What would T. Berry say?

            Lately, Zachary has resumed his habit of drinking a lot of water before bed. I go to bed right after I get the baby down, so it’s too early to lift him to the toilet before I head off to sleep, but by the time I wake up in the night to feed her, Zach has wet through his pull-up.  Hence, I have started insisting he visit the commode immediately prior to climbing into bed.  Sounds like a reasonable solution, no?

            It turns out that four-year olds are not all that into reasonable.

            Zachary is appalled that I should suggest he use the toilet before bed.  This is because he does not need to urinate.  He stands in front of the toilet and whinescreams at me.  Eventually, of course, he lets out a long stream of pee, because his bladder is full to bursting.

            The other night, he felt the whinescreaming was insufficient to express his dissatisfaction.  He decided, instead, to use another weapon in his arsenal.

            You know where I am going with this, right?  If you don’t know, you must have never in your life met a four-year-old boy.

            So, what, exactly, if the appropriate response when one’s child waves his p-nis about midstream and pisses on the bathroom floor?  I mean, what would Dr. Sears do?  Whatever it is, I am pretty damned sure what I did was not what the experts would advise.

            I went ballistic.  I pulled his hand away so that the rest of the contribution went into the toilet, then yanked up his pjs and handed him a wipe, yelling, “You clean that up!”  I don’t mean I told him to clean it up.  I hollered it.  With fury on top.

            We were both shaken.  I got him into bed and kissed the boys goodnight, still fuming.  He was whimpering for me to come back with another kiss, which I did because I don’t deny them kisses, but I did not give it with particularly good grace.  A few minutes later, I checked in one more time, this time softening my response by gently telling him that I love him, even though I am angry.

            We all lose it with our kids, and I do try to forgive myself.  The next morning, after an apology, we got on with our day because I cannot spend forever dwelling on it every time I lose my temper.  I brought them to school and stopped back into Zach’s room after bringing his brother to the younger classroom.  Zachary was working on his letters at a little table with two of his classmates.  Suddenly, my son was screaming at his friend, “You’re bad!  You’re bad!  You’re being mean!”  Tears were flowing down his face and his tone reminded me of something…  Something I had heard very recently.

            It turns out the other child had hit Zach, and my son responded by yelling in a possessed tone of voice.  With fury on top.  His reaction was probably over the top, although I told him I was pleased he had used his words instead of hitting back.  I guess it’s good he is defending himself and I suppose I would yell if someone hit me.

            Nonetheless, I wonder where he learned to holler like that.

25 responses to “What would T. Berry say?

  1. It makes you feel about this big, doesn’t it? My son is just now getting old enough to show me how I act sometimes, too. It’s humbling.

  2. Sigh. And I woke my quite old Children up yesterday with a full-on bellow on coming out to find a) the livingroom generously coated with belongings b) PLATES on the FLOOR (???) and c) a filthy sink. I would feel guiltier except I came home to find the kitchen floor mopped and the house dusted (and… yes, still a fair number of out-of-place things in the living room…)

  3. Well…I can say that at least he did not aim the pee at you 🙂

    It does hurt, though, when we see our own tempers reflected back at us. In the end, though, we are all human.

  4. as a semi-reformed yeller, I know just how this felt.

  5. The nightly urination debate…we have this one, too, though my 4-year-old has yet to wave any body parts around. It’s also tough at the end of the day when both of you are tired. SO…I hear ya.

  6. Oh yeah. I feel you.

    Bean yelled “No! Stop it!” at me the other day and I was appalled to hear my exact intonation coming out of his little mouth. Sigh.

    All we can do is make up and keep trying.

    Oh, and P.S….I am like you in that I never withold my love even during the worst of the worst. My mother used to make her love conditional as a misguided way to keep us in line, and it frightened me to death.

  7. Yep. We all do it. I know I am super guilty of it and it is something I am CONSTANTLY working on.
    But I also think that his yelling (even with fury in his voice) is a completely normal reaction to being hit. I think it is great that he stood up for himself without hitting back. And maybe that kid will think twice before doing that again.

  8. I always feel so badly after I’ve been angry with my kid (s). I try to remind myself that I am only human and kids can be completely exasperating.

    Because they totally can be.

  9. I’d be hard pressed, I think, to find anyone who didn’t flip out when faced with being hosed down by their son’s stream of urine!

    My parenting barometer used to be outrdog (May he RIP). When my children used to yell at him (he was obnoxious), I heard my own voice so very clearly.

  10. It’s hard to see the “right back at ya” thing in our kids. My daughter’s current state of life confusion clearly mirrors mine at her age, even though she obviously didn’t witness it.

    My husband told me a week ago that he feels bad seeing in our oldest son his own temper, impatience, competitiveness, etc… but awareness is half the battle I think.

  11. God, I had completely forgotten about good ol’ T. Berry.

    I do hear myself repeated on uncomfortable occasions. Somehow that doesn’t do quite enough to keep the screech in check as much as I’d like.

    But hey: we’re aiming for “good enough” here, and most days, even that bar’s kind of high.

  12. Ok, speaking from TOTAL ignorance here, as I have no kids, but . . . I have to think that sometimes the hollering might not be so bad. Especially if he then used it the next day in a situation where honestly? It seems totally appropriate to me. *I* would yell at someone with fury in my voice if they hit me (well, actually I might hit them back – thus making me LESS mature than a 4-year-old boy).

    I don’t know. My parents definitely yelled on occasion, and we knew like WHOA that whatever behavior we were doing was NOT OKAY. And we’re all productive members of society. Honest. (Ok, except when I slack off at work to blog. ;D)

  13. Despite the down the line effect, I am hard-pressed to find one iota of criticism in me for what you did.

    I totally make my kids clean up their messes.

    And sometimes I yell and get angry.

    The difference between me and my kids, though, is I know when to pull it out and when not to, usually. Sometimes.

    So when they misplace anger we talk about perspective. And trying the nice voice and words first.

    But hitting?

    Not sure his reaction *was* over the top. 🙂

  14. Oh my, I too have screeched over pee on the floor. I too have hear that screech echoed back to me in a new situation. *sigh*

    Oh, and I too make him clean up the pee, so don’t feel bad about that one!

  15. I have to say that I agree 100% with Julie P. Sometimes showing anger (through words, obviously, not through violence) to our children is appropriate. What Zachary did was maddening, and your reaction was not inappropriate. I also agree that Zachary’s reaction to being hit was appropriate. Probably more intense than he normally would have done, but like you said, he used his words, and he does have the right to be angry when someone just hit him. I try to speak calmly to my children but I don’t always succeed, and sometimes I think it’s good for them to understand that I am angry or sad. These are real emotions that they have, too. Anyway. I’ve gone on too long, but my one last thought is, hang in there, Mama. You’re doin’ fine.

  16. oh, ouch.

    none of this is easy and all of it is humbling. so we simply stay the course.

  17. If you don’t model anger, and show them what it is, what provokes it and how to deal with it, then how will they ever learn? It’s not the nicest human emotion but it’s a highly prevalent one, one that crops up again and again. Mothers have to lose it sometimes – and kids learn that whoops, that is NOT a good idea, but everything moves on and the earth doesn’t stop turning. Just think how terrible perfection in a mother is to a child – all they learn is that negative emotions aren’t viable, aren’t tolerable, and so they bottle and hide them and hello huge therapy bills further down the line. There is nothing wrong with going nuclear on the odd occasion for the right crime (and peeing on the floor in defiance seems like the right crime to me) and then drawing a line and moving on. Zach learned to yell when he feels really angry – sounds perfectly appropriate to me.

  18. I’ve been yelling for 19 years. dammit I’m tired.

  19. Children learn from us… and we from them. Remember, they are learning about socialization every moment of everyday. The best thing you taught your son was that you are human – and so is he.

  20. I know this narrative well. Parenting continues to humble me like nothing else. I am hoping my children also learn to ask for forgiveness and learn from their imperfections–just as I need to, just as I hope I model for them. My mom was a screamer (seven kids in ten years– can you blame her?!). My husband is not. I still have work to do on that front.

  21. I yell a lot more than I would care to admit. Now Monkey has begun w/ the short temper and subsequent screaming fits. Yeah, I wonder where she learned that? (hanging head)

    But, at the end of the day, I realize I’m nowhere near perfect and maybe it’s good for her to see that. As long as I can own up to it when I mess up or don’t handle thing appropriately I am hoping the message gets through……

  22. His father? 🙂

    I am working on curbing the yelling. The best I can say, is I try.

  23. I ask myself the same question, time and time again. I don’t know where these kids get it. Sigh…

  24. You just have to hope that in the end the good outweighs the bad.