Friday, April 24, 2009

Power struggle

I just got home from the grocery store. We went to meet Andrew on base and went to the commissary - shopping with him is so much easier than doing it alone with the kids. I had a short list of things for dinner this week, as we are going out of town for Kim's wedding. We got everything we needed and proceeded to the checkout. Eva played with the car shopping carts (you know the ones with the giant cars on the front that are a cute idea but totally impossible to steer) while we scanned the food at self-checkout. I let Andrew fish her out of the cars and started to the parking lot with Leighton.

Andrew came out and set Eva down so she could walk across the street to the parking lot by herself. There was a car waiting, and she was taking her sweet time to cross the road, not allowing us to hold her hand or pick her up without screaming. Despite our urgent calls of "Eva, hurry up!" and "Eva, come on! The car is waiting!" she continued her snail's pace across the road. I bent down after she had made it across and said, "Eva, look! The car was waiting for you. You don't stand in the middle of the road. You have to hurry." Then she turned around and started to walk right back in the road - JUST TO SPITE ME. Hello? Are you 16 yet? NO! Then stop acting like it! She was so defiant, it made my blood boil. I ran and grabbed her (less than gently) and carried her kicking and screaming to the car, scolding her for being disobedient. I wrestled her and forced her into her carseat, yelling at her to hold still while shoving all my weight against her legs to get her in the buckles.

And then these two words came into my head: POWER STRUGGLE. Those dreaded words. That situation I had spent my entire teenagehood in against my parents - the struggle for absolute control. I swore, after my many parenting classes in college, that I would NEVER do that. I would never get locked in a battle against my child that neither of us could win. And there I was - with a 2-year old, fighting with her like I did with my own parents. Except this time, I was the one yelling things like, "Don't you dare disobey me! You do what I say!" and other embarassing, useless phrases. I was the one pulling the "I am your mother, hear me roar" card on my daughter.

I felt overwhelmed with shame as we drove home. How could I have let myself get so angry - over something so trivial? Why was I acting so demanding and tyrannical? I said a silent prayer asking for forgiveness for acting in such a horrible way to the little girl I love most in the world. Then I told Eva I was sorry and asked her to forgive me. She said, "Yes, Mama. Sorry, Mama." It broke my heart. She had already forgotten about what happened and was involved in watching her Barbie movie - but I will never forget. I will never forget how quick I was to lose my patience. I will never forget how ridiculous I felt directing so much frustration at someone so compeltely innocent. I will never forget the instant shame I felt after the battle was over and I had "won" by getting her in her carseat.

In hindsight, I should have gently picked her up from the road, set her down, and quietly explained why she shouldn't walk in the road. Although she was testing her limits, I went WAY beyond the appropirate boundaries of good discipline. I'm glad she won't remember this incident, even if she will read about it. And I hope we don't have any more times when I treat my sweet little girl like in such a monstrous way. I'm so ashamed.
I'm so, so sorry, Eva. I will never treat you like that again. I will always try to treat you with respect and love, as long as you live. I love you, my Missy Moo.


Lacking Productivity said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lacking Productivity said...

The deleted comment is spelling...embarrassing!

Sure, you could have done better and the situation would have never erupted, but you are human and all of us (myself more than most) mess up or act before thinking, but you taught your daughter a powerful lesson: nobody should be too proud to say sorry, ever, even mom. That is an example that few kids get.

Charity said...

Oh Steph,
Welcome to my world. I hope you do better than I though. I used to think I was a pretty good mom, but only of a baby because once he started to "disobey" and do things just to "spite" me ohhh I realized I don't have as much patience as I thought. Ahhh Not fun- I'm better than I was but need LOTS of improvement.

Chanel said...

Don't feel to bad. Unfortunately kids have to learn who is the parent and respect for authority, or they will walk all over everyone. I have witnessed it too many times in the school, and at home. There are always better ways we could have dealt with the situation, but it is a learning curve for both of you. Deep down they know that you do things to protect them and love them. It is just a matter of deciding what battles are worth it and what lessons they need to be taught in the battles you choose.