Tonight I was trying to get the kids to bed a little early because the boy child had us up at 5:30 this morning with an upset stomach and ended up staying home from school. He threw up once around noon, then felt much better. But still, a little extra rest seemed a good idea. So I got baths done fast, he was helpful as far as getting himself dried off, changed into pajamas, and teeth brushed. He's 6.5, he's coming along with the self-care. Yay, boy child! I read them The Velvetten Rabbit, then told him to be in his bed with his head on his pillow by the time I was done tucking in his little sister. This is our routine. He knows he has about a minute.
I got to his room and he was out of bed nuzzling the dog instead. Okay, I said, get into bed. But I want a hug and a kiss, he said. You weren't in bed like you were supposed to be, said I.
After which followed the most god-awful fit he's thrown in a long, long time. He screamed that it wasn't fair, yelled at me trying to negotiate, that it was just this one time. He even offered to pay me to give him his hug and kiss goodnight. That really floored me. I told him it wasn't fair for him to expect to get what he wants when he doesn't do his part and do what he's supposed to. I told him that I loved him very much, and because I loved him I wanted him to learn that his choices had consequences (something we're working on). I walked away to do the dishes while the crying and arguing continued. After ten minutes of loud carrying on I yelled from the kitchen that was ENOUGH. He had really worked himself up into a lather. At one point I was concerned he was going to throw up again and had to take him to the toilet in case. I had to tell him to breathe, to settle himself down. It was awful.
Part of me is observing, saying "Egads, woman, are you really taking a stand over this?" And then the other part of me is saying, he chose to do something other than what he was supposed to do, and there's a consequence. And better he learn that now, over the relatively small matter of getting his hug and kiss at bedtime, than later over the larger matter of, say, getting into the car of a friend who's been drinking.
But CHEESE AND SPRINKLES what a FIT! He hasn't had one of those in a very, very long time. It's been a couple of hours now, and I've mostly recovered, but it was bad. When he was finally calm and settled, I did walk in and asked him what he learned tonight, and he gave all the right answers, including about how wrong throwing that kind of a fit was (the epic fit lost him a favorite video game for a week). Then I gave him a brief hug and kiss and told him to go to bed. I hope that wasn't wrong. It felt like it would be okay then. I just couldn't do it while the fit was raging and inadvertently reward his out of control reaction.
I don't know if I'm drawing the line in the right place at the right time for the right "size" infraction. I picture the boy child twenty years from now in a support group for survivors of childhood trauma saying, my mom didn't give me a hug and a kiss at night if I wasn't in bed with my head on the pillow. Then I think, if that's the worst he could come up with at a meeting like that, then we're doing okay.
Deep breath. This pareting thing is so hard. It kicks my ass every day and then serves it back to me with a sassy gleam in its eye, reminding me how little I know, how inadequate I am for this job, that I volunteered for this, that I will keep showing up every moment no matter what because I love those kids more than heaven, more than my body can contain, more than I can hold without cracking sometimes. And because I never understood how my parents loved me until I became a parent, I also know that they won't understand how much they are loved either, until they step onto this path themselves one day.