fortunately, at age 7, my children can be trusted, even in a ridiculous tantrum state, not to to anything particularly dangerous. I retired to bed myself, leaving them to scream. I knew that I was close to yelling myself, and that would serve no purpose except to validate the girls’ own behaviour as acceptable.
At 9:00 pm, the volume in the girls’ room had fallen, so I put away their toys, kissed them goodnight, and turned out the lights. My head hurt. The next morning, I took some favourite toys away for a day as a consequence of the girls’ poor choices. They were genuinely sorry, apologized wholeheartedly, and gracefully accepted the loss of their toys.
I was thankful, once again, for the parenting wisdom of LauraC. Years ago, she pointed out to me that kids will often act out with their parents, even while exhibiting exemplary behaviour with others. Especially after spending long hours away from their parents at daycare or school, kids are able to let loose with their parents. They know that our love for them is unconditional. They can take us for granted. I’ve seen this with friends’ kids too; after a weekend of good behaviour as a house guest, I’ve seen 4- and 6-year-olds turn into whiny messes at the sight of their mom, even before leaving our house.
Much as J and M’s bickering and overreaction frustrates me, they feel safe with me. This safety permits them let out the emotions they’ve held pent up all day while being well-mannered and sweet. That idea gives me the boost to hold in my own emotions after a long day at work. It’s my job to let the girlies know that they’re safe with me. I won’t accept bad behaviour, but I will always accept my daughters.
Is there some word of wisdom that carries you through the challenging times?
Sadia is raising her 7 year-old identical twin daughters, M and J, in the Austin, TX area. She is divorced and works in higher ed information technology. She is originally from the UK and Bangladesh, but has lived in the US since college.