This morning I screamed at my teenager. I mean, really screamed. Lost-my-shit-and-banged-on-the-table screamed. While crying.
I was already frustrated with him because we were having a rough morning and he was being grouchy and slow and I kept having to repeat myself and I was tired and I just wanted the morning to go smoothly for once, dammit. But, more than that, my son, who is generous-hearted and not generally a troublemaker or defiant, had lately been behaving in a way that indicated he was becoming entitled. Maybe even spoiled. And I was sick of it.
My son works hard at school and gets his homework done and practices his guitar and does his chores. When that stuff is done, he craves his low-key evenings playing interactive video games with his friends online. I don’t mind him doing that provided all the other stuff is done and as long as he mixes things up by reading a book or taking a basketball outside now and then.
But last night we had to attend my daughter’s open house at school, and my son was forced to come along since I didn’t have time to drop him off at home in between pickup and the open house. He grumbled through the whole evening, not bothering to thank me for the snack I brought him. He at least busied himself with homework so he wouldn’t have to do it later at home, but he was snarling and pissy the whole time. The same thing happened at his open house the night before that. So much grumbling even though each of these nights, he still had time for video games, just not as much as usual. So I was already annoyed with his entitled attitude.
This morning was the straw that broke my mama-camel’s back. I approached him to let him know he had a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon, for which I would have to pick him up early from school. He spiraled into the same twisted-face, slouched-shouldered, moaning response that had become his go-to for the last few days. When I tried to explain that there hadn’t been another time available for the appointment, that I’d done the best I could, he interrupted me, yelling some crap about how he never gets to do what he wants and never has any free time. He had interrupted me before I’d even gotten to the part where he wouldn’t miss any time at home — I was checking him out early from school.
This morning was the straw that broke my mama-camel’s back.
The interrupting is what did it. I lost it. Really lost it. Like, I went to a parallel universe where everything I would normally bottle up comes whooshing out in one perfect, articulate firestorm, but while crying. I may have been raging like an out-of-control sobbing banshee, but by god my words were on point. I reminded my son that all these errands that he considered an imposition on his free time are not a religious experience for me either. Every hour I spend taking him and his sister to various activities, doctor’s appointments, and meetups with friends are hours I can’t work, hours during which I am attending to the two of them, ensuring that they have the best chance of success at school, that they have social lives, that they get to participate in activities that mean something to them.
I reminded him that his doctor’s appointment was actually a reschedule because we’d missed the original appointment due to hurricane Dorian – a storm that had already caused me to miss several days of work, not to mention cost me in terms of food and supplies I’d had to purchase in case we lost power for lord-only-knows how many days. I told him I was still making up all that work I missed and that taking him to the doctor was an hour and a half more missed work that would have to be made up sometime. That the whole point of the doctor appointment was to get him his ADHD meds so that he could function at his best in school. That so many of the things I do are so that he can function at his best.
“I’m so sorry,” I yelled, “that I didn’t have time to drive the extra 30 minutes home between carloop and open house so that you could play your fucking video games!”
I went full-on F-bomb-dropping guilt-banshee. The last thing I yelled at him before storming out of the room was, “I AM JUST ONE PERSON DOING THE BEST I CAN TO MAKE EVERYBODY HAPPY.”
Childish? Maybe. A bit over-the-top? Probably. And yet I have to admit, there was some catharsis to be found in letting all of that out, especially since it was all true, and especially since my son was clearly oblivious to all of it. Still, in the back of my mind, I worried I was putting too much of my adult stress on my son’s shoulders. He doesn’t need to know that I’m overwhelmed by days that are too short and a to-do list that is too long. He doesn’t need to know that, as a freelancer, missing a few days work really punches my budget in the gut.
Or does he? A few minutes later, as I sat on my bed calming down, my son came into my room and sat next to me, hanging his head. “Mom, you’re right. I didn’t understand before, and I was being really selfish. You work really hard and you do so much for us. I understand now, and I’m really sorry.” We gave each other a big hug.
It wasn’t my most graceful parenting moment, but it broke through my son’s inability to see anyone’s interests but his own.
It felt good to have that validation from him, not just because he’d admitted he behaved like a jerk in that one instance, but because, after all, he does need to be aware and conscious of the effort I put in to keep our lives running smoothly. He should be grateful for how hard I work. Yes, the things I do for my kids are just part of being a parent, they’re expected, and I’m more than happy to do them because I love my kids and want the best for them. But that doesn’t mean my kids should take it for granted.
So, in the end, I’m glad I lost my shit. It wasn’t my most graceful parenting moment, but it broke through my son’s inability to see anyone’s interests but his own. Everything I said during my diatribe was true, and he knew it because he’d seen it all happening. My words and my tears got him to finally have some empathy so he could see that his whining was not only disrespectful and ungrateful, but also incredibly hurtful.
Because dammit, I really am doing the best I can.
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