It’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving. As always, we have lots to be thankful for and enjoyed, however this was not our favorite year due to the stomach bug. It took down the whole house except for me- I’ve been the nursemaid.
Add up the tummy troubles, the lack of sleep, and the general holiday fervor, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a big, fat, fight. As I place the lunch in front her, the five-year old’s face turns dark and stormy, as she peruses what I’ve made. Here we go, folks.
It escalates quickly. There’s crying, screaming, general misery. I want to lash out, too, but I don’t. I stay firm in my resolve, I don’t raise my voice, I am steadfast in my position. She’s clearly tired, she’s doing a pretty good job with her words, but the line is drawn when she angrily elbows her brother as he comes near.
The shrieking child is deposited in her room, directed to kick and punch her pillow if necessary, until she’s ready to have a conversation. The door is shut, and I rejoin the baby as he is now upset, too. We snuggle on the floor while the tornado ensues overhead. Eventually, the tempest recedes, and I’m grateful. It’s time for the baby’s nap, and they share a room. I put him to bed, wordlessly passing by the still-angry and very boogery little girl on the stairs. While handing her a box of tissues, I debate internally with how to move forward. My first instinct is to have her apologize, but for what? She was loud, angry and upset. Aside from the wayward elbow, she didn’t do anything wrong. Truth be told, she did a pretty good job attempting to negotiate with a shaking voice. She tried every angle, she expressed how she felt- just because I didn’t agree didn’t make the argument something she had to apologize for.
I offer a bowl of yogurt. She accepts, and promptly inhales it. By now, I’m on the couch reading. As she comes into the living room, I open my arms, and she climbs into my lap. “I still love you when you’re mad at me,” I tell her. “I know,” she responds. I’m still biting my tongue about the “I’m sorry” part, and I’m not entirely confident in my choice to skip it, but I keep going. “It’s ok to be angry, as long as you’re not hurtful. Thank you for using your words with me,” I say. “Thank you momma, I love you,” she replies as she lays down across from me. My inner voice is yelling inside my head, “Let it go! Let it go!”- I get a blanket and tuck her in.
Within minutes, she’s asleep. As I recount the episode in my head, I’m finally comfortable with my choice to skip the apology. She was expressing her feelings, there’s no apology to be had for that. It might’ve gotten sticky and ugly and uncomfortable, but so what? If she can’t safely have a freak out with me, then where does she get to have one? Cuz, let’s face it- that wasn’t her first freak out, and undoubtedly not her last, so let’s establish protocol, right?
Exhausting stuff, but I’m feeling very connected to her right now. I feel like there’s a lesson in there that I’m supposed to learn, too. Not so much the freak out part, I’ve got that pretty well nailed. More the “I’m sorry” part. Did I, at some point, learn to feel shame for expressing myself? Perhaps. But quite frankly, I’m too tired to delve into that further at this time. I’m gonna snuggle up with that little girl right now, and take a holiday snooze. We’ll wait for the next fight to teach me more of that lesson. xo