Sunday, December 4, 2016
It started like it always starts -- something doesn't go Bryce's way and the rage spiral begins. This time there was too much honey on her peanut butter toast. The peanut butter jar was nearly empty, and I didn't want to take the time to mix the new jar because of how the oil separates in the organic peanut butter we buy (can't it just mix itself?), so I made due with the little that was left. I thought I had it nailed, adding extra honey to cover for the lack of peanut, but to no avail.
"There's too much honey, Daddy."
"No! Too much honey!"
Of course I knew I wasn't helping, but my own spiral had begun as well. I was having a crappy week at work combined with the fact that my wife (known as "The Mama" to my regular readers) had a series of Kidpower workshops and had to leave really early, leaving me to wrap the mornings up and get the girls to school. Plus the recent election, the Dakota Pipeline protest and the general craziness and instability of world unknown, where many of us are still holding our collective breath, hadn't helped either.
Usually I have no problem with managing the morning routine even when I'm working early, which is all the time, but when the Bryce factor escalates, it's a tough road. And the Bryce factor had felt the adult stress in the room of late. Both girls did.
"What do you want then?" I asked her.
"Sunflower butter bagel," she answered, one of her staples to date.
"Fine, I'll fix you the bagel, but please go upstairs and get dressed for school. You know how Beatrice doesn't like to be late."
"I don't want to be late, Daddy," added Beatrice.
Everything mellowed again -- until she wanted the blue jacket. Her warm new blue jacket that was nowhere to be found. I even texted the Mama to see if she knew, but she didn't. Maybe she left it at school, she texted back.
That didn't sit well with Bryce who wailed on and on about it. I made her put on another jacket and herded both girls out the door.
"I don't want to go to school!"
"Get in the car!"
"Daddy, we're going to be late, aren't we," Beatrice said.
Christ, not now, I thought.
"No, get in girls and let's go."
But it was too late. Bryce distilled into a Molotov cocktail that blew up in the back seat. Bryce screamed and thrashed more than usual and Beatrice plugged her sound-sensitive ears, looking helpless in the rearview mirror.
"I don't want to go to school! No!"
"Stop it now, Bryce! We have to go now. We do this every morning. Stop acting like this!"
"Daddy, I don't want to be late!"
I might as well have poured gasoline on this latest flash fire. Every positive parenting action and Kidpower recommendation became a distant fire line in my mind. Only two days before I had picked Bryce up from school and we had a similar stand off, but this time I kept my cool, and not just because some parents watched as Bryce writhed and thrashed on the ground in front of me. I used what's called my "walk away power" -- literally -- and told Bryce I had to get back for a call and she needed to come with me. So I walked away from her. Then she followed, reluctantly, but quietly. All the way back to the car and was quiet all the way home.
Bryce began kicking the back of my car seat near my head and that woke me up. I wanted to pull over and spank her little butt, which we've never done with either girl, but I didn't. I should have pulled over regardless, I know, but we had to get to school and goddammit my girls were not going to be late because of this outburst.
Instead, we sat in the car at a stop sign in the middle of the road, with no other cars around, and I voice texted my wife. Bea continue to plug her ears while Bryce cried and kicked.
Can you call me in the car, I texted. Bryce is really mad. (Which autocorrected to Price is really a sad.)
Upset and kicking me.
Sorry. Pretty bad this morning. Thought hearing your voice would help. Love you.
Nothing like ensuring correct punctuation in urgent voice texts while stopped at a stop sign. She didn't answer so I knew her workshop had already started. I proceeded to school yelling at Bryce to stop while Bryce yelled at me and poor Beatrice tried to help calm us both, index fingers in ears.
We arrived and parked down the street from school like we usually do.
"Daddy, Bryce took off her shoes and socks," Beatrice announced.
I was so done by then, but I sucked it up and firmly opened up Bryce's car door and put her socks and shoes back on.
"Bryce, let's go," I said.
"My-my glasses," she said. She had finally calmed down, but she held one of her lenses in one hands.
I felt beat up, punched in the gut. All I could do was pop the lens back in her glasses, put them on her, and pulled her gently out of the car seat.
Besides Beatrice informing one of her classmate's parents of what had transpired on the journey to school, the same mom I had told of my woes earlier in the week, Bryce and I walked in silence the rest of the way to school.
We've survived all this before and we'll survive it all again. Later that day after school the Mama and I sat down with Bryce and talked about it, or as much as you can talk about it with a firecracker of a six-year-old. We talked about how it's not okay to act that way and that we need to use our words when we're mad and that it's not being safe when she uses her body to put herself and others in jeopardy because she's mad. We talked about how we should use our own words with her when we're made instead of yelling (which ain't easy). We laid out the Kidpowerin' for her as we do for both girls and each other. Bryce listened, and whined, and listened, and tried to articulate how she felt and why she did what she did.
We've survived this all before and we'll survive it all again. We do our best to provide a stable environment for our girls and know that's all we have control over -- and we're not the only parents who deal with emotional swings and childhood angst. It's hard when you're in those fiery moments, but we'll survive and our center will hold.
A few days later we were all in our local Christmas Parade marching down the middle of Pacific Avenue with the Mama's Girl Scout trip that our girls are in, and I couldn't help but think about what we've felt and projected of late has impacted them. I couldn't help but think how much positive energy it takes to keep our centers intact, and like the Yeats poem, how much negative energy is released when we don't.
And there was Bryce at the end of the parade celebrating her center in the only way she knows -- her way. Maybe, just maybe, the middle of the road can hold for us all.