Thursday, November 1, 2018

I love you, even when I am angry (lessons from a 6 year old)

Our Sunday started with my 6 year old refusing to go to her weekly swimming class. 

When I asked her why, she said:
“I just don’t wanna!”
The slight wobble in her voice told me she was gearing up for a fight. So I shrugged my shoulders and said:
“Ok, then you can stay here with me while Papa and your brother go.”
Inwardly congratulating myself on my calm and sensible parenting style (choose your battles, she’s testing you), I told Alan to cancel her class and went back to bed with my morning tea.
When it was time for her dad and brother to leave, I heard arguing from downstairs.
I went to investigate and saw her standing in full swimming gear by the door. Alan told her she can’t come.
“I want to go swimming.” She insisted.
“You can’t, papa has already cancelled your lesson.” I said
“I wanna go too” , she shrieked.
“Well, you should have thought of that before you told me you’re not going.”
The tantrum was epic.
I went back to my bed and let her.
After a while she came and crawled into bed with me, sniffling for a while longer in my arms.
I asked her if anything was bothering her.
She said she didn’t know.
We agreed that sometimes its ok to just be in a bad mood, and not know why.
Ha, I thought smugly, well done to me.
When the others were back, I decided to spring clean our cupboards and take everything out we hadn’t worn in a few months to give to the fire victims .
My other two kids enthusiastically started on the task. My youngest stood with her arms crossed in front of her cupboard and refused. 

Mind: “Maybe this is especially hard for her, as she is more aware of the fact that she is adopted, she hangs on to stuff , I shouldn’t make her do this, I am traumatising her.
Second mind: “She needs to learn to share and think about others.”
Third mind: “She’s just doing this to have another fight the little sxxx.” 

I said (with my best “ I am staying calm” voice):” We can do this together, I won’t take anything you are still using, I promise. You can decide with me.

Her (sulking): “ I don’t wanna.
Her (shouting):“ It’s MY cupboard”
Her (screeching and kicking me): “Go away”
The others were lining up plastic bags in the passage, throwing meaningful looks at each other (how long until mother will lose the plot?).
Alan was hiding somewhere.

Mind: “ let it go”
Other mind: “ You can’t let her get away with this, you are the adult, parent is a verb, go parent.”
Third mind: “ Fuck I don’t know what to , lets slam the door and hide in our room.”
Out loud I said (fake-calm with an edge): “You have a choice, we can either do this together or I will decide for you. But this will be done today. There are a lot of children out there who have lost everything and need clothes to wear. We have more than we need, so we will share.” 

“Nooooo” (screeching and renewed kicking at my shins)
I grabbed hold of her arms and put her on the stairs outside her room.
“You will sit here until you have calmed down.”
Her :“ Don’t PUUUSH me, you are pushing me, this is child abuse.”


Other two: meeting of the eyes and mentally fist-pumping each other
She was now in full on snotty howl mode, wriggling her body off the stairs towards her cupboard, slime trail in her wake.
I closed the door in her face, like this would make the problem go away.
Howling and banging on the door.

Mind: “How could you? She already lost one mother. And now you’re traumatising her again. You’re not worth being her mother”.
Other mind: “It’s important for her to see your boundaries. Also: She’s going to kick you again.”
Third mind:” Shut. The.Fuck.Up.

I quickly opened the door.

Dodging and ducking out of her way, I chucked things into black bags, while she pulled them out again. At one point we tug-of-warred over an old Spiderman t-shirt she hadn’t worn since she was three.
I realised, this wasn’t working.

As a last resort I pulled the ultimate weapon
“If you don’t stop by the count of three, youre not going to watch a movie with the others later.”
“Two, you better believe me.”
“Three, that’s it….”
“OK, mama, I am stopping.”

She turned her back to me and sat on the floor ignoring me for the rest of the clean-out.
Ever so often I held up a t-shirt or a pair of leggings in front of her and asked: “Do you want to keep this?”
She just stared her most disdain at me.
“ Ok then,” I enthused, “ in the bag it goes.”
One hour later we had about 6 black bags of our combined clothes sitting on the landing outside the kids’ room.

Another two hours, one movie and some blessed alone-time later, I came out of my room to ripped bags and clothes strewn everywhere. To add to the point she was making, she had also pulled out and emptied every single drawer from her cupboard onto the pile.
“What the fuck happened here?” I heard someone scream.
The two older kids came running, the excited gleam of bystanders to an impending disaster in their eyes.
“Mama, you said the f-word?” One of them observed. The other one hid a giggle behind her brothers back.
I glared.
“Look,”I said defensively, spreading my arms over the carnage of spilled bags and clothes.
“It wasn’t us. Nene did it”. They both said as one.
“Where is she?”
“Hiding downstairs. ”

Minds 1, 2 and 3: ???
She appeared out of nowhere, looking at me with apprehensive fascination like she was observing an exotic and dangerous reptile behind a glass screen..
I am staring at her for a full minute, trying to calm down and think of something, anything, to say that doesn’t involve swearing or threats.
“Why did you do this?”
“I don’t know, I forgot.”
“Ok here is what’s going to happen: You’re going to help me clean this up and as a consequence you’re not allowed movie night for two weeks.”
Mind: “Surely that’s too harsh. You got to admire her will-power and creativity.”
Second mind: “You know you can’t back down now, you’re going to have two weeks of tantrums to deal with every time the other two are allowed to watch a movie.
Third mind: “ Fuuuuck”
Her: “ I – sob- want – sob- to-sob-have-sob-mooooovieeeeeee night.”
Me: “Are you going to help or should we make this three weeks?”
Minds 1, 2 and 3 :” What the hell are you doing? STOP!”
Her:” Mooovieeeee night!!!!”
Me (yelling): “stop howling, I had enough, of this, this day is a disaster, I…..”
Kal: “Mama, go to your room and let me deal with her, I know what to do.”
Me: “OK”
From the safety of my room I hear:
“Now, Nene, you know you’re only going to make this worse when your act up like this. Mama is going to get more angry and you're not going to have movie night for even longer. You better try and calm yourself.”
Her: Ohohoho Kaaay
Kal: “Mama you can come, she ‘ll help you now.”
Mind: “ You're a pathetic excuse for a parent. Your 10 year old is showing you dust.
Second mind:” I am so insanely proud of this boy, he is the best most wonderful child in the universe.”
Third mind: “I am done, I am leaving.”
We end up looking through all the bags again, deciding together what she wants to keep and what to give away.
At bedtime I tell her I love her.
Her: I thought you didn’t like me.”
Me (heart bursting into flames): I will always love you.
Her: “But you only spoke nice to Kal and Lele.”
Me: “That’s because I was angry with what you did. But I still love you. There is nothing you can ever do to make me not love you.
Her: “nothing?”
Me: “Nothing”.
Her: “And when you’re dead?”
Me: “I ll still love you.”
Her: “you shouted at me.”
Me:” I am sorry.”
Her: “you dragged me. You hurted my arm.”
Me: “ I am so sorry. I was impatient and angry and shouldn’t have dragged you. I will try and do better next time I get angry. Can you forgive me?”
Her (pulling me into a hug):” Of course”
Thankfully it is dark, so she doesn’t see the teardrop falling out of my eye.
“Good night darling, sweet dreams, I love you.”
“Good night Mama”
And as I close the door, I hear:
“I love you so much, even when I am angry with you.”

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