When I talk to people about this blog, my cocktail party spiel is that I “write about the self realizations that surface as I navigate parenthood’s rough seas.” Basically, I’m find out more about myself through raising small humans and I write about it in hopes that it helps others.My most recent big discovery? I just want to be liked.
Unfortunately, 2/3 of my kids do not feel the same way.
They just seem to ruffle a lot of feathers, which I am certain one day will lead to amazing things. Right now, I am just sick of bracing myself for every school pickup, playdate, or interaction that I am certain will start with, “Well…”
Remember when I wrote that you get the kids you need? Well, I need kids who require me to get into confrontations. Since idioms are all the rage in my house these days, I will use this one-I feel like I am constantly “going to bat” for my kids. Constantly needing to stand up for them. The pitches thrown my way include (but are not limited to…),
- Talking to the Chess Wizard at whom my son threw a chess board (and all 32 pieces) after he accused his opponent of cheating
- Dealing with camp instructors who retold a morning’s events of my son punching several students because his imaginary pet dragon instructed him to do so
- Facing a team of teachers who are refusing my son services (well, both my sons…)
- Approaching grocery store workers who chastise my children’s checkout line behaviors
- Addressing the parents of kids my children are fighting with on the playground
Each time I begin a conversation or email that requires me to hit a fastball like these, a pit forms deep in my stomach.
It is easy for me to simply apologize for my kids’ behavior, sometimes citing an excuse such as their regular 4 a.m. wake ups. I have a handful of such conversations settled into muscle memory by now. But standing up for them instead of apologizing? That is where I struggle.
I am someone who has long supported causes and fought for the underprivileged, the underdogs, and the downtrodden. So why is it so hard for me to stand up for my own kids?
What I want my kids to know about confrontation
When I think about the level of discomfort I feel each time a confrontation arises, I realize this is something I need to tackle so I can be a positive model for my children.
You can’t please all of people all of the time-My Dad
The truth is that in life there will be confrontations. You will not always agree with people. Heck, you might fight with your best friend more than with anyone else. People might not even like you, and that’s ok. I want my kids to know that confrontations take courage. That there is a way to approach confrontation with respect and kindness. I want them to know that it is important to stand up for themselves, and their needs. That I am willing to go to bat for them even if it is hard for me to do so. I want them to know I both believe them and believe in them. (Maybe that chess opponent did cheat, like my son said. Throwing the board was not a great choice, but I am willing to believe him and model what a respectful confrontation looks like.)
As for apologies…
I also want my kids to know that sometimes the hardest confrontations to face are indeed the ones where you need to acknowledge a wrongdoing on your part. Not just the simple, “sorry he was off again today…” type of apology. The real “I/he/she/we screwed up.” The gut wrenching apologies that stick with you for a few days are probably the most important ones, too. I want to teach them, and show them, that confrontations can look like that, too.
What I am learning about confrontation
I wish I was able to say that I started tackling small confrontations-like sending food back in a restaurant-and moved onto bigger ones. But in fact the reverse is true, and I’m grateful for it nonetheless. My kids have forced me to confront uncomfortable things. These interactions have made me become a person that does not please all of the people all of the time. And, I’m learning from these experiences.
These confrontations have forced me to realize that my world will not end if my kid unapologetically throws sand (or a chess board…) at another kid (or a chess wizard) and I need to address the situation. It also won’t end if I become “that parent” who fights endlessly for her kids to get extra services at school. And it won’t end if I send back my salmon because it tastes like a shoe. 80 % of the time, I am modeling how to approach confrontation in the best way possible. The other 20% I still am fighting that pit in my stomach.
Confrontations are a part of life. They may come at you like a fastball, a curveball, or even a knuckleball. The best I can offer to my kids is show them how to walk up to the plate, swing the bat, and realize you will either have a hit or strike out. Either way, the world won’t end.