Like Clockwork

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy oldest is turning seven tomorrow. And we’ve been fighting.

It happens like clockwork. Right around the year or half year mark, he gets itchy. And mouthy. Testing limits, pressing hard.

And I yell. And fret. And wonder if I’m raising a jerk.

It’s miserable.

I worry, sometimes, that our decision to move to Spain has robbed my children of a normal, American childhood. They stay up late, and say phrases like, “I’m thirsty. Let’s find a bar.”

Yet, they also still have swim lessons and futbol. Owen plays tag and Joel finger-paints. We even watch Phinneus and Ferb. (In Spanish, but we capture the nuance nevertheless.)

And there are daily gifts, like walks to the beach, and trips to the kiosko. Lizards on the front porch, and besoitos from strangers.

But still, we’ve been fighting. I want to cry. Sometimes, I do.

Dr Laura Markham discusses mindfulness in her book Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids. Her basic premise is we adults need to work on the triggers that keep us from being at peace. That when we lose our cool, it comes from something inside.

Like today. I had to get a receipt for my youngest’s glasses. We bought them here in town. My landlady helped me work through the process–twice–, and I was loathe to call her a third time.

There’s a part of me that worries that their limitless goodwill will cease. I mean, we’re very annoying. And helpless.

So, I went to the office all by myself, and thought I had done the right thing. The optician immediately called my landlady after I left (they’re cousins) and she ended up having to send me numerous texts.

Sigh. So much for leaving her alone.

Feeling yucky and dumb and worried about driving my only Spanish friend to drink (because, you know, drinking is rare for the Spanish), I yelled at Owen for doing something annoying.

And yes, he needs to work on his regulation. But he’s seven.

I’m almost thirty-eight.

As I write this, it’s easy to connect the dots. I’m stressed, and I am distracted, and I don’t have patience to deal with my children’s normal, run-of-the-mill nonsense.

I’m not raising jerks. But that doesn’t mean I get a free pass.

I posted on Facebook that I was giving up control for Lent. People thought it was funny, but I meant it in full sincerity.

I long to give up micro-managing, and nitpicking as a way to mask these realities: Sometimes, I’m lonely. Sometimes, I feel dumb. I have been hurt in the past, and don’t always believe that people really like me.

And so, that manifests itself in telling my children they chew too loudly. My fears become my armor.

And so, on the eve of my son’s 7th birthday, I offer him this gift: I’m going be a better person for you. Because you deserve it. 

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2 thoughts on “Like Clockwork

  1. Oh Nancy. This is heartbreaking and lovely all at once.

    AND SO TRUE.

    I get this way with Eddie. A LOT. maybe it’s a firstborn thing? I don’t know. But as he approaches four, we have been fighting.

    I wish you luck as you relinquish control. I want to learn to do this too.

  2. “That when we lose our cool, it comes from something inside.”

    I got pissed off this morning and chucked a plastic pitcher across the room. Yes, Felix was being a horrid little monster, but there was a deeper, uglier truth behind my action and I knew it. I hate that you doubt your strength and kindness, but I understand your fears, insomuch as I can. We might not be wearing the same shoes, but both pairs pinch.

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