It takes a lot to admit you’re wrong, but it takes even more to admit to your faults. One of mine is that I am very sensitive to being told I’m not responsible or that I am a bad parent. Don’t tell me I’m either because unless you are around me and my kids 100% of the time you have no idea whether I am a good parent or not, or if I’m completely irresponsible. If you see one moment out of thousands of moments, does that even give you the right to judge me on it? Maybe. Maybe not.
But what if you are around me and my kids often? In fact, what if you are one of my kids and you decide to tell me that I’m irresponsible and a bad parent? Well, that definitely gives you the right to criticize my parenting techniques and have an opinion. Still, who are you to tell me that I am a bad parent and an irresponsible one?
That is what happened yesterday afternoon. Big Son and I had an argument that started out over me trying to calmly tell him he was being a little harsh in his treatment of his baby brother. That led to him claiming that I don’t punish Tornado often enough or more harshly and I blame Jack for everything instead of putting the blame where it is due. I did my best to remain calm towards Big Son despite the rising thought of “what gives you the right to tell me how to raise kids when you don’t have any”. In my defense, Big Son has always had very verbal opinions on how kids should be raised and how I am always doing it wrong. Even though I’m the parent and he’s not, and even though he has some very good examples of bad parenting around him from school and extended families. He’s also had good examples of fantastic parenting, the kind I will never be able to live up to. Guess which one he constantly weighs me against.
In his defense, the fact that he does compare to these best examples of fantastic parents makes me think that maybe, just maybe, he holds me in higher regard than I feel I deserve (I’m always thinking I’m just okay at parenting anyway). So these opinions and comparisons are his way of trying to get me to be a much better parent. And, believe it or not, I do listen to him. Unfortunately, I’m such a stubborn beast that I react first and then come around later (because I’m also a thinker). I take everything he says to heart and I know that I can be a much better mother than I am. There’s always something that can be improved, right?
However, at the time he decided to call me irresponsible as well as a bad parent. He doesn’t see how often his baby brother does get punished or even how he is punished because Big Son is at work or stays in his room when he is not working. Plus, Tornado is an incorrigible wee beastie. It does not matter how or how often he is punished, he WILL go back to doing what he is not supposed to do. I have to find very creative ways to punish him like putting his toys into time-out because they are causing the misbehavior. But guess what. It isn’t toys that are the problem. Tornado’s current occupation is getting into other’s people’s things and taking things without permission. Things he knows he isn’t supposed to touch. And, to top it all off, Tornado is highly intelligent, and patient. He watches and waits for the opportune moment. It takes a full village to watch this child. For the most part it’s just going to take repetition, repetition, repetition. He is a little one after all, and he will grow out of this phase. But, that time truly cannot come quick enough for all of us.
My point in that is that he is a handful and I cannot watch him 100% of the time and no one else feels it is their responsibility to do so, and now I’m being told I’m irresponsible. I think you can guess what happened at that point. It did lead to me becoming obstinate in my position and Big Son came by his stubbornness honestly. So, when he told me to shut up and let him speak (at the time I felt it was all he’d been doing because I couldn’t get two words in) I closed up and went to my room without another word because I know there would be things to regret if I stayed.
I am not perfect. I still feel like I’m just an okay mom and I know I have so much to work on in myself. Big Son had many valid points and much of what he said during the argument was mostly frustration at his little brother, and that I completely understand. A child like Tornado is a huge challenge. Just getting him through each day without an injury or causing minor destruction is a win in my book. It takes a lot of strength, patience, determination, and control to be a parent to my personal Dennis the Menace. But it is not without its rewards. He is a very loving child. He is funny and smart, and quick. He understands so much more than his brothers did at the same age, and he is friendly as all get out. He greets people on the street as they walk by and the smiles they give him are worth everything. He gives me unexpected hugs and kisses and he loves his very Big Brother more than Big Son will ever understand.
Maybe that’s why, after taking a long walk in the cool weather, Big Son came back and apologized for verbally attacking me. We talked about things later that night and we were able to resolve many of his frustrations. He even apologized for saying I was irresponsible because I’m actually the most responsible person he knows and he said it to wound me.
It takes a big man to start an argument. It takes an even bigger one to apologize and say he was wrong even when he might be a little bit right.
And, if after all that, I taught him that one small but important thing…maybe I’m not such a bad parent after all.