Three little kids. Three very different personalities. Three people trying to navigate the learning curve of emotions. Make no mistake, it can get messy.
I was having a conversation with some women the other day who were feeling a bit down about how perfectly glossy the online world can look. My response is always this. If you have seen a mother and her children a few times and stand in awe of how together she is, how amazing and emotionally intelligent her children are, there is a really good chance you have caught them on three great days. Because, we are all human. We all make mistakes. And even after all the mistakes, she is likely still amazing and so are you.
If anyone reading this thinks that I don’t make any missteps, say regrettable things, react in less than ideal ways, they would be wrong. If they think that my children approach every situation in a calm and reasoned way, they would also be wrong. You don’t want to glorify mistakes when I hope we are all working towards trying to consistently make choices that align with our values. But it is a tricky line between talking about respectful parenting and also being relatable.
I want to walk you through our day today. It was rough. And it was amazing. And it was everything else. As they often are.
The boys were playing Minecraft with a friend online and using Facetime to chat while they played. I was busy playing with their sister. There was lots of shouting and noise as there always is. The vast majority of the time these are excited screams. I didn’t pick up on the changing tone.
Suddenly there was a yell, silence, and then tears. Through the tears ‘I’M NEVER PLAYING WITH HIM OR SEEING HIM EVER AGAIN!’
For the last little while, it turned out that every time one of my sons was getting close to being able to achieve something in the game, his friend was killing him on purpose.
I said, ‘that sounds really hard, would you like me to sit with you?’
The response was a resounding no. Things were thrown, feet were kicked, cruel words were spoken. It took me by surprise. We haven’t had an emotional outburst like this for a while.
It continued. It defied all logic. ‘I am only trying to help!’ my internal dialogue screamed.
‘When you push against me you are hurting me.’
I DON’T CARE!
It stung, the words, the physicality.
I took myself away in one of those vulnerable, human moments. My other son came and comforted me and told his brother to calm down.
It was familiar, because I had seen his brother, the one struggling with his emotions, take on that caring role many times before. In a family, the role of the aggressor and comforter is pretty fluid.
He needed my help, but he didn’t want it. I gave him space.
I sat and cuddled with my other kids on the couch and thanked them for being a support for me. My son came over, sobbing.
‘I need a cuddle too. I need support.’ We held him. He calmed and softened.
I asked him if he wanted to talk to his friend.
NO, I AM NEVER SEEING HIM AGAIN.
About two hours later, I heard my son in my room. He had my phone, he was calling someone on Facetime.
It was his friend.
His friend answered.
‘Hi. So….you want to talk about before.’
‘I’m really sorry.’
‘If we play that game again, can you promise that you won’t play like that, I didn’t like it.’
‘Yeah, I promise. I’m sorry I did that. Want to play again?”
And just like that, I listened to my young child, who hours earlier I watched in an out of control spiral of emotions, display more emotional intelligence and initiative than I could believe. Actually, it is a lot more than I displayed until well into my adult years.
Not long after, he sidled up to me. ‘I’m really sorry that I couldn’t control my anger before Mum. I love you.’
The highs and lows of parenting.