While kids were excitedly running around the hallways with their parents in tow, I was trying to find a quiet place to almost drag my limp-because-i’m-angry 5 year old to a quiet corner to get her under control.
Open House. The night when kids and parents are visiting classrooms, getting to know their child’s teacher and classroom and other parents. Oh they got to know us alright.
To be fair, the night started out well. We visited the Kindergarten class and it was fine. She showed us her book box, everyday jobs, sang a couple songs, and happily helped me choose what to bring for future class parties. Next we visited the 2nd grade class and she quietly looked around the room and listened as Asante explained his various notebooks and what they work on in each. After we left, they both insisted we go see the special rooms. Although little sister was having some tummy trouble, we decided to make a quick stop.
Some little girl was pounding on the piano in the music room, which of course made Aly want to do it too. It didn’t seem like the appropriate thing to be doing for that little girl, so I told Aly she couldn’t either. And explained why. She was mad, felt like it was an unfair answer, but left the room decently when it was time to go. Not awesome, but at this point, we know how things COULD be and she was trying.
Upstairs as we rounded the corner to start down the hallway that leads outside, Aly spied kids in the gym. With jump ropes. She rushed in, grabbed a jump rope and started jumping. Jumping. Jumping. Not forwards, but backwards. Whatever. I can let her do this, I thought, just for a few minutes. “Just for a few minutes,” I hollered over the noise of the crowd as she jumped away. After a couple minutes, I gave a one minute warning. Then a “3 more jumps and then we go, my sister.”
Rage erupted on that little girls face.
The yells began as we were exiting the gym. “Bad!” she yelled, which she often does when she’s mad, but trying to hold it back.
As we stream into the hallway she begins to unravel. She’s raising her voice. Getting attitude. Doesn’t want me to touch her because “she’s fine” when in reality she’s spinning out of control. I need to get her attention. Parents make room as we move down the hallway. I’m desperately looking for the bathroom that I know is ahead up on the right. Before we get there, she goes limp, I guess in attempts to get me to acquiesce with the grip I have on her. I carry her as best I can to the social safety of the bathroom. I feel embarrassed but I try not to allow that emotion to influence my words to her. I know myself. When I get embarrassed I can say things that would be better left in my head.
We talk. I look into her eyes, hoping that she will see me so that she can snap herself out of the tailspin that just happened. I get her enough under control that we leave the bathroom. She runs ahead of me and out the doors to Jake and the other kids. As we quickly stroll down the sidewalk away from the school, she yells, cries, and refuses to hear us talk to her about her behavior. She covers her ears, saying “I KNOW!” Maybe she does know what we’re going to say. Because this happens more often than it should. Fits. Tantrums. Yelling. Out of control.
I let Jake and the girls go ahead in the stroller and hang back with Asante. The kid who quietly goes along with everything, watching, observing, thinking. I apologize to him- “Sorry buddy, if Aly’s behavior embarrassed you. It embarrassed me.” “It’s okay,” he quickly replied. It’s always okay. He loves his sister so deeply.
We walk home. The moon is full, the sky is growing dark, and the cool wind blows against my face. I breathe deep, trying to process my emotions and get some air. The streets and bike paths are empty, so I relax. No one to impress or to fakely smile for as they judge my daughter or my parenting skills. Asante starts jabbering about the difference between a millimeter, centimeter and inch, and i’m half listening, “mmhmm-ing” at the right parts, but my mind is elsewhere. I’m thinking about Aly and her way-bigger-than-anyone-can-handle emotions. The books I’ve read. The hours of online research. The sensory play we’ve done. The many ways of discipline. The motivation charts. Her sadness for losing control and not figuring out how to tame the storm inside. It’s a lot and thinking about it all often overwhelms me because I feel so helpless.
So I pray. I pray a lot of things. Probably some of them are totally inappropriate and would make parenting gurus and child development experts gasp. But most of them have something to do with begging God to help me parent this beautiful, creative, gifted child. Help me to understand her. Help me to see it from her perspective. Help me to love her well.