“I hate you, Dad! I wish you would DIE.”
The words were ragged with rage as though they might have torn at his lungs on the way out. And though they were terrible words, serious words that would normally have provoked reprimand, Bren and I could only look at one another in shock.
Our boy, just 6 and a half years old, was beside himself, spitting out words specifically designed to wound us. It was wrenching to hear them, and wrenching to watch him so out of character and so out of control.
And all because of scones. I know so many parents enjoy being in the kitchen with their children. In this house, it almost always descends into horror and despair for everyone.
Today took the horror and despair cake. Or scone.
In the madness of after school and before dinner, that crazy witching hour when everyone is tired and there are a million things to be done, it is not uncommon for me to scream for a moment’s peace while I cook/tidy/drink wine. I do not respond to interruption calmly or rationally. I do not consider that the children may be tired. I am disinclined to fairly arbitrate sibling disputes.
The witching hour is certainly not my finest parenting hour.
Why I decided to cook scones with the kids during this time is quite the mystery but the fallout was predictable. The boys argued over who did what with which round dough cutter and it really snowballed from there. The squabbling was normal, Luca being sent to time out was not necessarily an anomaly but I admit I did not see the dad hate coming.
Being in his seventh year, epic meltdowns are unusual for Luca. In fact, he probably hasn't had one since he began school last year. When they do happen, the extent of his rage immediately dissolves any of my own anger. All I want to do is wrap him up and quiet the storm inside him.
He struggled from my arms, his eyes red-rimmed, his chest heaving with the exertion of his fury. His was rigid with it, as though the slightest touch might cause him to shatter like glass. My heart ached for him as he pushed against me.
But storms always pass and this one was no different. Eventually we were eating scones with jam and cream and it was fine. Almost…pleasant. But the outburst reminded me that there is always a reason for a child’s behaviour. In this case, Luca is exhausted as he settles back into the routine of school and life as a kid in Grade 1. In the fast-forward motion of our lives, it is easy to forget that our kids are complex little human beings whose behaviour varies depending on external factors. We are their compass for how best to respond to the emotions that exist inside them.
My reaction to challenging behaviour can be dramatic, irrational and largely free of anything resembling patience. Sometimes I am measured and calm but just as often I am irritated and wanting the problem to just GO AWAY. By which I mean, the kids.
So if I want to teach my kids respect, I am setting an extraordinarily shitty example. Imploring them to simply "be good" denies the many factors in their daily lives that make that almost impossible. It’s so odd how far off course we can allow life to steer us before we reach for the wheel again.
I’m reaching for the wheel.
That night, I sat with the boys for a little while as they lay restless in their beds, unwilling or unable to give over to sleep. We have been trying to break this habit lately because they are getting older now and really are capable of going off to sleep without us. But tonight I relented just long enough to quiet the racing of their minds and the energy in their skinny little bodies. They needed my presence to settle and I gave them that. Because what else do I have to give if not myself? That is all they really want.
I am reaching for the wheel.
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