Riley’s bus was late bringing her home yesterday. It’s actually a van. For some reason two vans had to be combined together. Kids that don’t usually ride together had to, and it was crowded. There was a little girl on the van. A little girl very much like Riley was as a little girl. She couldn’t deal with the change. She wanted to sit by someone particular and it didn’t work out the way she wanted it to. She was no doubt tired from a long day at school.
For thirty solid minutes she screamed as if someone were killing her. Any attempts the other kids made to talk her through made it worse.
Riley got off the van and came into the house saying, “Mom. Dad. I think I know what you were going through when I was little.”
She told us the whole story.
“I felt sorry for her but I really just wanted her to shut up. I was getting a headache.”
We talked about how it must have felt for the little girl to have everything be different, and to be tired and confused. To feel crowded and upset. To have people keep trying to talk to her when she just needed space.
“I’m so sorry I put you through that,” she said.
We told her she had nothing to apologize about. She was little and she didn’t feel good. And yes, sometimes it was maddening, but we understood, and we knew she was doing her best. We knew what a good kid she was, how sweet she was, how hard she always tries. And yes, on rare occasion because we ourselves have been limited, or tired, or confused and overwhelmed, we might not have handled it as well as we could have, but we have loved her every second of her life even if we weren’t dealing well with her at the time.
It was interesting to see her apply such perspective. It made me feel good. Not for her to feel guilty, but for her to acknowledge how the screaming child affected her nervous system, and to then place herself in our shoes.
I have carried so much guilt over times when I have not handled Riley’s meltdowns well. Most of the time I have and do handle things well, but sometimes I have not. And I fear those are going to be the things she will remember. Interestingly HT carries no such guilt. Just last week I pulled into the driveway and heard him screaming at her (another homework battle)all the way from outside in the driveway. He was over it in an hour. He’d let it go.
Later I asked him, not accusingly but just curiously…how that works.
“You’re okay with the fact that you were screaming at her?”
He shrugged, “I don’t like that I screamed at her, but she was exasperating.”
End of story.
That’s the kind of thing I will kick myself over for months or even years. I don’t get it. Is it a difference between men and women? Is it just me and my crazy desire to do everything, including motherhood perfectly? Or is he a rat bastard? Or does he merely have a healthier acceptance of his being human and all?
Anyway…back to Riley. This ability to step into our shoes, even for thirty minutes, makes me hopeful. It makes me feel like she will look back at her childhood and understand her parents in all their imperfection.
And love us anyway.