Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Without Losing My Mind

Not long ago, I emailed a friend who I'd lost touch with and confessed that I was a lousy friend because I just didn't seem to have the time or energy to keep up our usual correspondence. Regarding my SweetBabyGirl I confessed, "I am still just trying to keep up with her without losing my mind." She replied, "you don't ever get to keep up with your kids without losing your mind. It's a rule."

What a relief! Because at times, it's just so damn hard.

Yesterday my darling child bit me. Hadn't happened for more than a year. And I just don't get that she doesn't bite in anger, she bites when we're having a great time. We were playing and I'd flopped on my back, all, ooh, ya got me! and she piled on, giggling. We were both laughing and then OUCH! I sat up, gasping, and clutched the owie (didn't break the skin, but it was on tender spot, just above the right bra cup). We had this exchange:

POM: Auuugh! You bit me!
SBG: [giggles]
POM: What'd you do that for?!
SBG: [giggles]
POM: [recovering a little] Owie, now I'm sad. That hurt and now I'm sad.
SBG: [surprised] Don't be sad! People don't be sad!
POM: But it hurt! Were you mad at me?
SBG: [astonished] No! Don't be sad! You no be sad!
POM: But it hurt me.
SBG: [sobs brokenheartedly] Don't be sad! No! No sad!

So I comforted her and we agreed on a new rule: don't bite people.

Later that same afternoon, I was cooking and she came into the kitchen with a broom and pretended to sweep, then suddenly swung the thing around and knocked a pan lid off the counter, with a horrible crash. Scared the hell out of me, there was a pot of boiling water on the stove a foot away.

I screamed at her, then she cried and made me promise no screaming, and I agreed, except for emergencies.

I don't want to scream at my kid.

I find it incredibly painful when she cries because of anything I do, but letting that control how I act as a parent isn't going to work. She's not much of a crier and since I adopted her when she was a year old I missed out on the crying newborn stage, so I still get upset when she cries.

My mother-in-law observed (while were still in China) that I'm incredibly tenderhearted when it comes to that girl. I think she meant it as a compliment, and I took it as one. And I can't say that I want that to change.

It's such an obvious aspect of parenthood that loving your kid is a good start, but it's also essential that you find a way to do the right thing for your kid even though you're having some pretty damn powerful emotions of your own. A friend and I talked about this feat and call it "Sucking It Up." We both came from families where our parents seemed to be absolutely sure of what to do, confident and in control. I can recall a handful of times when one of my parents lost their shit completely and it was one of the most terrifying things I remember as a kid. Was it worse because they always insisted that they were right, that their behavior was justified? Probably.

One of my earliest memories is of my dad, normally a placid guy, screaming at me on the front steps of our church, where he'd taken me during the Sunday service. He was mad because I was crying in church. I vividly remember thinking, I can't stop crying as long as he's screaming at me. Isn't that obvious to him? Is my dad crazy?

No wonder I scare myself when I scream at my kid.

God, it's hard. Makes me feel like I'm losing my mind. I do know this much, though: if you still possess the ability to question your own sanity, you're on the plus side, sanity-wise. It's when you think you're absolutely right that you tend to run into trouble.


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