I’ve had some personally surreal moments over the last few months. Normally, this is the kind of post I would restrict to my preferred list… you know, the people who know me intimately and to whom I can share the deep dark or completely nutty things and know that even if they judge me for it, they’ll still love me anyway. But this one, even though it falls into both categories, I think I’ll just leave out there. It’s going to contain a lot of mess and may not make a damn bit of sense to anyone who doesn’t know me ‘like that’ but on the other hand, maybe someone will see something in it that they need.
In March, Tyler had an appointment with a leading developmental pediatrician in the field of ADHD, at a Child Study Center. We were to review some screenings for depression and anxiety. Tyler was showing some significant signs of both. As the PNP was asking questions to Tyler at the end of the appointment to get an idea of how often he was feeling depressed/sad and anxious/worried, she asked him if he ever thought about suicide. Tyler had, and of greater concern, when she asked him how he’d do it, Tyler had a suicide plan.
Needless to say I left that appointment a complete wreck. I wasn’t far from a nervous breakdown or contemplating suicide myself. It was very late by the time we left the appointment and I didn’t want to go home because I knew I’d probably fall apart. A public place, I figured, and I’d be able to keep it together until I got the kids to bed.
We went to Applebee’s, and had dinner and dessert… so that I could put the kids to bed as soon as we got home. There was a Sun’s game that night so they were pretty busy. The server was friendly, but definitely didn’t have time to chat, which was fine because I wasn’t in the mood to do much other than sit. So I’m sitting there shell shocked, just grateful they are watching the Sun’s and the other diners. When the bill came, the server had written across the top
You’re a great mom!!!
Tyler and Halle, and Daija for her age, are pretty good in restaurants – they know to thank the servers when their food is brought, to say excuse me to request a refill, etc. On any other day, I would have chalked her note up to a server who had probably had more than her share of food throwing, screaming, running through the restaurant kids and was just grateful for a table that didn’t make her job any harder than it had to be. But that day, I needed to hear that more than I’ve ever needed to hear anything in my life. I know that all of you have told me the same… and when I finally got to a point where I could write/talk about it, you did. But that night and for a few days after I couldn’t… and for a moment my circle met with that of a “chosen person” and I really believe that’s what carried me until I got to the point to be able to talk with you all.
Fast forward two months… Tyler and Halle got into an ugly argument the Thursday before last which gave me insomnia for several days. I did everything “right” – ask Ei, I was on the phone with her, if for no other reason than she was the only thing standing between my kids and a can of whoop-ass. I pulled a rabbit out of the hat to help them deal with each other and remove me from being the referee and one of them feeling vindicated and the other victimized. But it just escalated and wound up getting uglier (although quieter). And I just felt stunned at how my brilliant tool had failed so utterly, that the two of them were so hateful to each other neither of them wanted to be related to the other. I don’t recognize them anymore… and I don’t know what to do about it and that makes me feel so inadequate.
I wound up pulling all nighter the Sunday after that Thursday – I’d been up later and later every night until one night I was still wound up and restless when I noticed it getting light outside my window. Trying to undwind, I had watched two or three of the five Oprah 20th anniversary DVDs. There wasn’t really anything in those first three DVDs that really focuses on parenting, per se, although there were a lot of parents featured. Somewhere in bottom of the third or fourth or sixth hour of Oprah something changed in me. It’s the weirdest thing, because none of the guests she featured were on a show specifically about parenting. They were stories about people who were inspiring or tragic… some both. Some were parents, some children. And I imagine that the frame of mind I was in at the time probably had a lot to do with what I was getting from these guests.
Oprah did several monologues between clips, and in one she relayed this story about a woman approaching her in the grocery store and said, “I don’t beat my kids no more.” In the conversation that followed, the woman tells Oprah that it wasn’t the first time she heard Oprah say it, or the 5th or the 10th… but that Oprah had always been consistent in her message that when you hit your child, you take away a part of their spirit, or something like that. And one day this woman asked herself, “How can I expect to send my children out to contribute to the world in a positive way if they’ve had the spirit beat out of them?”
I was raised in a home that was abusive on every level. I’ve worked desperately to break that cycle… and I think for the most part I’ve succeeded. Although I spank on occasion, it’s not my preferred or primary method of discipline. But I spank when I reach a point where I don’t know what else to do. I use it not because I think for one second it’s effective. Can I explain this in a way that makes sense? When I reach that point, I spank to make myself feel better.
That makes you sit straight up, doesn’t it?
It’s not that I *like* spanking my kids. I don’t *enjoy* hitting them. I guess what I get out of it is a sense of satisfaction that I’ve done something. That I am not letting them run over me, that I’m still in control. I hate feeling powerless – I doubt anyone does, but after so many years of being a victim in your own home as a child, I guess I feel like I need to be the one in control in mine as an adult. So as much as I hate to spank my kids… I hate what leads up to it, I hate the process, I hate afterwards, I still find some kind of reward in it. A sense that I can control something.
And then later on there’s a very brief clip where Dr. Phil is on her show and he tells this couple, and ‘all of you’ in the audience to stop fighting in front of your kids. Not tonight, not tomorrow, not the next day, but RIGHT NOW because you are scaring them, and when you scare them you change who they are.
I’d already had in my mind that it didn’t matter that I only spank on occasion, or only when it gets ‘that’ far, and that it’s never too many swats and certainly not hard enough to leave welts or bruises or anything that most people would probalby consider a ‘beating’… but in that moment, and it’s not like I’ve never heard anything like this before, I just felt it in my solar plexus that there would be no more spankings.
And that there would be no more yelling. More so than any spanking I have ever given, I know that me yelling is a problem. I yell too much, and I know it, but in a way I think I’ve been comfortable in a sense because in my mind it’s better than spanking or a myriad of other things I suffered in my childhood. I’ve resolved time and time again to ratchet it down a notch… but it doesn’t usually take too long before I’m yelling out of frustration… to get Tyler’s attention, to be heard over their bickering, to speed up something they’re dawdling over.
It’s been over a week, and I caught myself a couple times on Saturday raising my voice at Tyler… but otherwise I have not yelled at my children, nor have I spanked, in that time.
Oprah is another chosen one.
That Monday night, I went to pick up the kids from “Life Science” aka martial arts. Mr. D was wrapping up with his customary monologue… and he said something about teaching the kids, and how he couldn’t teach them anything with fear. Needless to say I felt like Serendipity had sent me a big P.S. Then, after the class started to empty out, he came over to Tyler and Halle. I guess Tyler had spoken sharply to her when they were practicing their blocks. Mr. D. said to him…
don’t ever talk to your sister that way in front of anyone. If you’re upset with her, pull her to the side and speak to her privately. If *you* talk to her that way, other boys will think they can talk to her that way.
All of these things seem so inconsequential on the one hand… but they have been so profound and significant on the other. There was some talk in the blog ring earlier about various personal beliefs. I’ve never been one to believe that one’s life is predetermined, or that “God” has little else to do other than coordinate our personal whims and desires. I believe that you are provided with an infinate number of divine possibilities but beyond that, I believe in free will. I’m not sure if I believe in ‘signs’ as an orchestrated phenomenon. But I do believe that there is a divine source of energy that runs through us all… and if you’re open to it, tapped in to it, the divine spirit in one person, consciously or subconsciously, senses the need of the spirit of another. Sometimes those needs are brush encounters like mine with the Applebee’s Server and Oprah Winfrey, and sometimes the brush encounters cement two spirits who balance each other, who in some way strengthen each other, into a friendship.