The hardest thing about parenthood, to me, is not knowing. I know he’s mad at me when he gets out of the car at school and takes off without a word. I also know why he’s mad at me. What I don’t know is whether some part of him recognizes the truth of what I said. Or is there only room in his brain for his own self-righteous anger?
I know the horrid things I thought about my parents…and siblings…when I was his age. Actually, with me it hit a little older, but this angst is all familiar.
I feel so often like I’m caught in between. Forced to choose sides, knowing it will, at least temporarily, damage my relationship with the one who comes out on the down side. Forced to arbitrate between (and sometimes among) small people with practically zero self-awareness and an equivalent ability to admit wrongdoing. It takes practice at humility to learn to say “I’m sorry;” most adults can’t even do it. I thought making it part of conflict resolution in small childhood would lay down good neural pathways, but as they get older it doesn’t seem to be helping.
It’s about humming. And Xbox. And who’s packed their lunch. Or done their bathroom chore. And whose turn it is in the front seat. All these completely irrelevant things. Such nastiness toward each other. Such a lack of tolerance. Sharing, oh, the battles. We have one TV, one Xbox, and a limited amount of time. And if one person is using it, the others are getting extra screen time, or else we’re having battles to tell them to go do something else. And no matter how I try to handle it—and I’m always trying to figure out how to be fair—I’m always wrong. Not in the eyes of one of my children. In everyone’s.
I remember someone once saying that if you got Toy X for one child, you had to buy a duplicate for the other one so they wouldn’t fight over it. We had such a knee-jerk reaction to that, but I’ve always understood the temptation, and never more than now.
I have to believe that in the long run, the battles I am fighting will turn out to have been worth fighting. But it’s so hard when everything is a battle.
Welcome to the teenage years. (which can begin anywhere from 13 down to 9 yrs old as far as I’m concerned!) It will get easier -but it can be rough. I am always wrong according to at least one of my kids every day. When you get down on yourself for their issues, remember you are the parent and you can provide guidelines, enforce rules, and offer opportunities, but you cannot make every body happy all the time.* Your kids have their own relationships with each other to work out, and usually you will not be in control of that.
So stick to the rules you and your husband have decided that works best for the interactions in your family, set appropriate consequences, and then stand back. You calmly enforce consequences and ignore the drama. Discuss good/bad choices and interactions LATER, when things are calm. (even if disgruntled, displeased, or martyred are the overall attitudes of the kids).
And do have an alternative space for kids to sit rather than hanging over sibling’s shoulder while they play on screen. (This is why I prefer hand held devices – they’re easier to put away if kids haven’t earned them and someone can go hide away with it if others can’t have the privilege.)
*My prescription for marriage too, come to think of it.