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Parenting is sometimes a tangled mess

Inciting Incident:
Gleek was riding her sister’s bike without permission and after dark. She failed to get off the bike until after I had ordered her to do so five different times. I decided that the delay was blatant enough that I needed to not let it slide.

Complicating Issue:
I was not sure what consequence to apply. Gleek was very calm about my frustration and wasn’t acting in a way that interpreted as contrite. In hindsight I can see that she was honestly trying to figure out why she hadn’t listened to me. I declared that a consequence was necessary and decided that step one would be for Gleek to describe out loud to Howard how she failed to listen.

Howard was in the middle of business things and packing. He’d picked up steam and was making a final run at getting it all done. I did not communicate with Howard what I hoped for from Gleek’s recitation. Gleek in her turn was fearful that Howard would yell and be angry with her. She balled up all her emotions and buried them deep, thus her recitation seemed like she did not care about what she had done. Howard reacted to her seeming casual attitude by increasing the severity in his voice until he provoked a reaction.

The Muddle in the Middle:
I began to feel bad for derailing Howard’s packing, for not alerting him to the script, for putting Gleek in a situation where she would cry. Gleek’s buried emotions burst forth and she confessed that she feels scared of lots of things and is embarrassed about it. She also said she doesn’t know why she often doesn’t obey. Howard stepped out a bit to let Gleek and I talk. I flailed around trying not to undermine the parenting statements Howard had made, while still trying to help Gleek feel better. Gleek told how she had been planning to turn herself into an obedient little robot girl. I said I didn’t want one of those.

Sorting it out and finding resolution, sort of:
In the end there was listening and hugging. I fessed up to feeling like I’d handled it wrong. Gleek fessed up that she felt like it was her fault in the first place. Howard said he was sad that Gleek is scared of him scolding her. I felt bad for hauling him into a conflict which was primarily between Gleek and I to begin with. I simultaneously felt like I did exactly right in involving Howard in parenting our daughter. Gleek said that the biggest consequence in the world for her would be if we stopped loving her and talking to her. Howard said that was a consequence which we could never apply because we always love her. No matter what.

In the end we all decided that the whole emotional mess was probably consequence enough for everyone and that it will all look better in the morning.

Thank goodness there are mornings after.

6 comments to Parenting is sometimes a tangled mess

  • Free-range Oyster

    “Thank goodness there are mornings after.” Amen. Sometimes, in the middle of rough parenting moments, I wish it could just be the morning after already.

  • Yeah. I’m always so glad tomorrow is a new day because I make these kinds of messes all the time. Parenting is never easy. We just have to do the best we can.

  • TheTechnical

    You have no idea how different that was from my childhood. 3 people talked. 3 people shared emotions, fairly safely. There were at least 2 confessions. People could admit to being wrong. There was forgiveness and love. You did SO MANY things right in this. Your sense of imperfection is miniscule compared to the general consequences of the generaly right direction.