Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Worst Parent in the World

So I'm standing in the middle of kitchen, eating ice cream directly from the carton and trying to figure out how to fix my daughter.*

This has been a difficult week in general for Miss for reasons I can't altogether put my finger on. Usually, when she takes a step back behaviorally, she's about ready to take a bound forward developmentally. Or it could be that she's not getting enough sleep. Or any number of things.

But it all accumulates in her falling into a sobbing heap in the middle of karate class yelling, "I CAN'T!"

I could see her struggling to balance during the kicks. I could sense her rising anxiety while running relay. Somewhere along the line, she became overwhelmed. The teacher is by no means ignoring her--he's encouraging, working beside her. But at some point, another parent is walking down the wall asking if anyone knows who belongs to the little girl in front who's crying.

Normally, parents are not allowed to observe the classes. I know it's not a great day for her teacher, but I also trust him to do his job. I also know that when Miss is in that headspace, giving attention to the meltdown can sometimes feed the monster. I'm skirting the line between letting her work through it and removing her so she doesn't disturb the rest of the class. This other parent forces my hand.

I pull her aside, try to get her calm as much as possible, then send her back in. The rest of the class, I'm on the side in case I need to pull her out again, but I'm also trying to emphasize that quitting is the last option on the list. But no matter what I do, I know the I am the Bad Parent.

We get through it. We get home. I try to ask questions to find out what's going on, but her narrative wanders as it will. The entire time I am fighting the urge not to completely lose my shit.

Here's the thing: I get it.

Watching her melt down in frustration is probably the ugliest and most truthful mirror you could hold up to my interior self. I distinctly remember complaining to my mom about not being able to hit a ball or run fast, something that seemed so effortless to my peers--and worse, something my peers teased me about. I have visceral memories of trying to shove tears back in my head during a sixth grade music class because I couldn't convert what seemed like random clapping into musical notation. Hell, I remember snapping at a bowling party as an adult to someone who was trying to give me helpful advice.

She may not believe me, but I do--I do--understand.

So back to me in the kitchen: I put away the ice cream and go to check on her. I knock gently her closed door and ask permission to come in. She's naked as a jaybird and happily playing. I ask if she's okay, and she chirps yes and asks if we can go to the Y for swimming. I say we can later and go to make a more nutritious lunch, shaking my head.

Was she playing me? No. As I said, I know what those feelings are like. I fight them even now. I look at my behavior even a few months ago--it's hard to put my weakness on face-to-face display. I'm terrified with the race tomorrow--finally meeting some folks in person and then showing off how slow and inexperienced I still am. I still take the risk, though, because the reward is worth it. I will have completed 20 minutes of uninterrupted running (if I don't get too lost). I will have made friends. I get to wear a cute costume. There should be an awesome swag bag.

I'm trying to remember what my mom told me when I was having perfectionism tantrums--it gets better; I will find what matters to me. I didn't believe her at the time. I was pretty sure she didn't understand. But it did. And I did. And she did.

Somehow I'm learning to step into arenas that don't come naturally to me. A little. I've learned to sight read in a stumbling fashion, but I will still not voluntarily go bowling.

Is the It Gets Better speech enough to sustain my girl through next week, much less this afternoon?

I may end up at the freezer again tonight, spoon in hand. Thank heaven I'm going for a run in the morning.

* I know I'm probably going to take a lot of flack and get a lot of unwanted parenting advice from this post. I guess that's the risk with sharing something that's honest. Then again, someone may feel relieved that someone else is going through this too, which is worth the risk.

But I swear it will come back to my running journey. Stick with me.