Forgive me for Stomping all over your Victory

41

February 13, 2014 by Katia

contour

His eyes are searching. His facial expression is one of contained alarm. He’s standing at the doorway in his military camouflage snow suit and winter gear, stopped in his tracks by an entirely different kind of storm. His search finally yields something:

Renember how I told you…” he tries, only to have his words silenced by a new exchange of fire between us, his parents. I know exactly what he’s trying to say. He wants to remind me of last night’s proud victory. He thinks I may have forgotten how he, in his truly infinite wisdom, advised me the night before on how to treat his diaper-change and clothes refusing 18-month-old brother. And how I, big authority that I am, gave him the official seal of approval on his idea.

Don’t be mad at him.”

He told me as I was getting frustrated over my inability to clothe my sick toddler, who insisted on running around sockless and naked after his bath. I explained the reasons for my frustration. He had the answer to my problem and knew exactly what he wanted to say, I could tell, but was struggling to formulate it. It’s almost like his preschool syntax was trying to catch up at that moment with his experienced soul and he finally told me,

Leave him alone.” Pause. “When he doesn’t need you.” Longer pause. “He will come to you.” New sentence.

I grabbed him and embraced him ever so tightly. I told him that he is absolutely right and wise and that I’ve learned from him. I could see that it made him proud.

Now we’re standing at the doorway and he calls upon that victory from the previous night to come to his aid, but it’s failing him all of a sudden and he must be so confused. He sees Mama and Abba* shooting words at each other instead of speaking them.  There’s fire and tears in their eyes and venom in their voices. I don’t want to be having this fight so early in the morning, least of all in front of him and his brother. I engage in that awkward one-man-band performance using a harsh octave for rebutting and attacking and a soft one for my attempted dialogue with him.

Whenever I look at him, whenever I lie down in bed with him to help him fall asleep, I’m amazed at the amount of space he takes up. I haven’t caught up with his biological age yet. Now I look at Four Year Old and see him for what he really is. I see a tiny, heart squeezing figure literally talking itself up, elevating itself into maturity but its contours are still so childish.

I spend the day broken, replaying his plea in my head over and over again: “Renember how I told you…” I trial and find myself guilty of breaking my son’s heart. When I pick him up at school he’s cheerful and carefree.

In the evening my husband and I talk and he, in his own infinite wisdom, tells me that this is not a bad thing. We don’t fight often. We don’t fight ugly. We are two only children who were raised by single moms. We find conflict intimidating and terrifying, we’re not equipped to deal with it. He will be different. He will learn from this that people fight and make up and fight again and it’s okay.

And in the grand scheme of things he is right, and I know it, but I’m so sorry, son, for not letting you celebrate your victory once again this morning.

forgiveme

* Abba – dad in Hebrew.

***

So that happened. And I’m still gutted. What do you do to avoid fighting in front of your kids?

***

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41 thoughts on “Forgive me for Stomping all over your Victory

  1. findingninee says:

    Oh God, Katia, we have such similar issues, here. My son, for so long (he’s 4 1/2) didn’t seem to notice but now will act out, or cry, or say “No nice yelling!!!” and we try. But at the same time, I read something a long time ago about how it’s actually damaging to a child to not hear his parents have fights and conflicts and how not being aware that this exists messes them up for later MUCH MORE than BEING REAL. You were being real. And that’s okay. It’s okay although, yeah, it totally and completely sucks. Hugs to you, friend. Big ones.

  2. Your post tugged at my heart. This is a topic that I have struggled with since my twins were born. I have found it difficult, in the heat of the moment, not to argue with their father in front of them. While hard not to give in, I have found that trying to keep my emotions in check while taking the mental time to chose my words carefully to make sure I make my points without being disrespectful. Am I successful? At times yes and at times no. It depends on if my temper gets the better of me. Please don’t beat yourself up….we are humans ruled by emotions and our children are resilient.

    • Katia says:

      Thank you so much, This is a prime example of online kindness. I have been (obviously) beating myself up a little bit, even though I felt dragged into the argument – but don’t we all feel that way? – and I feel better knowing that an outsider to the situation reading this can still relate. Your words really helped, thank you so much!

  3. karem says:

    oh wow…I fight with hubby all the time in front of Dino regarding discipline or reactions. Hubby will come over and tell me what to do and I lose it…or vice versa… Though Hubby is better at calmly talking to Dino and I am the one who gets angry and says I am going to lock him in his room or call “officer Joe” though I never do…We kiss at the end, especially in front of Dino,and try to compliment each other’s ideas….but still so hard.

    Love how honest you were…all us parents can totally relate.

    • Katia says:

      Thank you, Karen. It was hard writing this and reliving his stress. I hate, hate, hate that this happened.

      Thank you so much for your kindness, I was worried about being judged.

  4. Lisa @ The Golden Spoons says:

    My hubby and I rarely fight, but that’s not to say we never irritate each other. I think my kids can pick up on the tension even when it’s not shouted. I think it is important to show them how to resolve conflict in a respectful way. We don’t try to pretend that we always get along, but we do try to “argue” civilly and constructively. I shy away from conflict at all costs, but that doesn’t solve anything. Usually, neither does yelling. I hope we are modeling a method somewhere in-between for our girls.

    • Katia says:

      I always try to keep it civil but sometimes I am so caught off guard by how an unexpected argument creeps up on me that I feel like I’m drowning. I have to catch my breath, my eyes tear up despite of myself. I suppose I have to find a way to become emotionally immune to this.

  5. Jean says:

    Perfect, Katia. Heartbreaking, beautiful, honest, and wise. xo

  6. I’m sobbing right now because I can feel your pain oozing out of my screen. I think your husband is right — kids need to learn that arguing, disagreement are a part of life and you can disagree and *still* love one another. That’s an important lesson. But I so, so get the pain of feeling like you have disabused your son of one more piece of his innocence…. xoxo

  7. VintageInk says:

    That was a beautiful post, Katia.

    I want to say a lot more, but I find I am unable to get past the emotions that jumped at me.

    I am sure your son understands :) Or even if he doesn’t, I am sure he tries. Or even if he isn’t able to, one day, I know he will :)

  8. Oh boy. I’m so afraid of this, of fighting in front of my children in the future. I felt your pain, Katia.

  9. Lizzi R says:

    Heartbreaking but I’m so glad that you both talked and made up. Husby and I are known for snarking at one another. We keep it in check in front of Niece and Neff, but they’ve sometimes caught us. I think as long as they know we make up again, it’s probably not too bad for them to see us getting it wrong sometimes.

  10. Sandy Ramsey says:

    This post must have been tough and it went straight for the heart. My husband and I rarely fight but there is a lot of bantering back and forth, mostly in fun but sometimes one or the other of us will take it a step too far. Our kids see it but they see us say I’m sorry and they see us in the good times too. Kids need to know their parents are real people. They get angry. But they also forgive and kiss and hug and say nice things. I think as long as there is no loss of control it’s not so bad. As much as we would like to, we cannot shield them from everything. Even if we try, kids are smarter than we give them credit for. They see, hear, and feel things we don’t think they do. I hope you give yourself a break. He will be alright. Chin up!

    • Katia says:

      Oh Sandy, this is just what I needed to hear. All of it. Thank you so much. You are absolutely right and they see, hear and feel things even when we don’t intend for them to so I suppose it’s futile to shield them completely as you say. I’m no longer beating myself up, but thank you, thank you, thank you for this lovely comment.

  11. Yvonne says:

    Katia, I’m sure there’s nobody who hasn’t been in this situation at some time. Parenting, particularly when your children are small is hard work at times. (It’s also joyful and wonderful!) We get tried, we misunderstand each other, don’t communicate as well as we’d like, we feel hurt, take it personally – all those things “experts” say we should stash away somewhere else and not expose in front of our children.

    But I agree with your husband – this is how children learn that arguments aren’t the end of relationships. It’s how they learn to feel safe I guess. Because children do understand far more than we’d imagine and they intuitively know when adults are hiding things, and that I think can be even more scary for them. Of course, it is important to try to be respectful, but that’s important anyway – and if we don’t manage it, it’s important to forgive ourselves!

    And your son’s advice was just awesome: “Leave him alone.” Pause. “When he doesn’t need you.” Longer pause. “He will come to you.”

    This is what I have been learning to do ever since my kids were born and is still something I need reminding about often!

    • Yvonne says:

      In the first paragraph, I meant to say we get tired, not tried, though possibly we get that too!

    • Katia says:

      I love your comments, Yvonne, they’re always so profound and wise and plain kind. My son’s advice absolutely blew me away. I’ve been trying to just step back when chaos takes place and wait until I’m allowed to do my thing again. Distracting 18 Month Old with a bottle of milk also works…

  12. Liz says:

    Very moving. I’m frightened sometimes of what my daughter will learn from my husband’s (showing anger) and my (withdrawal, with more than a dash of passive-aggressive) fighting styles. I don’t want to do what my own parents did, pretend nothing was wrong. Teaching my child how to deal with emotions is so important and fills me with such anxiety not to fail her. Great post! Your son sounds terrific. Fills me with hope about children’s resilience and maybe that they will be the ones to teach us.

    • Katia says:

      Yes, I can totally relate to what you’re saying. There’s probably some literature we can read on fighting in front of your kids and then refer back to it when this dreaded situation happens, instead of scrambling for solutions when we’re so emotional. Kids are definitely more resilient than we imagine. I would still prefer not to fight in front of him (duh) but you’re right, it may not be as terrible for them as we experience it.

  13. Sarah says:

    Oh, Katia, your son is SO wise… and you are such a loving mom. He will be okay. Because you will talk to him and he has you. And they are so resilient. and he is so loved. Hugs, mama

    • Katia says:

      So wise, I know. It’s kind breathtaking sometimes. It’s true that kids are more resilient than we imagine. I know he’s going to be okay, I’d just hate it if he felt like it was his responsibility to protect and not vice versa. I’ve felt that way toward my mom, maybe it’s just natural. Okay, now I’m officially rambling. Thank you, friend.

  14. bethteliho says:

    I read this the other day from my phone and it tugged at my heart! I remembered tonight I’d wanted to comment so came back to it. I’m sure it was a delicate, difficult thing to write about, but something you are not alone in, my friend. Like you said, little people need to know people argue, bicker, etc. and that doesn’t mean they don’t still love each other. The hubs and I don’t argue often, but we “discuss” things all the time in front of the kids. If either one of us starts to get a bit too passionate in the debate, we remind each other to chill in front of the kids. It’s SO TOUGH though.
    Great post, Katia. You’re such a beautiful writer. *sigh*

    • Katia says:

      Thank you so much for coming back and commenting, Beth, that’s really kind, I know how time-consuming all of this is and I really appreciate it. Yes, we get passionate too, as you put it, and I worry that it scares him. I really want to learn to hit an internal “off” switch when an argument is brewing, but I’m not quite there yet…

  15. […] His eyes are searching. His facial expression is one of contained alarm. He’s standing at the doorway in his military camouflage snow suit and winter gear, stopped in his tracks by an entirely different kind of storm.  […]

  16. You wrote about such a gut-wrenching topic with such grace and poignancy. I really relate to every bit of it. My husband and I are “fighters”. It actually sounds like you and your husband don’t do it that often. So you have that. I cannot say the same. I love my husband dearly, but we fight. It happens in front of our daughter, and I am not proud. We are working on it, though, and it is true that we talk about it with our daughter. She knows that people fight and people make up. There is that. It is better than what my husband and I both grew up with. Really, it’s all I can hold onto though, because I just feel like a bad person for not being able to control myself better.

    • Katia says:

      We’re irregular. Sometimes we fight frequently but it doesn’t usually last long and then we won’t fight for a while. I have to say there’s some comfort in realizing that others fight too (duh). Thank you so much, my friend, for your very thoughtful comment.

  17. I had a friend a few years ago who said he never heard or saw his parents fight, so he thought you weren’t supposed to and so he avoided all conflict with his wife. He just walked away from it, which eventually he realized wasn’t good. I think it’s good to argue in front of the kids to some degree and to let them see you come back together and show that it happens in relationships and that you’ll get through it and can love each other on the other side – even grow closer.

  18. Kaedi says:

    Awwwww.. I can feel you. Don’t worry this shall pass. Just fill his surroundings with love as much as you can :)

  19. […] My very brilliant friend Katia wrote this amazing piece last week on fighting in front of children: Forgive Me For Stomping All Over Your Victory. Highly recommended, insightful […]

  20. Jen says:

    I read this post a few days ago from my phone but couldn’t comment. It stuck with me. I often explain how hard it is for me to have an argument with my husband because, as Isaiah is an only child, he is at my side 24/7 and so how do I say what I need to say? With a husband who falls asleep sometimes earlier than the boy I try to find a room where I can close a door, and yet he is listening outside. The unwanted effect is that, at 8, the boy wants to choose sides. He also worries that I am mean to my husband. He doesn’t understand, but attempts to process. I explain that we are not angry with each other, we are just having a discussion that sometimes gets heated. Just like he (Isaiah) and I do sometimes.
    I hope that is good enough. I remember my parents fighting a lot. I didn’t like it. I am hoping not to repeat history. I guess I won’ t know if I was successful until he’s grown. I can only hope that the very close relationship I have with him now, that I did not have with my own mother, will help him see that our hearts are still strong.

    • Katia says:

      Your extremely bright little boy is at the age where he can’t see nuances. Everything is very black and white. When he grows up I have no doubt he’ll understand what this was all about, as will mine. I love you.

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