My heart still aches and then explodes with love when I read this piece, originally published on Filter Free Parents on October 14, 2020.
To my son who thinks he’s always in trouble – I see you.
“YOU LOST XBOX FOR THREE DAYS.” These are words I say far too often to my spirited child, with my face red, voice raised, and if I were in a cartoon, there’d be smoke poofing out of my ears.
It’s always warranted, as he purposely annoys his siblings, speaks disrespectfully to me, makes a mess and refuses to clean it up – whatever the issue of the moment is.
I have a lot of these moments with my spirited child.
I RAISE MY VOICE more than I want to or ever expected I would have to, but sometimes it’s the only way to jar the situation enough to get the escalating anger and yelling and sibling tension to stop.
Yes, this kid is in trouble a lot.
He gets sent to his room, or has to write down sentences like “I will treat people with respect” fifty times in a row, or he loses privileges like Xbox.
He sees the pattern.
And he gets sucked into its spiraling vortex of negativity, getting himself in more trouble for spewing fiery words like, “Of course I’m in trouble again. It’s always me. Somehow you always find a way to blame me.”
I never really knew before having kids how much parenting can hurt inside your heart.
Why can’t he see that his brothers get in trouble when it’s warranted, too? Why do I have to point out to him, “See? He just acted disrespectfully toward us, and now he’s in his room,” only for him to discount the punishment as not the same as the trouble he gets in?
“Stop telling me I’m an unfair parent,” I tell him. He replies with “That’s not what I said, but you kind of are . . .”
But, see, I’m not. I love this kid with all my heart. He knows that.
I apologize after I yell, and we talk it out – how to handle situations, why he got in trouble — you name it, we talk through all the things. I always have a reason, I tell him.
My spirited child, I saw you hit your brother. I heard you yell the bad word.
I witnessed what you did, how you antagonized people and created a tense situation, and then I did something about it.
I wish he believed all the things I saw.
I’d tell him:
My love, I saw you bugging your brother. But please know that I also truly see YOU.
I see you clean up the mess on the counter when nobody else will.
I see you holding out a helping hand to safely guide your brother over the big rocks at the beach.
I see you kneel down on the lawn with the neighborhood TODDLERS and talk to them like they were your own baby brothers.
I see your creativity – the mazes you draw by hand and the structures you build exactly the way you envision them.
I see you support your teammates with “Good shot” and “Nice job.”
I see you chat with the babysitter to show her cool things like the fastest remote control car ever.
I see you snuggle with your brothers.
I see your brilliant smile, and how it lights up the room and can put everyone around you at ease.
I see your mind at work when you’re truly interested in something, like building a ramp for bike tricks or making up a new kind of basketball game.
I see you giving your brothers or FRIENDS rides on your go-cart or scooter.
I see the joy you get when I watch you excel at things, whether they’re hoverboard tricks or schoolwork.
I see you calm into a perfect sleepy night when I rub your back right at bedtime, and I know you need that love.
I see you growing into exactly the young man you are meant to be.