Last week, for the first time in our ten year marriage, I stormed out without letting Dave know where I was going.
It had been an emotional day, filled with misunderstandings and disappointments arising completely out of left field, though Sundays generally tend to be tough on our family, with all the tasks and to do lists that attach themselves to the running of a lunch gathering. I’d left Belgrave Heights early to get the kids to bed, though I’d dawdled due to the ‘rediscovery of toys and playing nicely’ phase that seems to coincide with returning to the house. By the time Dave arrived home, I’d only just put Ivy and Hudson to bed, and was about to send Eli to rest time.
To be honest, I don’t even remember why it was such a big deal but the way it played out, I felt like Dave’s strategy of attempting to make a deal with Eli completely undermined my arrangement with him that was already in place, and it just didn’t end well. I leaned into the ‘bad cop’ persona as the warm and fuzzy option had already been taken, and Eli didn’t want a bar of it. I felt redundant, betrayed, frustrated and helpless. So I grabbed my keys and journal and just left.
I’m really good at withdrawing into a sullen zone if I’m struggling to classify my reactions, but this was a new level of running away. In one way it kinda felt empowering as it was so completely out of character to do something so dramatic, but I did feel a little childish and guilty.
After an hour or so of journalling and pouring out all the hurt and frustration to a close friend, I felt ready to face the world of parenting again. Dave was pretty magnanimous about it all, texting me to spend more time away if I needed to, or to head out to Savers if I wanted. I sure wouldn’t have been as generous if the roles were reversed… Later he admitted he was secretly impressed (in part) at my theatrical exit as it was somewhat unexpected.
It has been a whirlwind of sickness, paperwork, kinder information nights, school tours, paperwork, hospitality, health appointments and paperwork since we have been back. After the initial sickness died down, I did feel that we’ve hit a sort of equilibrium with the kids that seems like either the calm before a storm, or a new phase of developmental clarity in which each are moving forward and complementing each others’ stage of being.
Eli has well and truly progressed to the insult phase now which was not entirely unexpected, but being called a ‘mean mummy’ every time something doesn’t go his way is not super fun. Mostly I try and let it roll over me, but he has received a few lectures about how I’m actually a good mum who cares about how he turns out, but I suspect that not much is being retained if the steely eyed glare I receive in response is anything to go by.
The battle I do find more difficult is the ‘I want DADDY to put me to bed’ one, where either child can throw an epic tantrum if they find out it is Mummy’s turn to go through the routine. Not so great for the self-esteem. I usually start off trying to see the humour in it, but after about five minutes of wailing I just get pissed off! Dave chides me for taking it personally, but it does hit hard, after we’ve usually spent a day filled with fun, craft, cooking and outside games together, suddenly I become the lousy second choice. I don’t want to brush if off and pretend it doesn’t hurt, but I don’t want to be the dramatic wounded soul either. Still working on how to balance that one!
On a more positive note, I’ve been reading a book that keeps popping up in blog posts and books I’ve been reading: ‘How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk‘ by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Already, I’ve been practicing the lessons from the first chapter with good results. The main gist so far is that instead of denying the feelings that the child is presenting (anger, frustration, jealousy, hunger etc), you simply state what you think they are experiencing. I have noticed that I do a lot of the practices the book says to avoid, like lecturing them, giving advice, dismissing their feelings, trying to rationalise the situation, when really at the heart of it we all just need some empathy. It has defused a number of situations so far, though not so easy when I’M the one feeling angry or frustrated, usually at being completely ignored in my ‘nice voice’ the first five times I’ve said something…. Hmmm, maybe the next chapters will deal with that problem!
On the whole though, life is good. Despite the battles and misunderstandings, we have so much to be thankful for and excited about. We had a buzzing neighbourhood barbeque today and the turn out was so great, with face painting, live gypsy folk music by the Scrimshaw Four and loads of amazing meats and salads. I’m also very inspired to start a Cookbook Club based on this article I came across recently. So many things to learn, try, experience and savour…