Last night was the culmination of a few very anxious days and nights. I was seeing Michael’s daytime anxiety rising as he would pick fights with me, get mildly aggressive, but then apologize and do his strategies. I knew the blow out was coming as the week was wearing out, but thought I could handle what he threw at me. Fortunately after our fight at bedtime, Dad was able to take over. And of course, exhausted, spent with emotion and stress, he fell asleep in his usual fifteen minutes. But oh, how I wished I’d listened to my inner voice and let Dad do the whole bedtime routine last night. I was tired. I’d had a long day, so was not patient for the stalling measures, the silliness and the testing.
I realized after when Dad was putting Michael to bed though, that all Michael’s behavior had been showing me was that he wanted to be heard, he wanted his fears and worries to be known. He’s aware and not too happy that we are teaching him to self-soothe away from us at night. He is bothered that each week we stay away longer. He feels out of control, and if he senses distance on my part (which is really plain out tiredness) he rebels. I know this. As the parent coach and writer, I was able to step outside of myself and see all I was doing wrong. As the parent of the child in question, I was triggered by my own tiredness and anger that bedtime always seems to be challenging.
Then of course something else hit me. I was upset at Michael for the same reason he was upset at me. I found myself thinking, “Do you hear me? Do you see me? Do you care?” In other words, do I matter to you? Consciously, I know that it is not a child’s job to nurture the parent. I don’t want or need constant reassurances of my son’s love to feel I matter. I love him in spite of all he says and does. But being a human being, I felt under appreciated as a parent last night. But he was thinking the same thing. I’m here. I’m scared. I’m hurting. Why is Mom mad? The thing is anger is caused by stress, loss of control and not feeling like you have the organization and strategies you need to cope. Both of us were at a loss for these last night, and I realized that in order to model Michael using his strategies, I needed to make sure I was using mine so neither of us felt we were shortchanging the other. I know this. But as a tired parent, you sometimes forget.
Exceptional Parents, when have your felt at wits end with your child due to them not listening or understanding you? When have they felt this with you? It’s ok to once in awhile be angry and fight. As long as you make up, learn from it, and remember to provide them with strategies to meet those needs on their own without you having to be the fall guy each time. Until next time.