I don’t want to hit the post button. This does not show me in a good light, and it hurts, but sometimes the discussions about the ugly things have to happen.
This morning Miles upended half a gallon of milk on the floor. You’re not supposed cry over spilled milk, but you can apparently lose your mind like a lunatic. Lest you think I’m being dramatic, no. My response was to tell him to go to his bedroom because I didn’t even want to look at him — I really wanted to spank him, but at least had enough reason to tell myself No — and then to post on Facebook about how I was going to throw him out into the wild.
What you’re witnessing here is clearly good parenting.
Thing is, it was an accident and I knew it. I know he was upset, and I know that I only made things worse by carrying him off to his room like a prisoner. I can tell you exactly how it happened in his brain, even. He wanted a glass of milk. The cup was already on the table. He’s fairly independent, and had all the tools necessary to get some milk. He goes into the fridge to get his own food all the time. This isn’t a new development. Then, gravity overtook his ability to control the jug of milk, and there we go. An entire half-gallon of milk on the floor.
I lost my temper. I am ill-tempered. And on the Facebook post my friends have largely responded in the jest that this sort of post usually is, but I was legitimately angry with him. I shouldn’t have been. I could have scolded him, yes, and explained to him why what he did turned out to be a bad thing — but to get angry? Hello, wrong response. Andy got home from his walk after I was ordering Miles to get back into his room; thankfully he took over the role of reasonable parent. Meanwhile, I fumed and posted about pulling a Sparta on my three-year-old. I refused to talk to or touch him. I left the apartment to run an errand without telling him goodbye.
Okay, we all hate me as much as I hate me now, so I’ll get my point: I was — and am — more mad at my inability to be a reliable, reasonable parent than I was at the action of spilling the milk.
The spark of anger was that yes, I just bought that half-gallon of milk yesterday. It was the only milk in the house. But what should have died there sort of exploded.
I was right there; our apartment isn’t all that huge and I was literally about 10 feet away from where he was pouring the milk. By the time I heard the noise, I was peering over the edge of the couch to see the last of it go over the edge of the honey pot. (It was a very small little honey pot that we’d recently cleaned.) Why didn’t I ask what was going on when he went in the fridge? Why didn’t he ask for help? What was I doing that was so important, that I couldn’t pay attention?
I love that Miles wanted to do something on his own, and instead of turning it into a learning experience I taught him that his mother is dangerously goddamned unhinged. Maybe he’ll remember it next time he wants to do something, maybe he won’t. Maybe it’s going to affect how he chooses to express his independence in the future. Or the thought I find more haunting these days: what if his first memory of me is me saying, “Are you fucking serious? I don’t even want to look at you!” (And yes, it is extremely painful to write that sentence — because no one wants to admit that in a fit of temper they actually said are you fucking serious to their toddler. Because no one, especially not me, wants people who sometimes think of her as a good parent to know that no, she’s actually not.)
If there’s a silver-lining to this disgusting event at all, it’s that I realized what’s actually going on inside my head when attempts to discipline Miles fail. He doesn’t listen. He laughs when I tell him “No,” or he just doesn’t stop a behavior that’s hurting or damaging something. It pisses me off, yes, but what really gets me is that I’m failing, that I don’t know the right combination of words or tools to make him understand why his behavior is bad. I don’t understand what to do after trying everything I know — from timeouts to gently explaining why that hurts/is naughty to yelling — and I get mad. I get mad at the situation, and I get mad at me, and I get mad at the toddler even though he really carries the least fault in the situation. He’s a child. He’s supposed to be a pain in my ass, and I’m supposed to be able to help him become a reasonable person.
How the fuck am I supposed to craft a reasonable person when I’m not even one myself?