This morning, Lemon had an orthodontist appointment. This was the first of her 4 final appointments, as her braces are coming off on September 1st. The last time we went, in early June, her orthodontist sat down with us and planned out the final appointments, and she helped me choose days and times. She could have missed a part-day of camp to go to an afternoon appointment, but she didn’t want to. So she chose a 7:15 a.m. appointment.
Last night, I reminded her of the 7:15 appointment. She groaned, but said fine. I asked her what time she needed to get up. She said 6:50.
So I went for my run this morning and got home at 6:30. I went in her room at 6:50 and reminded her. I was sweet – brushed the hair off her face and said, “I know it’s hard to get up early, honey, but you’re really close to getting your braces off, and you can’t miss this appointment if you want that to work out.” She said, “5 more minutes!” Less than sweetly.
I went back in at 6:56. I told her I needed her to get out of the bed. She did – and stormed to the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. [WD and Mouse were both still in bed, and I think they deserved to be sleeping.]
I went to her room at 7:05 to say “time to go.” She was upside down on her bed, jammies still on. ”What!?” she yelled, “I’m stretching!” I reminded her that others in the house were still sleeping. I told her we had to leave in no more than 5 minutes.
7:12 … she finally has on clothes, but not shoes. I say, “We really need to leave right now!” and she storms past me, yelling again about how I’m being so ridiculous, and goes back into the bathroom. ”I NEED TO BRUSH MY TEETH!”
And that’s when it happened – right there. I started to see spots. My teeth were clenched to the point where I thought I’d break them. I was so angry with her. I had been gentle, I had been persistent, and she was just – being a jerk.
When she (and her sister) was little, this was a less-than-rare occurrence. Especially while I was still married to the Ex, and started almost every day in a pretty bad place. They would act all toddler-ish (because they were toddlers), and I would get very angry.
Today, while fuming, I pictured myself, in my mind’s eye, slamming into the bathroom, grabbing her by the arm, and dragging her down the stairs and chucking her into the car. Just like I used to occasionally picture in the past – inappropriate and unkind responses, coming out of my anger.
Fortunately, seeing the scene in my mind’s eye always – in the past and today – is what it takes for me to know “um, no” and keep myself in check. I act on the anger only in my imagination, see the lines crossed, and behave myself. I’m not proud of that imagination – but I am glad it stays there.*
I did slam the bathroom door open. And I told her “you get in that car right now.” With a tone of voice she may have never heard before. And she yelled “Oh my GOD!” (indignantly) and slammed out the bathroom. I yelled at her – truly yelled at her – the whole way to the orthodontist. I told her that her behavior was selfish, disobedient, unacceptable and disrespectful. I told her she could not go to crew today, and instead would come home after camp and clean her room all evening. I told her that the next time she asks me to do something, the answer is no. ”No, the next THREE times!” I know I swore at least once in there, but I am at least happy to report that I did not call her names, and did not personally attack her.
She glared at me through it all, until I said she couldn’t go to crew. Then she started to cry. ”I can’t miss crew! I’ll clean my room tonight after crew, even if I have to stay up all night, I promise!”
The orthodontist is about 4 minutes away. We got there at 7:21 for our 7:15 appointment. She got out of the chair sheepish and tried to be chatty. I glared back, but then stopped. She said, “I’m sorry, mommy, I know I messed up.” And I said, “I haven’t been that angry in forever. I’m sorry I yelled at you like that. You can go to crew.” And we hugged.
Seriously – I think it’s been a decade since I felt that way. Since I yelled like that. It felt so foreign, that bubbling anger.
I didn’t like it any more today than I did back then. But in some ways, knowing it’s been so long is consoling. I have always looked back at those days of the first marriage, and of being a stay-at-home mom, and thought, “I’m so much happier, and a better parent with these changes in my life,” but wondered if I was just talking myself into it. But today, I remembered. Things didn’t come easy back then - I was struggling.
* The imagination used to kick in with the Ex, too. I remember one distinct day where we were in the midst of trying to make things work, and we had planned to go on a family hike. We were waiting for some football game or baseball game to end, and then we were going to go. But he decided he just … didn’t want to. He was drowsy. So he laid on the couch and drifted off to sleep. Kids running around, antsy, waiting to leave (they were 3 and 5 years old), me dressed and ready to go, and he just … went to sleep. I stood there staring at him, and in my HEAD ONLY — I picked up a book and chucked it at his head. Particularly, at his temple.
Then I took the girls on a hike.