Don't kid yourself, it's gonna happen: one day, they're going to wake up and be in their mid-thirties. I am reminded of this daily--as she rolls her eyes, throws her hand on her hip and says, "Mommy, I don't NEED your help!" Sometimes I just stand there, looking stunned, wondering how the hell this happened already--she's not even four yet!
Every day, I challenge myself to a peaceful afternoon, void of any arguments with my 3+ year old daughter. I look in the mirror and make my best attempt at an affirmation, "I am a good mother. I love my daughter. I will not fight with her today," then I wake up and hit snooze one more time. Within the first 30 minutes of any given day, we're already at each other’s throats. "What do you want for breakfast? Pancakes? Eggs? Cheerios?" I ask. "Nothin'!" she yells while stripping down to her birthday suit, running frantically through the house screaming. "Come on, sweetie, we've got to get ready for school." I plead. "I'm not GOING to school, you can't MAKE me!" <deep breath; brew coffee>
When my mother and I had our first major fight, which, for the record, I can't recall, she handed me a copy of "Never Let the Sun Set on a Quarrel," by Rod McKuen. It was a small, hardback book filled with random quotes about love. The rule was; whenever we had a fight, the person who had the book in their possession needed to give it to the other person--no matter who was at fault. It was an unspoken apology and constant reminder of how short life is. Sometimes, I would circle a passage from the book and slap a note on that page before giving it back. Other times, I would cut a passage out and glue it to one of my handmade cards. Once, when I was much older, I enclosed The Book in a bouquet of cookies and had it delivered to my mother’s office. There was only one time when the book did not work and it broke my heart. It was the longest I had ever gone without speaking with my mother. I had tried everything, but she wouldn't budge. Finally, after nearly three months, my mother broke her silence. After many tears and hugs, I told my mother, "I don't care if you light me on fire, please don't ever ignore me again!" It was the most psychological punishment I had ever endured and one that I never care to experience again.
In our house, I am the disciplinary; I'm the good guy, the bad guy and the guy that's about to have a nervous breakdown. I spend 75% of my day trying to get her ready for something: school, bed, or a bath. A couple weeks ago, while attempting to wrestle her into her pajamas, she blurted out, "I don't want you anymore." It had been a longer-than-usual day and my last nerve was frayed and slightly exposed. I burst into tears and ran to get her father. After he read to her, I went back and sat down on the edge of her bed. "You hurt Mommy's feelings earlier." I confessed. "Well you hurt mine!" she retorted. Ignoring her "one-up" comment, I made a second attempt, "Be careful what you wish for, sweetheart... how would you feel if you wished you didn't have Mommy anymore and then something happened to Mommy?" "Sad." she replied. "That's right, you would feel sad. Sometimes we get angry and say things we don't mean but that's not very nice, is it?" I asked. "No. I'm sorry, Mommy, <tears> I love you." "I love you, too. Let's not fight anymore, okay?" We cried and hugged for a few minutes, and I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes from The Book, "Love is loveliest when embalmed in tears," Sir Walter Scott.
Life is short. Before you know it, they'll be out of your house, living separate lives and creating new memories with their own children. You're gonna fight with your kids, it's a given, but how long those arguments last and how they are resolved is all dependent on you. Do yourself a favor and try to be the bigger man (even when you don't want to), and teach your kids to do the same. I believe The Book, is out of publication, but I was lucky enough to pick up an extra copy several years ago (before my daughter was born). It's sitting in a box in our attic, but one day, I will have to give it to Isla and create my own (new) memories with my daughter. I can't be sure, but I'm willing to bet that she'll do the same for her kid(s) one day--I only hope I'm still around to see it.