Let’s be real: parenting isn’t all about cute pictures on Facebook and 10-steps-to-a-better-kid blog posts. Sometimes you read the books, you go to the seminar–you even write the freakin’ advice, and then you still screw it all up. And your kid acts so crazy you have no idea what to do. So that was me last week.
I was taking the kids to movie night at school. Adrian’s first fit I didn’t even totally understand. It related to blankets and which blanket he wanted to snuggle and which blanket he wanted to sit on. I think it meant he wanted to take 10 blankets he couldn’t carry. So I said 2 blankets and 1 pillow is enough. Snuggle and sit as you will.
This obviously caused an Adrian freakout. But I left Adrian tantruming on the floor and got the other kids ready. He eventually pulled himself together and got in the car. Then tantrum #2 because he couldn’t buckle his seatbelt. So I got out to help him and saw– he was barefoot.
Babe, you have to wear shoes to this thing! Go get your shoes!
I don’t want to!
Well, if you want to go, you have to wear shoes. The school makes you wear shoes.
More Adrian freaking out. Screaming, flailing.
That’s when I lost my cool.
FINE, if you’re going to act like this, then you can’t go AT ALL! FORGET IT!
FINE I’ll get my shoes!!!
He stomped out of the car, slammed the door shut, screamed at me to unlock the front door, slammed that door, and ran inside screaming. He did come out with shoes eventually.
Then I did some awesomely poor parenting in which I told him ten times he couldn’t go but then when he freaked out at school I let him go mainly because I didn’t have a better idea what to do with him and I wanted him gone for the evening. I know you shouldn’t give into tantrums, I know that. But I flushed that wisdom down the toilet and taught him to have a bigger tantrum next time because mommy lets you have your way if you scream louder. And then I cried. *sigh*
I don’t know how to deal with that kid and all his freakouts. So I feel discouraged, defeated, failed. Am I doing something wrong? I want to punish him, but then–is it my fault? I behaved badly too; I got angry, I said things I shouldn’t have said. I put him in Kindergarten too early, I probably didn’t nurse him as long as I should have, do I love him enough? MOM GUILT!
As I was mulling all this over and crying in the car, I thought: That’s it!! He’s grounded! At times, “grounding” has struck me much like spanking: an ineffective technique parents lash out with when they don’t have a better idea. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought, yes, that is the answer. I’m feeling run-over, helpless in the face of Adrian’s tantrums. I can’t control him and his emotions. But I can control me and what I do. I don’t have to take him to the park, to swimming, to cubscouts, to movies, to grandma’s house.
It makes me feel bad because part of my idea of being a good mom is giving my kids lots of opportunities to do things and spend time with friends. But those things are also privileges, privileges I don’t have to provide if I don’t feel like it. And I’m allowed to have feelings too.
So I told Adrian he’s grounded at least one week. And after a week, I said, “I will take you to do fun things again when I feel respected.” So we’ll see how long that takes.
In the meantime, I’m going to take some time to get grounded myself. I tend to spread myself thin, like most moms spending so much time thinking about the kids and fulfilling their needs I forget about my own. But when I don’t put on my own oxygen mask first, I am left gasping for air as I struggle to care for my family.
After a stressful Friday, I grounded myself on Saturday. I stayed home. In the afternoon on a beautiful day, I unrolled my yoga mat in the yard; an island in a sea of swirling boys. I turned on my music and began my practice. All the “mommy, can I….I want….I need….can you….” I turned away.
“I can’t help you right now,” I told them, taking a deep, cleansing breath. “I’m grounded.”