Here’s the situation: every other Thursday I host a Lego club for our homeschool friends. We don’t have a huge turnout. Three other families come regularly, although we’d love to have more. I always advertise the club on our local homeschooling listerv, but the same three families keep coming.
This particular Thursday morning I got e-mails from all three of our regular participants saying that they weren’t going to be able to make it, so on the off-chance some newbie was thinking of coming,I sent an e-mail to the listserv announcing that I’d like to know before noon if anyone WAS coming, because if they weren’t I’d probably do something else.
Then I took Little J to Occupational Therapy. We also stopped at the grocery store. We took a new road home. In other words, we took our time.
When we got back I had three emails from new folks letting me know they were coming. Yay! I love to meet new people. I’m excited about making connections with other homeschooling families. Little J, not so much. In theory he is open to being friends with new kids, but in reality having new people over to our house makes him anxious and excited at the same time, which translates into disinhibition, screaming, and badgering of his mama.
So I was happy, but I also realized that a whole bunch of new people were coming to my house in an hour and a half, a house that hadn’t been vacuumed in 2 weeks and was also the very recent home to 18 baby chicks, raised in our downstairs bathtub. The immediate chick-raising mess was cleaned out of the bathroom, but the rest of our downstairs was covered by a fine, chick-related dust, probably made up of teeny tiny feathers mixed with pulverized baby chick poo.
Now, if I were a Good Mom, instead of worrying about the cleanliness of our house I’d have focused in on the real issue: Little J and his new-people anxiety. I’d have spent the next hour coaching him about making new friends, being nice, sharing, and navigating unfamiliar social waters. I’d have reminded him of friendship successes of the past. I’d have shared with him my confidence that he would do well, and after Lego club was over we’d have a bunch of great new buddies. I wouldn’t have worried about the house or the dust or the dishes in the sink (did I mention the mountain of dishes in the sink?) Oh – and our yard was full of dog poop, which no one likes to step in. And I hadn’t had a shower in 3 days. Neither had Little J.
If I were a Perfect Mom I would have had a clean house/yard/child/body to begin with, but we hate Perfect Mom so that will be the last mention of her.
Here’s what really went down: Bad Mom /me frantically cleaned the house and spent half the time trying to ignore Little J and half trying to enlist his help. I gave him the floor duster and promised him $2 if he did a good job, and to give him credit he started the task, but soon it disintegrated into him whacking the dust mop into the wall and asking me over and over again WHAT TIME WILL THEY BE HERE? Eventually he demanded his $2, I said no, and he screamed that I was mean and he didn’t want anyone to come anyway.
If I were a Good Mom, I’d have dropped everything and focused on him. I knew what was going on with him. It’s happened many times before. I also know how to de-escalate the situation.
But I didn’t do it.
Instead, Bad Mom /me screamed, “Get out of my hair!”
Little J said “What do you mean? I’m not in your hair!” Which made me think about my hair and the fact I hadn’t had a shower in 3 days and Bad Mom’s/my stress level hits a new high and so when Little J asked, for the 82rd time, “When are they coming” and Bad Mom’s/my reply was “1:00,” (for the 82nd time) and he asked “When’s that?” and Bad Mom/I said “Look at the clock” (reaching to the teachable moment) and he demanded “Why should I?” I completely lost it.
Bad Mom/I screamed, he screamed, he said he didn’t want them to come.
Good Mom would have diffused. Or respected his wishes. Or coached him through. Or something.
Bad Mom/Me just screamed louder: I’M SO SICK OF THIS! can’t spend my whole entire life getting you ready for new situations! This is crazy! I have stuff to do! I have to clean this STUPID HOUSE that you and your brother and your dad messed up!
Good Mom would have hugged him.
Bad Mom/me left him crying and ran off to take a shower.
When Bad Mom/me got out of the shower, Little J was waiting. Quietly, he asked (for the 83rd time), ”When are they going to be here?”
“10 minutes,” I said.
“Great,” he replied. “I’ll get the Legos ready!”
(Which sounds like a happy ending, until you include the next 10 minutes, which involved Little J asking me 16 more times “When are they going to get here?” the
complete destruction of the his room and with me finally retrieving the Legos, but suffice it to say the playgroup went well. Well enough. )
And guess what? Besides one speedy trip to the bathroom by an 8-year-old boy, no one – not a single person, parent or child – came inside.
Adrienne Ehlert Bashista lives in central North Carolina with her husband and 2 boys, ages 8 and 11. She is a contributor and co-editor to Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories. To read all of Adrienne’s posts on this blog, please click here.
(image from http://www.saidaonline.com)