Like most people, I don’t like admitting my mistakes. Especially when it comes to how I deal with my kids. That’s not to say I don’t make errors regularly, because I do. But sometimes I screw up in a way that really sticks with me. New Year’s Day was one of those days.
It started off well enough. I was impressed that my husband and I managed to follow through with our plan of rising early on the first day of 2016 and managed to get everyone out of the house to see the 9:45 am showing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
We wanted to see the movie as a family, but we are not a group that does well with crowds. So we had purposely waited the two weeks after it opened and picked a time when the fewest people would be at the theater. I’m not the biggest fan of the Star Wars franchise, but I was looking forward to watching my family of Luke Skywalker groupies enjoy the show.
As we walked into the theater, our oldest Tom, 17, looked at me and said, “I can’t believe I’m going to see a Star Wars movie in a theater. This is a dream come true.” I felt all warm and fuzzy and did my best to tuck this into my bank of motherhood memories.
I was a little nervous when my 10-year-old saw a boy from his school. Peter struggles with his ADHD and some learning differences. He has made tremendous strides. But some kids grow impatient with him, and it’s not always easy for him to make friends. I wasn’t overly worried about how he would act at the movie, but if I’m being honest, I was hoping that the whole experience would show my sweet son in the best light and might even get back to some of the other kids in his grade.
There’s nothing like putting pressure on a family event to ensure that it will quickly run off the rails.
We got our popcorn, and everyone settled in to watch the movie. As the previews concluded, and the film was about to begin, Peter started to have an issue with sitting still and being quiet. He said the movie was too loud for him and that he wanted to leave. He then started asking for more food and said he needed the bathroom, I handled the whole thing perfectly and through clenched teeth told him to knock it off and watch the movie.
That is when my little one really lost it and started crying. Through tears he said, “Mommy, you clenched your teeth. That means you are really mad at me.”
Joe whispered to me that perhaps the 3D effects were too much for him and put him in sensory overload. He quickly whisked Peter from the theater to take him to the bathroom. I followed after them thinking I would help Peter and let Joe, the biggest Star Wars fan of all of us, enjoy the movie.
Let’s just say I was not at my best. I was angry at my son and frustrated at his behavior. I didn’t see a kid who has been working on his issues and doing his best. I didn’t care that he was speaking up, a real accomplishment for him, telling me how he felt, and saying that he was overwhelmed. All I saw was a child who was out of control and ruining my idea of the perfect family outing.
The funny thing is, once Peter was out of the theater he was fine. And he was happy to be with me. I found myself conflicted. I wanted to enjoy him and take it all in stride, but I couldn’t silence my inner critic. Maybe I was just not being strong enough? Perhaps his behavior wasn’t because of his ADHD. Was it because I was too permissive?
I went against my best instincts and decided we needed to try the movie one more time. Peter did his best and didn’t make a scene, but I could tell this was just too tough for him. I was able to quiet my inner critic and parented my son the way I knew he needed me to. I told him we could go back outside and wait. I felt both a sense of happiness and shame when he looked up at me, smiled and said thank you mom.
Once again I was reminded at how parenting can be a tightrope walk. It’s not always easy to know when it’s time to teach a lesson and when my child really needs me to back off and be there for him. I was glad that in the end I was able to quiet the critic and mother my son.