**Written a few days ago . . .
In the space of 5 minutes today, I went from totally fine to totally blowing up on my kids.
Like screaming, pounding the steering wheel, hoarse voice, tears.
I’ve told them (and told them and told them) to stop arguing in the car.
Today it was about, as best I can tell, whether or not one of them had only touched a dog’s wet belly or the dog’s wet belly and back.
I mean – really important stuff, right? Like, practically rocket science!
I told them to stop.
They kept going. One insisting she knew which part of the dog she touched. One insisting she knew which part of the dog she saw her touch.
I told them to STOP. RIGHT NOW.
One of them kept going.
We got to a stop sign. I turned to her and said, “Don’t open your mouth AGAIN!”
She said, “I just need to say one more thing.”
I said, “Is it about how right you are?”
She said, “No! I promise.”
I let her say it (I SHOULDN’T have).
She turned to her sister and said, “I KNOW you touched the dog’s back. But I KNOW it was wet too. It was raining that day. See? That’s how I know the back and belly were wet.”
She sat back, satisfied with her logic.
Which was essentially telling her sister how right she was.
They went back at it.
I turned onto the side street of our piano teacher.
And lost it.
Screaming, cursing, pounding the steering wheel.
Truthfully, I was so pissed off I don’t know what I even said. But I know it lasted the entire 4 blocks to the piano teacher’s house.
We parked the car.
And I slumped. Started crying behind my sunglasses.
Turned to them and said, “Is this what you want? You want to push it so hard that I lose complete control like this? Is this your goal – that we all feel like shit now?”
Yes, I said shit.
One of them put her arms around me and said, “Mom I’m so sorry. We should not have been arguing like that. I’m really, really sorry.”
And then I felt worse and started crying harder.
Because I was mortified that my reaction caused such an empathetic reaction from one of my kids.
But I was still pissed too. Because the other one? Didn’t say a word. Didn’t apologize for the behavior.
She never does. She never sees the connection between her actions and my reaction. If anything, a blow up like that will make her say to herself, “I’m a bad person,” instead of, “What can I do to keep that from happening again?”
Because one of them seems to be able to learn from her mistakes, while the other one doesn’t. The one who doesn’t adds what she “learns” from her mistakes to her list of why she doesn’t measure up. It’s her perfectionism.
And then I felt even worse.
About so many things.
Why my kids push me to the brink in the car like that. Why I let them.
Why they never stop the first time (or third) I ask them to. How this must be a parenting fail of mine.
Why I let myself lose control so badly in such a short amount of time. Even if I recognize this means I wasn’t “fine” like I originally thought.
How I’m so sad my Dad’s gone. But how I’m now starting to feel like enough time has passed he’s becoming an off-limit topic unless it’s immediate family. And so I just think about him now and that kind of shit builds up in you.
So I had to send them into their piano lesson by themselves because by this point I’m bawling and know I can’t even put my “happy let’s learn some piano face” on. So I indulged in about a 5 minute cry and went in to join them.
And now I’m still drained and angry with myself for once again modeling loss of self-control and feeling like I can’t teach them correctly how to respect their parents and more importantly, that sometimes no matter how much you want to keep mouthing off, there comes a time with your parent when you MUST SHUT THE FUCK UP. Or else. (Side note: I did apologize to them both after the piano lesson.)
What are they doing right now as I write this? Singing and playing in the other room together as if they have nary a care in the world. Seemingly unaffected.
And I sit here wondering how to handle it the next time.
What do you do? Do you have car fights? How do you stop them? What’s the consequence? Should I pull over and get out of the car? Should I backhand them? (Only sorta kidding here – pretty sure that’s what the generation before us did – nothing like a good backhand to get some oblivious kids in gear. And I’ve thought about it. Ohhhhh have I thought about it.)
Because really. Something’s gotta give.
Post Script – I had a talk with one of them the day after this happened. I told her from now on she gets one “free one” in the car. Then, if I tell her a second time to stop talking and she says even one word after the second time, she’s in serious trouble.
She hasn’t asked yet what the serious trouble is, so at least I have some time to figure that out.