I’m not sure what pushed me over the edge.
I was on it anyway. A wonderful friend accidentally pushed all my “terrible parent” buttons when I tried to explain why I’ll never take all 4 kids to NYC. “I just wanted to share the place I love with them,” she declared, and I realized: that’s the last thing I want to do. I want to keep the place I love, and have all of my professional interactions, and get work done, all to myself. Possibly forever.
But there I was, hovering, heavy with guilt, as we left her house. Then Wyatt and Rory started it all up in the car in the carpool line: Move! Stop it! Stop it! That’s mine! Stop it! Gimme that!
Then Lily got in and had forgotten her shoes. Back we went. And then, off to (dun dun DUN) piano lessons.
Piano lessons are my Waterloo. I used to pay someone else to drive them, but those days are gone. And it’s a beautiful day. And there’s a playground. But no, oh no. You didn’t bring a SNACK! And (this is Lily) I don’t want to GO! And I’m HUNGRY! And [I don’t remember the rest but it was loud and there was kicking of my seat and…]
Me, mildly: Do that again and you get a checklist for the privilege of riding in other people’s cars.
Lily: MORE OF THE SAME! MORE OF THE SAME!
Me: I’m not going to warn you again. Act like you do in other people’s cars.
Lily: MORE MORE MORE YELLING!
Me: That’s it. No more other people’s cars.
Lily: I HATE YOU! I WANT ANOTHER MOMMY WHO’s NOT MEAN AND DOESN’T DO THAT! AAAAGGGHHHHH!
From there things just slid softly downhill. When we finally got to lessons (after dropping Sam off to Rob), I told the teacher I was so sorry, but this was it for us. We have to find a teacher who will come to our house, as I cannot cope with the half-hour plus drive and then the kids who refuse to get out of the car and play on the lovely playground but instead want to crawl all over me and the front seat in various annoying ways. Then, after Rory’s lesson but during Lily’s, I had another half hour drive, this time to pick up the farm share. Rory and Wyatt engaged in a battle over windows. I pulled over and got out of the car.
But even after the windows were resolved, I fumed. I smoked (figuratively). I snarled in my head and chewed on every awful thing that had been said and done and then coughed up a few awful things from the past week and gnawed those over too until I had a fine cud of ugly misery going, and when i got Lily back and got Sam in the car and hauled them all home I said, “Out. Out of my car. And take your car seats with you.”
Oh, the furor! Why? Why no car seats in the car? What would they do? How would they get to school? What about (this from Wyatt) tennis lessons?
“I’ll consider driving you,” I said, “but I don’t have to. And I don’t have to keep you seats in the car. If you want to ride in my car, you’re going to have to make some promises.”
I stand by that. I think that’s a pretty good plan, really. But I’ve left some stuff out. Some stuff about me yelling, and snapping, and snarling. Some “That’s ENOUGH!” and “WILL YOU STOP THAT” and even “I don’t want to TALK to you right now.”
At home, I went straight into my room. I got a book. I lay down on the bed. Lily, Wyatt and Rory gathered a snack and sat in the kitchen, and I heard this:
“NO! I don’t WANT to sit by you right now!”
“STOP FOLLOWING ME!” and even
Damnation. This is so not the goal. But I wasn’t feeling big enough to get past this, yet. I wasn’t sure I had anything in me to show them something different. I just wanted a break. But these three–who are usually pretty good friends–I could feel it. They were miserable. And they were taking it out on each other. And I knew why.
I slid into the kitchen and gave each a hug. I’m sorry, I said, I’m sorry that I yelled at you, and I don’t want you to talk to each other the way I talked to you.
And all was not right with the world. I went back to try to lay down, and they oozed in with me, one by one, until my bed was filled with all four AND the dog, and my heart was still hard. I really wasn’t charmed. I could see that I should be. I could see that, on reflection, I might be. But I mixed up a pot of macaroni and cheese and turned on the first Harry Potter movie and shooed them out.
And now, after an hour, I am just about ready to appreciate this:
I am still not the parent I want to be, or the person I want to be. It’s not the privileges lists, or the requiring them to agree to certain parameters before earning the right to ride in my car. It’s not even quitting pianoâ€”that was the right thing to do with an activity that has pushed me over this bridge far more than once. We can find a way to make that work without it costing my sanity, and if we can’t, well, they can learn to play the recorder in 4th Grade and we’ll call it good.
It’s the yelling. It’s always the yelling. The yelling, and the fact that I mean the yelling. I am not yelling to make a point, or get their attention, or put a little healthy fear into them. I am yelling because I am angry. Really, truly, angry. At them. At me. At my decisions and the things that get me to the yelling point. I’m disappointed and upset and I cannot, as I want to, as I tell Lily to do, take a breath and choose not to take those feelings into me, but let them go.
The car seats will stay on the garage floor. The piano will stay, for a few weeks, silent. But there’s definitely something about today I wish I could take back, and it’s that stomach-churning anger I know I’ve passed down to them. What I want to pass down to them is the ability to deal with it. But first, I’m going to have to learn that for myself.