Betty Duffy

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I Am Ruining My Children

Some days with children are shaken, not stirred. The ice crushed rather than cubed. Bedtime is served with a headache, and the nighttime writing routine becomes the vomitous of negative experience piled on negative experience, and literally the salvation of children who might not survive parents without similar outlets.

These children have my genes. If some of them have inherited the best of me, some have also inherited the worst. And one of them, one is so stubborn, so obstinate, so intent on being right, that the two of us together are like trains barreling at each other, full speed, both content to go off the tracks in flames rather than slow down, correct ourselves, and administer to one another, a mercy.

But that’s who he is. Conflict is apparently the spice of his life. He comes by that naturally. I just hate who I become in response to his dramas. I’m not an angry person. I don’t like to yell. But I don’t tolerate the whining and contradictions, often timed in the early morning or late evening hours. It doesn’t matter what allowances I make, what treats and gems I tempt him with, or what consequences I supply. He will find the “no” in the discourse and beat it to a pulp.

It’s hard to know what it is to pray until you have a child that brings each of your weaknesses to the surface. Every conversation becomes a battle, not so much with the child, but with the self. How to pull in the reigns and tame the emotions and outbursts that the child inspires. Often the battle is lost. And the prayer, every prayer almost, becomes a plea with Heaven to erase the words said, the damage done—make the child resilient and triumphant against the wounds I may have inflicted. I am always begging for some grace, some miracle, that in my frequent anger, my heart does not purely request.

And then I think, “Oh there goes my obstinate child, stealing all my prayers from his brothers and sister, just like he speaks for them, and talks them into giving him their toys.” He demands more of everything from everyone.

And my other son, the next in line, the one who takes the brunt of his older brother’s abuse, does little things to try and make me happy. Cleans things up here and there without being asked. Whose heart wouldn’t melt? I want to squeeze him and kiss him, but I can’t be too effusive because I’ve got textbook Cain and Abel syndrome here. I wish there were more ways to show more positivity and affection to both of them—without making them jealous or resentful of one another. But how twisted is it that negative attention can flow like water from one to the other without an ounce of concern. But if I dare to hug or kiss one of them, I fear the other will hate the recipient of my affection. Especially if the other is in a little hot water.

You wonder sometimes if they all might be better off if I threw in the towel and ran off somewhere. Let them think they missed out on a mother who would have made their lives so much better, rather than the reality that I slowly screwed them up, one by one. It’s always the mother’s fault.


Jamie said...

Wishing you a better day tomorrow.

I have a similar dynamic here: one who can push my every button with a deftness that leaves me shaking in fury, and his much sweeter brother. It's hard stuff. I'll pray for you.

TheSeeker said...

Oh honey I'm sorry you're having such a rough time. I pray grace for you and your children.


Irene said...

Betty, I admit, I scanned the post - too deep for me tonight...however, I feel your pain. I have one who especially turns me into a raving lunatic that I beg God to forgive quite frequently - but what strikes me is we know it turns us into people we don't like - that is grace...I love ya and know how great a mom you are!

jen said...

I suspect this isn't about a bad day. This is the human condition for Mother. This is a cathartic read for any mother managing the demands of children - physical, emotional. I deal with all the same things you have outlined here. And, that paragraph about stealing prayers from the others was a good one - as was the stealing toys, etc. You mean this doesn't just happen in my house? There are days that I have to call my husband home from work during his lunch hour so I can sit in a room for 20 minutes, read my Bible and pray for the portion I need right then and there - pray as you have said - that I won't inflict harm and that St. Francis will not just be poetry.