For about a week now the girls have been getting roughly an hour less sleep per night than they should. Plus a cold’s been lingering around. Everyone’s a bit irritable. Today I took the girls out all day. Shopping. It wasn’t a fun day, but things went remarkably well, until…
We were at Micheal’s getting some cake decorating supplies when we passed a display with overpriced books. Ella wanted one. I pointed out that she already had the books on the shelf she was looking at, but offered her a different book instead. She got angry. I explained that she could either get the book I offered or she could leave without any books. She got angrier and demanded both books. I said no.
She screamed louder.
People checked to make sure she was okay.
I hugged her as she screamed, she gratefully accepted. However, the screams didn’t stop and neither did her demands. As we left the store (with her under my arm), she tried to hold onto shelves, carts, anything she could reach. When we got outside I tried talking to her again, but she tried to run back into the store. So I picked her up and carried her to the van. Up until this point I was calm, I was reassuring her as we went. Though I didn’t bring her tiredness to my attention, which I should have.
As I put her in the van she screamed that she didn’t want to be in the van, she didn’t want to come with me. I opened the door and told her she could leave if she wanted. She stayed in the van, but screamed as I buckled her up.
When we got home she screamed that she wouldn’t come into the house. I brought everyone else in first, then came back out for her. I was a horrible parent and told her that if I left her in the van it would get as hot as an oven and she’d get roasted like a goose. I also told her that the police don’t let mommies leave children in vehicles, and if I did the police wouldn’t think I was a good mommy and they’d find her a new one.
Oh boy. Angry or not, frustrated or not, it doesn’t matter. There are so many better ways I could have handled the situation.
As it was she took it well. Said she wanted to stay in the van so she could get a different mommy. She just wanted to be alone. I heaved a sigh of relief and told her she could have alone time in the house. She crumpled and let me pick her up to carry her to the house. Once inside she took off to her room where she ranted and raved about me and the situation for about fifteen minutes. I then knocked on the door and said I’d like to give her a hug.
At first she didn’t want me there, but I told her I loved her and explained to her how I was feeling and what I thought about what happened in the store. We realized we’d had a misunderstanding and she asked if we could try going back to the store again a different day. I said “sure.” She then told me she was tired and wanted to go to sleep. So I helped get her tucked in and settled her toys just the way she wanted them. She was asleep by quarter after five.
I feel drained after that episode. And very much like a failure. Over all things could have been worse, but I crossed the line. Our relationship broke a little bit. I tried to scare her, to manipulate her into doing what I wanted her to do. I could have remained calm and found a better solution to MY problem. Instead I hurt her emotionally.
Yes, I apologized. We kissed and made up. But what about next time, or the time after that? How many times can a parent apologize to repair damage done? When is it no longer an apology, but part of the cycle of abuse?