the unforgiveable curse
The Bee and I had a difficult day on the Fourth of July. It was kind of overcast and cold, which squashed our plan to spend the day at the pool. The kids were whiny and spent most of the morning squabbling with each other. In the afternoon, she said something really mean to me, and I just snapped. I went up and hid in my room, reading a book, for about an hour, and left landisdad to deal with the kids.
One of the things I struggle with most as a parent is how to teach my children to fight with the people that they love, without hurting them irrevocably. It’s a lesson I’ve never learned that well, and therefore I am neither the teacher nor the example to my children that I want to be. I remember once, when I was an adolescent, that my mother told me, “you fight just like your father,” when she and I were fighting about something, and the reality is that I have never learned to argue like a civilized person.
When the Bee was mean to me, I wanted to lash out at her, and tell her that I hated her, or to just storm out of the house and not come back until after dark. I don’t hate her, of course, but there is a part of me that just wants to win in a kind of one-upmanship (one-upgirlship?) kind of way. That is the terrible curse that’s been handed down from my father, and my father’s father, the curse of thinking that ‘winning’ is more important than protecting the person you love from being permanently damaged. I can’t imagine what lesson the Bee would learn, if I ran away from home in the middle of a fight, but I know I don’t want her learning it.
There are times, of course, when I can have a normal argument with the kids, or my husband, or just about anyone. Times when I’m well-rested, and haven’t spent several hours listening to the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard, when I’ve had an hour to myself to read the paper or talk to a friend on the phone. But “most of the time” isn’t good enough, I’m afraid.
The thing I struggle hardest with, is how to teach my children the delicate balance of how far is too far to go in an argument. I don’t want them afraid of the thing I am most afraid of–that they will end up in an estranged relationship, like the one that I’m in with my father–I don’t want them to ever think it is even a possibility. But how can I teach them that it’s not a possibility for us, when they can see it’s a possibility for me?
Recently, the Potato has started to tell me, “I am not your Potato anymore!” when he’s angry. Unfortunately for him, he pronounces the word “Potato” as “Pee-tay-toe,” so it sounds pretty adorable. (And yes, the Potato does in fact refer to himself as the Potato.) It’s a good thing he sounds so cute when he’s saying it, otherwise it would practically kill me.