I heard the banging coming from upstairs. She was angry. Very angry. She’d asked earlier that morning if she could wear a particular dress to school, and I had told her no. While I usually choose not to pick the clothes battle right before school, this morning, I did. The particular dress that she wanted to wear was one that was meant for a nice event or on Sunday for church. It wasn’t meant to run around in during gym class in or climb the jungle gym on the playground at recess.
But she wasn’t happy with my decision. And I wasn’t backing down. Neither was she.
At six years old, my daughter doesn’t yet fully understand my reasoning behind decisions I make. While I decide based on what’s best for her, she decides based on what her feelings are at that particular moment in time. And on this day, she wanted to wear that dress.
As I went to get my other two children ready for school, my daughter just stood there and cried, throwing a tantrum in her bedroom. All the while, I kept reminding her that she needed to get dressed and that we needed to get to school, otherwise we’d be late. But you see, that only made her more angry, thereby escalating her tantrum.
Before I knew it, the screaming got louder and the cries became more intense. And that’s when I heard the loud thud coming from her room upstairs.
I raced up to make sure she was okay, only to find her crying on the floor, with the drawer from her dresser broken and upside down next to her. She’d apparently gotten so mad as she was opening the drawer to get socks, she yanked on it with all her might and broke it.
Now, not only was I angry that she was making us late over an argument (about a dress, no less), but I also had to deal with her epic tantrum that resulted in broken furniture. The whole thing was completely out of character for both of us — for my daughter, who rarely, if ever throws fits, and for me, who rarely, if ever is angry with her.
I told her to hurry up and get dressed; we needed to get to school as soon as possible.
At that moment, she knew I was truly angry. She knew that she crossed the line. She knew that this entire argument over a silly little dress wasn’t worth the crocodile tears and the tense back and forth that we had all morning long.
We rode to school in silence as I tried to process the entire morning and get over my anger. When my daughter got out of the car, I could see that tears still filled her eyes. I told her I loved her, and to have a good day at school. She told me she loved me too, and raced through the doors of the school.
But as I watched her walk away, a deep sense of guilt suddenly washed over me.
The swiftness of the entire situation was too much for me to process. Usually, if she gets in trouble for something, we have time to sit and talk it out. This morning, though, we didn’t. And so I let her walk into school knowing I was still upset; I let her move through her day knowing that the anger still lingered.
As for me, my guilt stayed with me all day. And it ate me up.
There was a small part of me that actually wanted to get in my car and drive to her school, just so I could talk with her about what had happened. I wanted her to know why I was angry and for her to understand her actions were not acceptable.
But I didn’t; I just let it go. And I hoped that her day at school would only be better than the morning that we just had.
That afternoon, I waited outside her school at dismissal, just as I always do. I could see that she spotted me right away from the steps, and immediately ran over with a huge smile on her face. She jumped in my arms, as if that agonizing hour or two before school that morning had never even happened, and she proudly held up a piece or paper for me to read.
It was certificate, given by her teacher, and it showed that she had a “spectacular” day. They have a behavior chart in their classroom, and “spectacular” is the best you can get up to — a rare achievement. And today, despite our rough morning, she made it; she did it.
Maybe she’d gone to school and somehow forgotten it all. Maybe she’d pushed the tantrum and the yelling and the broken drawer straight out of her mind — something I surely wasn’t able to do.
But as we walked to the car, my daughter looked up at me and told me how sorry she was for her how she’d acted. She hadn’t forgotten; she’d been thinking about it too, and she’d learned from it. I told her I was sorry, as well. And suddenly, that was that.
There are so many days when I wish I had a manual to get me through this parenting thing. To get me through the hard days, the sad times, and the curveballs that seem to come out of left field suddenly and take me on an emotional rollercoaster.
But that, I suppose, is parenting. And those curveballs? I’d like to think I’m getting way better at dodging them.