I love my daughter.
Not just because I’m supposed to.
She is quirky. She is charming. She is determined. When she smiles, she lights up the room. She knows what she wants. She has an amazing imagination, and I am delighted to listen to her tales of her imaginary friends. (The posse grows daily, and I would love to know what inspires them all.) She can spend hours a day drawing pictures of her family, friends, and Macy-pup. Lose hours in the garden picking flowers.
She LOVES flowers.
She is a perfectionist. Things must be just so. She doesn’t handle it well when she is rushed.
She also has a temper. She can be very moody.
Her recent behavior has caused me to have a flash of her at 15, and quite frankly, I’m terrified. Instead of threatening to run away, she just tells me now that I can leave. She knows exactly what buttons to push.
The other day, as she slammed her bedroom door for the second time that morning, I heard echoes of my father as I calmly replied “We can just take that door off if you slam it again.” (He did, you know. Not for me, but he did. ‘nuf said.)
I’m tired of the same struggle every morning getting ready. The same battle every night at tea time. (I could honestly record my responses, hit play, and go sit in the living room with a cup of tea and hide out for the duration of the strop. They are THAT predictable.)
While I struggle to determine how to best manage her tantrums – I realize that if I don’t get a handle on this now, it will be much, MUCH more difficult a few years down the road, when hormones kick in – the reality is that I need to get a handle on myself first.
This isn’t really just about her right now.
It’s about me.
(Isn’t it always about me, anyway? Anyhoo…)
It is all about not rising to the bait. About staying calm. About responding, and not reacting. It is about not turning the tantrum into a total power struggle. (Doesn’t she know that I’m in control???)
It’s about not YELLING.
Easier said than done, that.
It’s hard to hear “I hate you”. It’s difficult to NOT internalize it when the yelling at you goes on a bit too long. It’s a battle to not to take it personally. It’s a struggle not to get worn down and resort to yelling back at her. I don’t want to yell, to lose control.
To do exactly what I need her to stop doing.
Someone has to be the adult in the room.
I’ve had moments I’m not proud of. I’m snapped. Yelled. Shouted.
It’s humbling, to say the least.
* * *
I’ve been told that she needs to get knocked down a peg. “Wash her mouth out with soap”. Or a little vinegar. “She’ll learn then.” However, the reality is that kind of response seems to only accentuate the negative. Which isn’t fab, given the yelling that I seem to do back at her.
I need to focus on the positive, while being firm that the negative behaviors are not acceptable. I need to stay calm. Me.
I know she knows what she is doing isn’t right. If I leave her to herself, she will find me, eventually, contrite and apologetic. She doesn’t need to be prompted for that.
Thankfully, I have not had to pack a suitcase for her yet, as my mother-in-law’s mother did for her when she threatened to run away. We haven’t gotten that far yet. (She turns down my offers. The thought of it alone usually snaps her into shape.)
Thankfully, we are still at that stage when, as she comes into the room, eyes downcast, worried look on her face, a heartfelt, unprompted “I’m sorry Mummy” and a kiss and a hug can work as a balm over all the inflicted hurt.
I’m not ready to let that five year old go.