My son and I recently had our first big "fight."
I'm talking about the ugly, make-each-other-cry, immature-high-school-relationship kind of fight—the one that begins (explodes) as soon as you close the car doors after leaving the public setting where you were this close to unleashing your inner psycho in front of everyone.
"You don't even know how much I've done for you," I found myself saying over and over as we drove across town (he's five; of course he doesn't know yet). "I'm so sick and tired of your whiny, defiant, disrespectful bullsh—"...
It wasn't my proudest moment.
But after three straight weeks of said whining, defiance and disrespect, I had lost all tolerance. Who was this little monster? And what had happened to all my super, cure-all, magic mommy dust?
By the time I pulled into our driveway, my car felt like a prison cell. For the next five minutes, we both just sat there—still and quiet (reflective, perhaps). When I finally turned around to face my little adversary, I felt about 50 pounds heavier. Behind his tiny tears was this pitiful look of puppy-dog innocence, and through his sniffles and mild hyperventilation he whispered, "Please don't stop being my mom."
I wanted so badly to pull him from his car seat, squeeze him like a key lime, and reassure him with a thousand kisses. But I didn't. Instead, I left my heart in the car and walked toward the house, five steps in front of my shattered little boy.
God, I suck. As if the fifteen hostile minutes of railing on him weren't enough, I had convinced myself that any immediate affection would mean giving up control and giving in to bad behavior. But this wasn't like me at all; I've hardly ever withheld my love from him, especially amidst any sadness.
Lucky for me, my son is anything but overly prideful. He followed me upstairs (where I had planned to curl up on the bathroom floor and cry), walked around in front of me, and gave me the longest, sweetest, quietest, most love-filled hug he's ever given me.
Since then, I've come up with a little acronym (yes, a grade-school activity for my grade-school behavior) to keep myself in check—and to hopefully keep us out of the boxing ring in the future.
Feelings: Little people have them, too. So be considerate, be empathetic and be sensitive.
Impulse: Slow down, mama. Think about your options and pick your battles. Besides, we all know you'd never actually follow through with that totally irrational threat you were about to give.
Good example: Remember that you're the adult here (the cool, calm and collected adult). Difficult as this sometimes may be, your kiddo needs to see you in control—setting high standards for mature communication. Not losing your sh*t and throwing a temper tantrum.
Hugs: Yes, lots. Hug them when you "shouldn't." And apologize when you should.
Terminate: End the damn thing. What are you trying to win here, anyway?