Today, the last 2 of our 5 kids arrived after our vacation at the lake. It was supposed to be a week but dad and child #2 had to leave after day 2 for drivers Ed. I stayed until day 5 and took a niece and children 1 and 5 with me, leaving children #3 and #4 with my mom. Today was the end of the vacation week and she drove them the 6 hours home and they arrived mid-afternoon today. Child #5 was homesick halfway through the week and was thrilled to be back home. When I got home yesterday I had a bit of a fit, having to re-enter house and home and do the jobs…..so I should have anticipated what would come from child #4……you would think that after almost 7 years with her, I would know how to brace myself and prepare……but the days at the lake with extended family, sunshine, sand, boating and an atmosphere of relaxation lulled me into a false sense of peace. I heard over and over and over how well she was behaving and how they could not imagine her being fussy or difficult. Even the report from my mom, that she was an angel all day yesterday and slept ALL NIGHT IN HER BED last night were meant to be helpful. The unspoken words were: she does fine when you are not around. No one would dare speak them, for sure. But they exist. We know this, don’t we.
I was mowing the lawn when the last 2 kids arrived home this afternoon. I was anxious to see them, hug them, welcome them home. So was my home-b0dy, cling to mama, always hopeful 3 year old. Child #4 was in the house maybe 5 minutes when the first rage began. Screaming, kicking, thrashing, tipping over water that soaked a table full of books…… Instead of tapping into my Karen Purvis/Connected Child, TBRI education, I flipped my lid too and my mid-brain started firing, cuz really….why not. I screamed back at her and was furious and childish and pathetic.
The end of a vacation week for this mama is not the platform for really stellar parenting. Go figure.
Then, by the grace of God…..recovery snuck in. I sent little baffled #5 downstairs with his older brothers. I met #4 where she was. ( My mom had suggested a spanking when I texted her in a moment of weakness and “help me Jesus” desperation….but I know better. This child did not need to be spanked. )She needed to be guided. I made her sit beside me outside on a lawn chair and we began to talk. Her words turned to sobs and I pulled her on my lap. Snot ran down her face and onto her her shirt and her blanket she has had since THE DAY we met her was bunched up under her chin and absorbed the snot and the tears and the anxiety and the frustration…….and I fought my own tears as I held her. This child is so, so hard. Everything she feels is so intense. I spoke firmly and calmly and told her that it is not ok for her to scream at her family anymore. If she does, she needs to apologize. We all lose control sometimes and say things that are hurtful but we must apologize and make wrong things right with our family. I told her she was almost 7 and would no longer be allowed to be mean and hurtful to anyone….anyone…..in our family without apology.
We went to her room and laid on her bed with her baby blanket, her weighted blanket, her over-stuffed teddy bear….all of the comforts and we talked some more. She was sad that she had to leave the lake. She wanted to stay there forever. Girlfriend. Me, too. She wanted me but I was at home and she wanted her fun aunties at the lake but they had to leave too….and the sobs kept coming and all of her good-byes were in there. All of her physical aches and pains from a week of boating and tubing and being bit by mosquitoes and not sleeping well in the bunks with cousins and new people to know…..sobbing, sobbing, sobbing. Eventually she was cried out. We went from her head to her feet and talked about everything she felt and why and what to do about it. People. It was exhausting. It was parenting. Eventually we decided on a snack and a drink because at 4pm, once her ADHD meds had worn off, she was hungry. Fish sticks, Strawberries, Root beer. Nope. Not punishment food. Not one little bit.
It still took her another hour to apologize to her little brother for raging at him but she did it. It wasn’t his fault that dad put a temporary tattoo on his hand that she knew was hers from a parade earlier this summer. Dad tried to put his on but messed it up (dads don’t remember to take that plastic part off before they put the wet rag on, ya know?), and so when the first one got messed up, he reached for another one…that happened to be a butterfly and she knew it was hers. Silly? Yep. Not necessary? For sure? But it set a series of events to happen here that lasted hours. I am so, so tired tonight but I’m trying hard to write it out because she is now in her bed, content and restful. We recovered. I learned about how deep she feels everything. I learned that things that matter, really matter to her. I am grateful. I will not go to bed tonight feeling full of regret or shame. I did a decent job today.
We have to count the decent jobs we do most days, folks. Parenting research suggests that if we do a “good enough” job, which apparently is 30%, it is enough to not do harm. I’m rockin my 30% tonight and praising God for it……