“We don’t always get what we want!”
Not my finest, or most original, moment of parenting. Not the kindest either. Shared illness amongst us, lack of sleep, and the infinite meltdowns of a verbally struggling two year old had me barking clichéd guilt trips at my five year old daughter this past week. Even with a fever and runny nose she wanted outings, errands, the zoo, friends… I have unreasonable fantasies when I’m in a feverish state as well, girl. Word.
Her attitude worsened, my patience evaporated, the meltdowns continued, and we all took turns crying. The thoughts that crept in after were ones I toy with often.
Where do their needs end and mine begin? Where do I draw the line on their wants and remember my own?
At what point in modern parenting did the idea of “empowerment” become the justification for allowing “entitlement” in our children?
I’m all for empowering my children to say “no”, asserting their boundaries, respecting themselves and others, and being aware of their bodies. Guess what? I’m not going to take my two year old’s response of “no” to a diaper change when he’s become his own manure dispensary within our home.
(And, YES, there are parenting paradigms that advocate asking permission to diaper your child.)
I’ve tried, it goes like this…
“Owen, did you poop? May I help you?”
(Mischievous look and giggling as he runs to hide behind the curtains in plain sight.)
“Owen, we need to do your diaper. You pooped, bud.”
(More giggling), “Nooo!”
Nora joins in, “O-eee! You POOPED!”
Now they are laughing in solidarity but Nora tries to be helpful and playfully tugs on his arm while covering her nose as they both laugh, “O-WEN you POOPED! You stink O-wee….Ew, O-wee, you stinky baby!”
He finally relents and lays down so I can help him and then the next game begins of “let’s see how fast I can change you before mama gets kicked in the face or you clutch handfuls of feces”. It’s a horrible game, I don’t think they’ve mass produced it yet but I heard you can preview it by going to a Trump rally.
Nora wants help with her nose just then. I ask her to wait and catch her glaring at me, “I never get to do ANYTHING.” Her mutinous words, my sliver thin patience, the aching want to lay down and the stench in front of me whirled the portal door open and the meanness poured out. I yelled for her to go to her room.
I finished changing Owen, gave him another sippy, turned on Julie Andrews and went to check on Nora. She was sitting on her bed crying, muttering laments about not getting anything her way, about wanting anybody else but me because they would give her what she wants. I went to her hoping to console her but her words cut even deeper. It was too much to breathe or meditate through, too much to not compare to my own meager beginnings looking around her decorated room, I was trying and I failed.
“You know what… how about I take all the toys and dresses away, how about we skip going out anywhere for a week, how about no screen time?”
“Then please change your attitude or you can stay in here the rest of the day.” Not a huge threat since it was 4pm but she continued to glare.
“Ok, no Bob.”
“Then change your behavior. Come out when you decide you can be kind.”
This all sounds reasonable but I can assure you my tone was anything but kind or reasonable. I was furious at myself for spoiling her, for choosing to stay at home with my kids without understanding what it meant, for my childhood that still haunts me at my low moments, and for not being a better parent that can rise above feeling ill. The relentless feelings of isolation, unappreciation, judgement, inadequacy, and exhaustion plagued me again. Why was nothing I did enough? How could she say such things?
We want our children to stand up for themselves but not upon our necks. I see other parents trying to outdo themselves to give their children every thing and opportunity they desire only to create entitled tyrants that demand more. Was I one of them? Have I given in too many times?
Just then I heard the baby gate open and shut as she came from their bedroom. I was holding Owen on my lap as he drank from a baby bottle because I had given in to his tantrum. I held a pint in the other hand because I had given in to mine.
“Mama, I’m sorry for my tantrum… I love you.”
“I love you too, honey, thank you.”
We shared a nice long hug. I waited for her to pull away and she giggled as she wiggled out of my arms.
“Can I watch Bob now?”
Empowered? Yes. Entitled? Over my saggy corpse.