So, yesterday, I ranted about how crazy it is at our house in the mornings. It may have had something to do with the fact that, in addition to the usual chaos, my older daughter, Delia, chose to have a complete meltdown just moments before it was time to leave. And then I lost it and yelled at her. And then I felt just awful for the rest of the day. You might say that I should have felt awful about yelling at my child. And you might be right, but here's the story:
Delia has been looking for the perfect pair of flats to put on her holiday gift list, or maybe the perfect pair of boots, you know, the short kind that look good with jeans or skirts, and maybe have a buckle or something that makes them super-cute. To keep her on track with her homework two nights ago, I told her she could browse on line in the morning after she got ready for school. I thought I was being pretty sly to dangle an incentive for her to get ready early so that she could cruise for shoes. Yeah, right.
It didn't work out, of course. Instead of getting ready, she planted herself at the computer in the morning, half-dressed, hair and teeth unbrushed, and started looking at shoes. When I asked what she was doing, she whined, "You said I could." I reminded her that she could look at shoes when she was ready to leave, which she clearly was not. She stomped off to get ready, barely, cranking all the while. In the meantime, I got ready, made lunches and shut everything off in preparation for leaving for the day. I was making one last room check, (not in a compulsive way, but in the manner of a person who has come home once or twice after eight or nine hours of work to find that "someone" has left the fridge open just a bit) when I found Delia shopping on the computer I had already turned off. Our friends who give us a ride to school had already called to say they would be there momentarily.
"What are you doing?" I yelled. I could feel my blood pressure go up, bam, like my head would suddenly explode.
"Looking at shoes, you said I could when I was ready." She yelled right back, looking at me like I had a screw loose.
"But didn't you see that I had already shut down the computer? We have to leave NOW!" Same look from me, back at her.
"How did I know?" she asked, then burst into tears. She stood there sobbing, one arm in her jean jacket, one arm out, screaming, "How did I know? That's not fair!"
Suddenly, I was just sooo angry. I just couldn't stand that she was sobbing because I yelled at her for doing something she should have known was wrong. I moved her aside, shut the computer down again, swearing kinda under my breath and kinda out loud. I scooted everyone out the door. Fiona, for once not the one in trouble, ran ahead and hopped into the waiting car to proudly let everyone know that Delia was being bad and getting yelled at. Delia shuffled slowly along behind me and was still sniffling as we got into the car. Awk-waard!
The thing is, Delia is usually the one I can depend on to get it. To know what she's supposed to do and, with some prodding, just do it. She likes to be right, and usually, being good is being right, at her age. When I really get mad at her, when the dial moves past mere annoyance and into the red zone of anger, she always looks heartbroken, like I have let her down, betrayed her in some way. That doesn't make me less angry... it makes me self-righteous and frustrated and childish. And then, it makes me feel guilty.
The ride to school is about three minutes long, so Delia had not settled down completely by the time we got there. She got out of the car and wiggled away when I tried to hug her and tell her to have a good day. She walked off ahead of me and Fiona and didn't say goodbye when she walked through the school gate. She didn't even turn around when I called, "have a good day!"
Then I felt rotten all day long. I am the opposite of obsessive, but even I had to make myself dismiss the dark, recurring notion that, if something terrible happened, and I never saw Delia again, we would have ended things in anger. I had to reassure myself that I would see her at the end of the day and everything would be all right. And it was, of course. She barely seemed to remember the morning's altercation, but it was hard for me to let it go. I hugged her until she was clearly annoyed with me, then went to make dinner. But the upset was hard to shake. This was the first time this ever happened with Delia, and, sure, everything worked out fine.
The problem is, I know it won't be the last. Just thinking about what's ahead breaks my heart more than a little.