Sometimes I'm a Bully

Sometimes I'm a bully, no better than my three year old. What I say I want to teach my children and what I actually teach them by example are often two very different things.

The scene before church in Sunday morning was just such a battle zone. And both sides lost.

It started when I walked into the bedroom five minutes before we had to leave thinking that my husband was getting my son dressed and ready. What I found was my son still wearing his pajama top, pant-less and crying. I could practically see the steam coming out of my husbands ears. He was clearly frustrated. They had been in here for at least ten minutes with no progress.

My son sobbed, "I wanted mommy to take off my jammies!"

I reached for a clean pear of pants and said, "I'm here now Thad I can get you dressed." But he started to fight. He refused to put his pants on, continuing to say that he wanted me to take off the pajama bottoms that were already on the floor next to him. He clutched his jammies in his hands trying to put them back on.

I could hear Sage crying in the other room. I had left her intending to just grab clothes from the bedroom and head back out. I could feel the tick of the clock as time past. We were going to be late. Again.

Frustrated and irritated, but knowing that it would be quicker if I just let him put his jammies back on and take them off again I consented. Throwing the pajama bottoms half on and immediately taking them off. This calmed him a little, until I started to put his pants on.

"NO!" He sobbed even louder. "I have to pee." He pushed and shoved and tried to take the pants off again. My frustration was mounting more. In my best attempt at control I said, "Thaddeus we are running late, Sage needs me. We are going to get dressed first and then you can go potty." A full blown crying tantrum followed. I tried to take his pajama shirt off so I could put on the clean orange one I'd picked for him. He kicked and squirmed. "Argh! Fine!" My voice was starting to rise.

My husband and I both wrestled Thad into the bathroom, but because we didn't want to spend more time on him getting dressed we wouldn't let him take his pants all the way off, something he protested with more crying.

After he was finished I pulled off his shirt and threw the clean one over his head. "Put your arms in the sleeves!" I barked. He refused.

By this time we were all feeling frustrated. I felt powerless having given in to Thad's crying and protesting twice now. I felt out of control and un-listened to. Disrespected and disobeyed. I was angry. Am I the mom or not? Aren't I in charge? What about obedience?

Thaddeus on the other hand also felt frustrated and, though I didn't realize it until later, his tears were tears of violation.

He protested more and in anger Bryan shoved his arms through the holes of the shirt. Thad instantly protested that he wanted me to put his shirt on and began trying to pull his arms up out of the shirt.

At this point I lost it. I picked him up, yelling for him to keep his shirt on. Big mommy fail.

I have a lot of ideals about how I want to parent my children. I want to parent them gently from a place of respect and understanding, but Thaddeus's unique temperament has often pushed the limits of that for me.

I often think through how I should respond in certain situations with my children. But lately, more often then I'd like to admit, the reality looks more like the scene above then my ideal. Quick, uncontrolled responses out of frustration more than centered, grounded, thought-though decisions.

Sunday morning was particularly hard for me though. I've been thinking a lot lately about respect and how to instill respect for others into my child. As I've thought about this I've realized that one of the best ways I can teach my children respect is by modeling it - by respecting them.

As I begin to send my son out into the world more I have also been thinking a lot about how I want him to view his body. I want him to understand that his body is his own and that others shouldn't force their will on his body.

And then I go and do something like this morning.

I show no respect to his desire to control who helps him dress, what order he dresses in, and whether or not he wears pants while peeing. I allow him little to no autonomy over his own body and force my own will upon him - by physical force and verbal yelling.

Fail. Big time.

I want my son's no to mean something to me, so that other's no's will mean something to him. I want to listen to it, so that he will listen when others say no. I want to model for him respect about his body so that he will know what it looks like to respect others bodies. These are my ideals.

But somehow I forget all that when I'm pressed for time, when I feel disrespected and pushed, when I feel un-listened to. Instead of responding like the older, wiser, adult, instead of responding with respect, I respond just like my three year old.

Oh, I have a long way to go!

Side note: I do realize that I can't allow my son's no to always have the final say. I realize that while I desire to teach respect and bodily autonomy I also need to teach some level of obedience to authority.

Just as there are times when Thaddeus's desires and his no's need to mean something to me there are also times when my desires and no's need to mean something to him. There is a balance.

I am realizing though that my child is not just an extension of me that I need to control, when I think that way I begin to become more like a bully than a parent. He is his own unique person and try as I might I can not control him.

What I can do is control myself and change my own reactions to him. That's where I need to focus. That's where I have been failing lately.

Rejoicing in the journey, Bethany

parentingBethany Stedman