Don’t Freak Out
I come from a background of abuse. I remember my mother and stepfather literally freaking out about everything. Sometimes it was something as small as not saying “thank you” fast enough, sometimes for bigger things, like riding off on my bike without telling them. No matter what my brothers or I did, we were treated to huge outbursts of anger that always led to screaming and spankings.
When I became a parent, I was fully aware of the statistics that say abused children usually grow up to be abusive parents. That coupled with the fact that I was a teenager at the time really made me resolve to do the best I could with my children without losing my temper.
I worked hard on the art of not freaking out. From the time my first son was old enough to throw temper tantrums, I realized all too well how easy it would be to snatch him up and lock him in his room, just to help remove myself from the screaming and pounding. But it was the fact that I was able to ignore his tantrums that helped him realized it was a fruitless effort. And I learned early on that by allowing myself time to ignore what could potentially drive many people over the edge, I could handle bigger issues.
Through the years, sure, there were times when I yelled or when I even threw tantrums of my own. I have never been a perfect parent. But I also learned to help ease those moments by never being too proud to apologize to my children.
On one such occasion, I found myself very angry with my oldest son over something big (for the time and age), and I yelled, and I slammed cupboards, and he was sent to his room. Almost immediately, I realized how immature I had acted, I went to him, apologized, told him I loved him, and that yes, he was still grounded, but now we could talk about it. It made us both feel better, even though one of us was still in trouble.
My husband, who is still in parent training, often gets annoyed with me. “Can’t you hear them goofing off in there?” he’ll ask, obviously not enjoying what sounds like a party coming from one of the bedrooms.
“Oh, I hear it,” I always say. “They’re just kids, having fun. No big deal.”
More recently, we faced a new challenge with our teen son. It was truly a test of wills, but I was more than proud of myself when it was all over and done. I didn’t freak out, which in turn didn’t put him on the defensive. I was calm. I sent him to his room, sat by myself for a while, and then, with my train of thought well on track, I went in to see him.
By allowing myself to be completely calm before I went to his room, it gave him time to think about what he’d done (as well as, says the evil parent in me, time to worry about his punishment), it led to an important teaching moment, and I do believe I left his room that night with us feeling closer than ever. He was still in trouble, would still have to do the time, but neither one of us was fuming with anger, resentful of the other.
It felt good. I felt like all that had come before this event had been endurance training for those tests we never realize we might face, and I had passed. I wasn’t too proud on this day to even pat myself on the back. As parents, we spend so much time beating ourselves up, it never hurts to give credit where credit is due. For me to remain calm when many parents would not have, I felt like I had walked the talk.
You choose your battles. You realize that spilled milk really is just an accident, not worthy of crying over. That your children aren’t out to push your buttons when they make bad decisions. It isn’t always about us as the parents.
I know there is much to come that will really bother me, perhaps even hurt me, as the most recent event did, but I know as long as I can handle each episode with calmness, we’ll do fine.