In retrospect, everything is clearer. Hindsight. 20/20. Sometimes it takes a lot of space between the event and the reflection for me to find clarity. Sometimes just a few minutes.
I laugh when emotions get too big sometimes. Especially, it seems, when it’s The Who’s emotions. I can handle most of it, but sometimes his anger goes over the top and I have to hide my face behind a book or something. I don’t know if he notices; I hope he doesn’t. It’s rare that anything really gets by him. He has never called me on it, though. I’d have to find a way to explain it to him, if he did. Because I don’t want him to think that I find his anger trivial or funny; I don’t. It just that it sometimes sneaks up on me in a way that takes my breath away and my fight or flight response is to laugh. I hate that.
He had a hard night tonight, small injustices piled on top of one another. He had to practice piano and do his homework before playing basketball, which he generally doesn’t have to do. Usually we let him set the schedule of the evening, understanding that it all needs to fit in before bedtime. But we wanted to finish dinner and pay some bills and so doing homework and piano first made sense. To us. Of course, as he was finishing piano, I found myself bent over the kitchen sink, willing the gurgling sink to drain (pro tip: don’t put cabbage leaves in the disposal.)
It didn’t help his anxiety about getting enough basketball time when we yelled at him for continuing to ask when we could play basketball as we were trying to figure out what to do about the cabbage-y water spewing from the laundry hoses. (Don’t even ask.) We gave him a lot of loud business about empathy and tuning in and selfishness and he later said that it felt like his “ears were bleeding.” He’s sensitive; remember we just figured that out? What seems not-so-loud to us or maybe just a little firm, sounds LOUD and HARSH to him. My little poet is so good at accurately describing what things feel like. (In his poem about football at school for example, he described tackling as “a rock tumbling into water.” Yeah.)
When the basketball game did finally happen, he lost. He’s sort of a sore loser on a good day, but tonight…with the bleeding ears and everything? Later we realized we should have let him win. We don’t always do that, but sometimes the day just calls for it. Unfortunately, wrapped up in my own stuff these past few days, I had little patience and kindness to offer as we headed up to bed and when he gave me the business about not being able to find pajamas he liked, instead of helping him sort it out, I threw a pair that I knew wasn’t a favorite onto the bed and demanded he put them on.
20/20. I can see it now. I refused to do the fun thing with the shower water that I sometimes do. I threatened a loss of reading time if he didn’t get into the bathroom in three seconds. Piling and piling and piling it on to his little 7-year-old self, tired before bed, and having walked through five different challenging scenarios since dinner (which he hated and never gets a say in what it is going to be.)
After all of that, he found it hard to settle for reading. He had more to say to me, but instead it came out as insolence and rudeness and a refusal to let me read to him. I had to call m* in for backup. And then the anger. So much anger. Hiccuping tears, assertions of my status as a horrible parent. He was furious at the injustices that seemed to just keep being hurled at him all night. And I was unable to really hear it, an angry scowl undoubtedly on my face as he ranted. At least m* was there; she’s really good at that stuff.
A few minutes past lights out (after we turned it around with some Harry Potter, sweet hugs, and an apology from me) he appeared at the top of the stairs. “I take back what I said about you being the worst parent ever,” he said quietly. “You’re not. You’re really good.”
20/20. There’s always tomorrow.