I’m doing a lot of solo parenting. With all the business trips my Husband goes on, there’s a ton of solo parenting.
Here’s my recent experience:
After Day Camp, I wanted to take my girl to a restaurant for dinner as a nice treat. I picked her up and we had an issue, an issue of not listening. Of not listening to what I was saying and not heeding it. So of course, I say that we’re going straight home and she’s going to her room. The whole car ride home, she didn’t take the initiative to apologize – 30 minutes. So as we’re nearing home, she asked if we’re going to the restaurant. I told her, “No, I already told you. You weren’t listening, so I’m not rewarding that.”
We get home and she goes straight to her room, slams the door and proceeds to go into full tantrum mode. Here’s what happens over the next 40 minutes.
First, she starts hitting the door trying to break it and make her dissatisfaction known. I go upstairs, and knock on the door, then calmly (I’m consciously keeping my voice calm and low) say, “If you continue trying to damage the door, you will loose the privilege of a door and I will take it away.” Then I go back downstairs.
Next, I hear from her room and escalation of, “Nobody cares about me. I’m nothing. I’m going to grow up to be nothing.” This kind of talk scares me. As someone who has gone through strong periods of depression myself, I know the genetic component is there. So I go upstairs and knock on the door again, ask her if I can come in and wait for her response. I always wait for her permission to enter her room. When she says yes I go in and this transpires,
“I want to talk to you. I’m going to say some things to you, and I can do that either sitting beside you or holding you. So please let me know what you want.” I think it’s important to respect her wants, and also to get her used to communicating them. She crawls into my lap, so I take that as a clear sign.
Holding her I say, “I love you. I care about you very much. You are going to grow up to be a very capable woman because you’re a very capable young girl. I was hurt by your disrespect and I got angry. I also can’t reward your behavior by taking you out for a treat. Your behavior was unacceptable and that’s why you’re in your room. But as I’ve said before, even when I’m angry and upset, I still love and care about you very much. Do you understand?”
She nodded understanding.
“So, I’m going to hold you for a few more minutes, then I will leave and go downstairs. You’ll stay in your room until you calm down and decide to apologize.”
And I leave. She cries for a while longer, but I don’t hear the “Nobody cares about me stuff.” She later came down and apologized.
Sheesh. Seriously, am I right?
But here’s why I’m sharing with you all this, which I usually don’t. It’s not to showcase my awesome parenting skills – ’cause there are so many times I suck, and I’m sure I could’ve done this better too. It’s because I know she needed punishment/consequences, but when I heard those words out of her mouth it broke my heart. I never want her to feel alone or that no one cares. I felt it was necessary, even in the midst of punishment, to reassure her of the bigger picture – that I’m always there for her and love her. I just had flashbacks to my own darkness and feeling those exact same things.
I know I’ll screw her up, we all screw up our kids. I just hope that I can avoid those pitfalls that I see coming. Maybe.