I checked in with K-Pants recently, about the love thing. You might remember that last year he was feeling like there wasn’t enough love for him.
We’ve had a lot of discussions about what kinds of things feel like love, and how I can make sure to show him love in a way that soaks in. I like to be intentional and specific with K-Pants, because what seems like a few hungry hours without food to me, is scurvy to him.
With K-Pants I think, Maybe if I fill an underground well full of love, then when storms rip branches from the trees above, we’ll still have that cool, protected reservoir for our relationship to drink from.
I volunteer in his classroom. I walk him to school. Sometimes I meet him for lunch. I take him on adventures—to ride horses and climb K-Pants-sized mountains—because that’s where I shine, and that’s where he shines.
And a few weeks ago I checked in with him. I said, “K-Pants. Remember the love problem? Where you weren’t feeling enough love. How is that now?” “Good,” he said. “What about me getting mad?” I asked. “You don’t get mad anymore,” he said.
That’s not true.
I get mad on a regular basis. Some days I yell. But thinking about it, I yell less frequently and less like a wild banshee.
But then right after this, I ruined it. I’m not sure exactly what made me crack. I think it was weeks of afternoon exhaustion. Parenting K-Pants after school is a tension-filled dance.
- Me: How was school? Did you do any Pokémon trades on the bus?
- K-Pants: (aggravated) Why are you asking me that?
- Boy Woww: Did you get a new Aloha Pokémon?
- K-Pants: I’m not telling you, and you can’t see it.
- Me: I think you’re hungry. There are a bunch of snacks in the bag back there.
- K-Pants: I’m not hungry. And I don’t like these snacks.
- Boy Woww: I made an artwork at school.
- K-Pants: That’s so weird. It’s so totally weird.
- Me: Let’s ignore K-Pants. He’s grumpy.
- Boy Woww: [crying]
Even if you’re patient, watching one member of the family try to destroy the rest by sucking out the joy and the kindness leaves you ragged and overwhelmed. And you start to think maybe this kid is malicious.
I know he doesn’t want to be, but his habits are powerful, and his habits are destroying us. Really our habits—our collective interactions—are destroying us.
Later that night I screamed at him. And he said, “I HATE YOU!” And I said, “I DON’T CARE IF YOU HATE ME. I CARE IF YOU ARE RESPECTFUL AND KIND.” And he went downstairs. And then he yelled up, “I’M HUNGRY!” And I yelled, “THEN MAKE SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF!” And then I made him help me unpack the groceries (because after school I had taken Boy Woww to speech therapy, then K-Pants to baseball, then did the grocery shopping during practice, then arrived back to cheer him on during the scrimmage, then had K-Pants ask me for a fancy baseball backpack like the other kids have [answer: no]).
Then we went home, where I yelled at him like a crazy banshee. It had been building up for weeks, cracking the seams of the pressure cooker.
Then Boy Woww, the middle child, came upstairs and said, “Mom, what can I do to help?” It made me feel even worse, because he’s living into his role as the quiet peacemaker. And K-Pants is living into his role as the difficult one. And together we’re in this entangled Groundhog’s Day mess.
All this to say that this is how, on a beautiful Mother’s Day afternoon, when blue sky seemed to be momentarily winning the battle with the rain clouds, I found myself sitting in the car outside our parent coach’s house as K-Pants met with her. He loves her. We’ve just started this process.
Soon she’s going to be coming to our house to observe. Before that my husband and I will talk with her via Skype a few times, and do the homework she assigns, and try out new strategies (or try to be consistent with strategies we’ve tried in the past).
I really like the fact that we’re working on this problem as a whole family, because it’s not just a K-Pants problem. Our whole family seizes and constricts in predictable and not always productive ways when K-Pants melts down.
We’re all exhausted from it, and we’re looking for a change. Wish us luck.