Our child, Jack, has been described as willful. It's hard to say for sure where he gets it from. Is "willful" encoded in his genes, and, if so, is it our fault as parents that he is this way? Can we blame our parents? Do his father and I somehow model this behaviour? Is "willful" necessarily bad? Whatever the answers to these questions, whether or not we are responsible, we can at least say that we are accountable for his behaviour. It's our job then to manage it. Well, like any job, the job of parenting sometimes..... how to put this delicately.... sucks noodles.
Our Jack is just a little gaffer who, we understand logically, is not trying to drive us insane (not trying, but succeeding nonetheless). Yet, despite our rationalizations (he can't help himself, we're at least partly to blame), it's often hard to remember who are the adults in the relationship. We start out each day with the best of intentions. We respond effectively to each scream, tantrum and head butt (ouch!)... until we reach that point of no return. For me, it happens somewhere around about the time that I am spreading almond butter on sandwich bread (toasted just so) while on the phone to the doctor (trying to explain why I forgot the appointment I confirmed just a day ago) as my screaming child rams his biggest, baddest plastic plaything into my ankle. I wince and jump around on the spot, trying not to scream into the ear of the doctor's receptionist, and remove the offending toy. I hang up the phone, I try to breath deeply, I count to 5, or maybe even 9, and say "That's it!" Then it's off to the time out corner and instantly every last one of junior's toys are being hurled into a closet never to see the light of day again. That's when I realize I too am acting like a three year old, and give myself a time out. "Jack, mommy needs a moment. I'll be in the bathroom."
I had a day like this last week. The morning, in a word, stunk. We had places to go and things to do, and Jack screamed and fought me at every turn. Back at home, I was on my last nerve and sat down in a slump on our mudroom bench, one boot on, one boot off. Jack came over and sat down beside me, not saying anything at first. Then he said, "Mommy, I love you", and held out his hand to me. I took his hand in mind and he pulled himself closer. Then he kissed me on the cheek. Picture me... stunned, humbled, overcome with emotion. I said, "Thank-you, Jack. That makes everything all better." "You're welcome, Mommy." Hugs, tears. What a moment!
Yes, I earned a few more gray hairs that morning, but in the end it was totally worth it. My son knew how to comfort me. It not only felt great, but it showed me that I am doing a pretty good job teaching him that love is unconditional. I think he knew that, even though I was angry with him, I still loved him in that moment. I think he also knew that I needed to be reminded of that. Thanks Jack. I love my job!