I have been tested and found wanting. By a 6-year-old.
Although I try to accentuate the positive here as I write about our household, I can’t eliminate the negative at all times. However, I hope that the negative is the spark that ignites the flame that lights the way forward.
It started simply. I don’t even recall what the topic was. I outline is that I asked 3B to do something. He refused. I asked again. He refused again. I asked again.
To be honest about both of us, this was about the twelfth time that morning 3B had this reaction to a request, none of which were difficult or complicated, but none of which he would agree to. As for me, I was still shifting gears from work, where people generally give civil responses to requests, to home, where defiance seems to be the word of the day. I also had slept in–thanks, Mama!–and hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, so I was not only a fish slightly out of water, I was a fish low on blood sugar.
So, when 3B refused again, started yelling at me and scowled, I admit it, I yelled at him. Right in his face. I put his face right between the palms of my hands and told him to get that look off his face right now.
Look, I still remember Dad yelling at me. I remember how scared and sad I was. I know that 3B hates nothing so much as my yelling, double that for when I’m in his face. But I was done. Done with the defiance. Done with the refusal. Done with the attitude. And I didn’t know what to do. So I yelled at him to go to his room. I yelled that if he’d wanted to test me, he had, and that I’d failed, and that now I was angry.
Don’t think he didn’t use that same line on me less than an hour later.
And despite Mama telling me that yes, it’s frustrating, and yes, we all flip our lid sometimes, and yes, it wasn’t my finest parenting moment, I couldn’t let go of that moment all day. It dragged me down to the edge of the sea of melancholy that lies at the bottom of my heart. It anchors me, but its silence also reminds me to watch my step, lest I fall in and drown.
And that’s how I found myself awake on the couch at 3 a.m., reading news sites, reading Facebook, reading twitter, reading anything until I could feel sleepy. Or at least that I wouldn’t twist myself into my sheets like an asylum inmate.
Although I half-expected to wander through Sunday in a half-stunned state from the lack of sleep, the other possibility was realized and somehow the insomnia reset my clock and I woke up feeling roughly rested. And as I woke, I reminded myself that this is why Mama and I started a parenting class last week. If for no other reason than to know other parents are going through what we are, that what our kids are going through is normal, to meet other parents in our neighborhood, to have a date night…and I’m sure there are other reasons…the only reason, really, for me, is to be the best I can be.
And there were small victories on Sunday when I remembered that I don’t really care if 3B defies me. I do care that he grows up to be kind. I don’t care if I win the day. I do care that he grows up to be helpful. And we’re both together being alone in our new home, far from everything we knew just a month or two ago. So I took a step back and let him defy me once, defy me twice, then I walked away.
And when he came back, he came ready to play.
Just as I know by now that I’ll never be an astronaut, nor the starting QB in the Super Bowl, nor first baseman on the World Series championship team, I know that I’ll not be a perfect parent. But I’d like to be good enough to be the parent 3B and Jewel deserve, and I’m not sure how to get there.
But I do know how to learn, and I am motivated–no, driven–to pass this test. And the next. And the next. And the next.
Success isn’t what I want, it’s what I need.