Raise your hand if you swear in your heads at your kids.
It’s a venial sin, as far as bad parenting goes, right? Most of our kids can’t hear what’s being screamed inside our heads, so on the outside, they’re feeling warm and snuggly and loved and not verbally berated or assaulted when they push us to the brink. What they don’t know won’t hurt them.
Because my kids in particular aren’t always great with using that kind of filtering themselves, I’ve decided to let them in a bit on the mysteries of what mom thinks when they start to push my buttons. Let me recount to you an anecdote from our early evening today:
We had just arrived back in Toronto from a quick long weekend visit with my parents in Ottawa. Before we even got off the train, the girl child had started to whine about hunger and STARVATION and how TIRED she was and how she ABSOLUTELY NEEDED TO EAT BEFORE LEAVING UNION STATION. My girl talks in all caps when she whines. It grates. (my boy on the other hand talks like Julie from the Scott Pilgrim books/movie, but generally without the censor bar.)
My own people anxiety was high after 5 hours of caged child antics, and I knew I couldn’t deal with Union Station food court mayhem after that. I needed to get us as far away from the chaos as possible. Deep breaths all the way, I managed to get us to the subway, listening to my child wailing about how terrible a person I am, how she may DIE before we get home, and some wordless shrieks of despair.
More deep breaths. Up to the surface. I turn to her, and I say, “Girl, I have to tell you something. I am very close to saying something I absolutely do not ever want to seriously say to you, but your whining after such a long and challenging train ride is pushing me hard right now. You are making it very hard to not say mean things, and I would like your help. If you stop whining and screaming, I won’t be tempted to say mean things anymore, and I’ll be able to think better about what happens next.”
“Well, I think I already know you’re going to call me a bitch again,” she said. (yes, I admit, I called my child a bitch one day, and immediately apologized for it, without even trying to justify why I’d done it. Unacceptable, point final.) The boy, who has made an art out of finding just the right profane bon mot for every occasion (going so far the other day as to telling me that swear words should be sacred), snickered and said, “Oh no, that’s not what she’s thinking at all. I know what she’s thinking.”
Eyebrow raised, I asked him to tell me what he thought I was thinking. “Well,” he said, “if I were you right now, I’d be thinking about saying ‘Shut the beep up’.”
That kid of mine is pretty smart, and I told him as much. He was pleased to have guessed correctly, and the girl went from whines to giggles in seconds. “Wow, I must really be pushing right now,” she said between titters, “because I know you would never tell me to shut up. I’ll stop whining now.” I then took them out for supper where we had a great meal together.
It may not work for every family to laugh together about how mom came really close to telling one of her children to shut the fuck up, but for some strange reason, it seems to work for us.