I think it was during the 10th minute of your latest meltdown that I started questioning myself as a parent. The first 9 minutes I could completely rationalize and explain away with your being hangry and tired from a morning at gymnastic camp. You had a busy morning of having to follow someone else's rules, and I know that always results in control issues for the rest of the day (See also: the first month of preschool for corroborating evidence). As minutes 11, 12, and 13 continued past and your behavior escalated, I was less and less certain where it was coming from. However, by minute 15, it was clear to me that I was a rotten mother and this epic tantrum was all my fault. I'd become complacent in my parenting style and I'd led you down this road where telling you that you could have two choices for lunch once we got home would make you so colossally angry that you lost your ever-lovin' mind in the backseat of my Hyundai.
After being gone for a week last month, I came home to realize that you have become a master manipulator in your 4th year. It wasn't until I had stepped away from you for an extended period of time that it became evident. You argue, you talk back, you are relentless in wanting to get your way or your point across. You are too smart and too stubborn. It's becoming a frustrating combination that your father and I are working hard to address.
Mindful of your new tactics, minutes 16-20 are spent trying to break the pattern of arguing back with you. I remind myself over and over, "You are the parent. He is the kid. He can't rationalize away this behavior!"
At minute 21, with us home and you in your room in Time-out, I had to start dealing with my own anger issues. What is the matter with you?! Why are you such a punk? Where in the world does it make sense to launch into a tantrum over something so trivial as not getting what you wanted for lunch when you have TWO PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE LUNCH OPTIONS AVAILABLE TO YOU!?!?!
Minutes 22-23. Wait. Did you? Was that? Yes! It was! You are throwing stuff at your closed bedroom door. You KNOW you aren't supposed to do that. Time for a refresher course at what Time-out entails.
Minute 24. Another block goes flying against the door and I just about lose MY ever-lovin' mind.
Minutes 25-30 were rough. I'm not going to lie. I tried to call your dad to get someone to talk me off the parenting meltdown ledge. Unlucky for you(me), he didn't pick up.
By minute 31, with you still wailing at the top of your lungs, and every toy you keep in your room doing it's damnedest to come through the door, I decided it was time to try a different tactic. I came into your room, picked you up off the floor, and sat with you in my lap. We talked about why you were crying (I hurt your feelings), and we talked about why you were in time out (You don't know). We went over how talking back to me and arguing with me about lunch is not okay (You tried once again to state your case). We talked about ways to handle being angry besides destroying your room and yelling at me (You were avoiding eye contact during this whole segment).
But eventually, the hiccuping cries slowed down and your little body started to melt into mine. You were quiet and calm. I was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel (Spoiler Alert: It was a train).
I told you that in order to get out of Time-out, you needed to tell me what you did wrong, that you were sorry, and that you would try not to do it again. You bargained back that you just needed to say you were sorry but not any of the other stuff. You got this look in your eye that said, "No way in hell, lady, am I going to admit that I did ANYTHING wrong. No way." I insisted in hearing the whole thing, and off we went again.
I lost track of time at this point. I went into the kitchen, made your lunch (no more choices for you!), unloaded the dishwasher, and played with your brother. Things were finally quiet in your room again, so I went back to see where we stood.
When I opened the door, you looked up at me with your big, beautiful, brown eyes full of tears....and told me it was all my fault. You were just about to say all those things about being wrong when I shut the door and put you back in Time-out. If I had just done what you wanted me to do, you wouldn't have had to cry and yell again.
You eventually made it out of your room, after you humored me by saying what I wanted to hear. You thanked me for making your lunch, which you ate quietly and without complaint, cleared your dishes from the table and asked me if I wanted to play Legos. Like it was no big deal. Like, sure, I just called you mean things and screamed and yelled for 45 minutes and tried to tear down a door, but that was so 20 minutes ago. Forgive and forget, Mom.
Luke, I am not at all exaggerating when I say that I am terrified of the possibilities of your adolescence. Your stubbornness and emotional intelligence/ability to manipulate mixed in with gallons and gallons of teenage hormones...I mean, I don't even...I just can't fathom. Your dad is always getting onto me about my pessimistic attitude, so I will do my best to think about how those things could be a great asset and how you are going to be the most awesome teenager ever. And the truth is, you probably will be. You are great with other people, sweet and kind and thoughtful. And I am so proud of that Luke. But the Luke who tears apart my house and who tricks me into arguing back every. single. time. That Luke and I have a long road ahead of us. I know the reason you can push my buttons is because I gave you the remote...the DNA that makes you stubborn and gives you the desire to always be right, I know exactly where it came from. So, we will figure it out, you and I (with your dad to referee). And we will get it right (at least, some of the time) eventually.
Love you, my sweet, stubborn, endearing, aggravating boy.