It was a typical day at the grocery store.
I was calmly and determinedly working through my shopping list one item at a time as quickly as possible. The sooner I could get us through the store and back out to the car the better. If we could make it through the shopping trip without any full out, flat-on-the-floor, screaming bloody murder tantrums I’d be pleased! I had my game face on and I was ready.
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the little hand reaching for a can of prunes, of all things. Nobody in our house ate prunes! I kept my voice cheerful and firm as I asked him to replace the can on the shelf. He gave a little shriek and made a pinching motion at me in the air with his thumb and index finger, the can still tightly in his grasp. I repeated my instruction, adding “gentle hands” into the equation and averted my eyes, hoping the break in eye contact would lessen the intensity and convince him this battle wasn’t worth the fight. But when I looked back he was reaching for two more cans. Clearly we weren’t avoiding this one. When I firmly repeated my denial and instruction to replace the cans his eyes darkened and I knew it was coming seconds before his body hit the floor and his scream split the air. The cans were sent skittering and rolling down the isle. A kindly gentleman stopped to stare disapprovingly as I grabbed my purse and hauled my kicking, screaming, sobbing child off the dirty floor.
My child and the cheerful, unfazed grocery store cashiers knew the drill as I left my half filled cart and headed for the exit, a ball of wiry little boy flailing in my arms. If I was lucky one of the cashiers would be kind enough to set my cart aside near the front. If not I’d hunt it down where I left it and hope nobody had taken it and emptied it, in which case I would have to start all over. Hopefully I would only need to exit once today!
What was I going to do?
I held my breath as I picked up the phone.
It was the school.
My heart sank as I heard the principal’s voice. I kept my voice light and tried to calm the anxiety rising in me as I returned her friendly greeting.
“So we’ve had a bit of a rough day and I thought you should know about it.”
From there she launched into a detailed account of my child’s behavior that day. Aggression and defiance had been the norm for her interactions with both teachers and peers. This was typical, but the words that pounded my brain and jolted my composure were the specific instances she shared in which my child had hit, kicked, swore at, threatened, stole from and spit at her peers and classroom teacher. The principal calmly and gently reminded me those behaviors would typically be met with a one day suspension from school.
I promised that I would deal with the situation and hung up the phone, my eyes closing in despair.
What was I going to do?
Some of you know what I am talking about.
Some of you know what it feels like to have your child be that child.
The child that needs constant reminders to use gentle hands and stop interrupting.
The child that needs careful supervision every second at the playground.
The child that will cause you to carefully avoid the eyes of certain parents and teachers because of the things they’ve done or said.
The child that will make family gatherings stressful and Christmas morning unpredictable.
The child that will be at the root of every squabble that arises among children.
The child that will come home with others’ belongings tucked in their backpack pockets day after day after day.
“She gave it to me!”
The child that will lie with ease and spin tales like silk on a spider’s web.
The child that will cause anxiety to press in your chest when he’s out of your sight.
The child that will make simple things like grocery shopping an exercise of humility, patience and self control.
The child that will shut down at social functions after a certain amount of time and follow you around, eyes glazed over and begging to go home.
The child that will receive sharp reprimands from frustrated adults and whining complaints from other children.
She pushed me.
He took my ___________.
She scribbled on my paper.
He bit me!
So what do you do?
What do you do when you’re the mom and your child continually acts out in all kinds of horrible ways because of anxiety, stress, fear, insecurity and brain trauma? What do you do when other parents look at you with frustration in their eyes or when teachers list the day’s events and then pause, waiting for your answer? What do you do when social functions become stressful events that leave you feeling lonely and tired from trying to prevent your child’s impulsive behaviors? What do you do when strangers mutter disapproving comments just within hearing? What do you do?
I think this is where I’m supposed to give you the answers to those questions.
But the truth is…I don’t have them!
I really don’t know how to handle this sometimes.
I know that it’s important you remember the why’s.
Like why is my child behaving in this way?
Why is he or she reacting to this situation in this particular manner?
Why am I feeling threatened by this situation?
But there really is no easy way to deal with all these feelings and emotions.
It gets better in time.
Practice makes perfect…which is not what you want to hear if you’re that parent.
Let go of the idea that your family should look or act a certain way. You’re bound to be disappointed and disillusioned.
Let others in.
Share the hurt, the struggle, the disappointment, the flaws…without sharing too much of your child’s personal issues.
Be kind. Always.
Pray for humility and compassion.
And know that you are not alone.
Many others have been there and once you start looking you will find them.
Offer a smile to that woman in the grocery store checkout with a screaming three year old thrashing on the floor.
When your child comes home with a horror story of what some other child in their class did that day, offer up a quick prayer for the parent and next time you see them on the playground make sure you smile and meet their eyes. They are most likely fighting battles you can’t imagine and feeling very alone.
Believe the best about those around you and teach your children to do the same.
Sometimes life just hurts and God knows we’ve all made some pretty big mistakes.