It happened after a long week of disagreements and back and forth on one subject or another. I can’t really remember why or how, but after a series of admonishments, my son threw a full-blown tantrum. My eyes widened in disbelief at the words coming out of his mouth, and tears sprang to them out of hurt and surprise. He was much too old for this behaviour, and indeed much too young for the words he was saying.
Seeing my tears almost instantly brought him down. He made some final guttural growls and pounded the pillow onto the couch in front of him. “Up to your room!” I screeched. And then “Up to your ROOM!” a few times more. It was not nice. It was not patient. It was not the kind of parent I wanted to be. Who was this terrible shrew in my body? My tears burst forth fully.
With another punch of the pillow, my son stomped the dozen or so stairs to his room. His crying began in earnest now. Noisy, wet, sad-boy crying. I stayed at the bottom of the stairs for what felt like an eternity, but was more like a minute. My heart and mind raced, and my frenzied fight or flight response directed me to get to the bottom of this battle. I stormed up the stairs to his bedroom. His lips were swollen and red already, a small puddle on his pillow.
“Tell me what’s wrong! Tell me why you are being so rude! So loud!” I said rather…loudly. I demanded and cajoled him.
“Leave me alone, Mom!” he said between gulps. “Just leave me alone!”
He repeated it over and over. I didn’t relent.
I persisted in talking to him and asking questions to get to the bottom of his recent dark turn. He finally unfolded: problems at school had been making him feel bullied, and alone, and he didn’t know what to do about it. It made him feel sad and angry all the time, he said. I wiped his tears. I was so glad to know the reasons behind his sullenness and rude outbursts, to have the problem out in the open. We talked about how to handle things and I hugged his bony body tight. We looked at each other through salt-rimmed eyes. Then he closed his in exhaustion and leaned into me.
But later that night, I didn’t feel very good about my insistence. I had forced the situation. I had really pushed him into a corner. I realized that he is old enough now to want to be alone sometimes with his feelings. I thought back to the years of turmoil I had experienced growing up; there was almost always a private place to go to cry it out.
When we lived on a farm, I could run away as fast as I could to a loft, slip down between bales of hay, pulling a purry barn cat with me to breathe into and talk to between sobs. Or I could go into the woods. A Boy Scout camp across the road from our farm was good for times when I needed to pout and wander. The feeling of tall grasses and burrs against hands and legs was often enough to ground me back in reality. A stream or creek was also a possibility for escape, with bridges to hide under and rocks to pelt at the apparitional enemies in the rushing water.
It’s sad that there is nowhere for our children to cry and be alone. We don’t let them out of sight, certainly not out amid the perceived dangers of all that creeps beyond our walls.
Even on the farm – imagine the child who is allowed to sit at the edge of a coursing waterway, a pond, or wander through a forest. As a society, we’ve become so protective that there is no place or patience to let the little ones cry it out. We tend to think that leaving children alone is to abandon them, and forcing them to talk to us about their every need, want and sadness is considered loving and appropriate.
“Responsible Parenting 101” insists you must know every detail of every moment. We assess in detail these moods, feelings and reactions, and reflect on what it all means. We perfect our children’s histories through scrapbooks we can show our friends. No tears here! But how can we expect our children to make their own sense of the world around them if we constantly watch and interfere with their every step?
Since that incident with my son, there have been many more. They are to be expected from a seven-year-old who is negotiating his way through the social settings of the schoolyard, sports field and family matters. What has changed is that now I let him cry, and cry, until he is ready to talk. Eventually he always is. But that time alone for him is invaluable, and I remind myself that he needs it as much as he needs me. ≈
Bethany Lee is the online editor of kidsinthehills.ca, a sister site to inthehills.ca, where she also writes a regular blog.
Headwaters Nest Noteworthy Events
Welcome Nanny Robina!
When we heard that Canada’s beloved Nanny Robina was travelling to communities across Ontario, we had to invite her to ours. Nanny Robina is well known for her work on “The Mom Show” and “CityLine.” She makes parenting fun and fearless, and she’s full of valuable lessons from her 30 years’ experience as a nanny and governess. Nanny Robina will share her no-nonsense, simple approach to her most requested topic – Sleep!
Join us April 23 for a warm and entertaining night in the lounge at the Best Western Plus in Orangeville from 6:30 to 9:30 pm. You’re sure to meet lots of other parents going through the same trials and tribulations. Bring a friend or family member (plus your questions for Robina) for a great night out. Refreshments and a draw for door prizes are included. Tickets $25, see order details at kidsinthehills.ca
As school comes to a close, we reflect on how the year went and how we can do the best for our own children and community. The Dufferin Parent Support Network (DPSN) will host speaker Michael Reist on May 2 from 7 to 9 pm for a special presentation on “Bullying: Why It Happens, What Parents, Teachers, and Kids Can Do About It.” A teacher with over 30 years’ experience in the classroom, Michael is currently head of the English Department at Robert F. Hall Catholic Secondary School in Caledon East. He is a frequent speaker to parent groups and education conferences across Canada, drawing large crowds and enthusiastic responses. See michaelreist.ca and dpsn.ca for more information, and call 519-940-8678 to register.
Thinking of Starting a Small Business?
Over the past few years, Kids in the Hills has discovered many parents who have started a small or home-based business, and are living, working and prospering here in the hills. For those of you new to business, or considering a startup, we recommend talking to the folks at the Small Business Enterprise Centre (SBEC) in Orangeville. They offer excellent resources at their location in the Town Hall and hold regular events on a variety of topics. SBEC will host “Starting a Small Business” on May 16 at the Alder Street Recreation Centre, from 6:30 to 9:30 pm. Cost is just $10. orangevillebusiness.ca
Kids In The Hills.ca
Over the past few months we have been revamping this website to serve our community better. The big feature we want to tell you about is our improved online calendar. It now integrates with In the Hills and Food In the Hills. Events are listed by interest, making it easy for you to find local happenings for you and your family. We can also now accept your event listings – free – through our online form. This work was made possible through a grant from Ontario Media Development Corporation.
To plan your activities or post an event, go to kidsinthehills.ca/events.
As always, thank you for supporting Kids In the Hills. As you read this, I am writing my next column, and preparing our annual online guide to local camps. Summer will soon be here! ~ Bethany