Welcome to Part One of the series called “Keep Calm &…Oh, F*** It!” We’ve all been there: maxed out, at our limit, and completely unable to take anymore, so we just say “F*** it.”
We are in a day & age where “memes” are EVERYWHERE. Aside from cat memes, I think the memes I see most often are the ones that say “Keep Calm” followed by pretty much any random thing you want to say.
Keep Calm &…
• rub some bacon on it
• drink wine
• brew coffee
• do yoga
• watch Supernatural
Google search “keep calm memes” and you’ll see they are endless.
When you’re a parent “keeping calm” can often be exceptionally challenging. That’s where the “Oh, F*** It” (hereto referred to as OFI moment) part comes into play. We all have an OFI story, but let me tell you about my worst one.
It started when our husky, Saber, got ran over and died. I know this sounds like a silly thing to set off the chain of events that I’m going to tell you about in future posts, but keep in mind that our animals are family to us & my children were pretty young and impressionable when this happened. Plus, it was their first real experience with death where we couldn’t protect them from it. He was a sweet, but very typical husky…as in, he was very independent and hard to control. He would randomly run off and would not come back no matter how much you called him. He came home when he wanted to. We built a high fence around the back yard to contain him & then we took him through obedience training. It was helping, but whenever he saw an opportunity (i.e. whenever I wasn’t right there watching him or holding him on a leash & someone opened a door…), he would still bolt out the front door and take off.
Every member of my family had chased that dog down at one time or another. My mom even chased and TACKLED him one week after having had a hysterectomy. Talk about Wonder Woman. I worried incessantly that something would happen to him when he did this. Finally, something did.
It was a bad day all around. One thing after the other had gone completely wrong & I just felt like I wanted to go to sleep for five days straight. When the kids got home from school, we did homework (frustrating in itself) and then I sent them outside to play while I cooked supper. I had Saber beside me where he generally stayed because I was the one training him so he didn’t really listen to anyone else as well as he listened to me (& he only barely listened to me). My husband called and while we were on the phone having an ‘almost-argument’ (you know the kind where you’re both really annoyed – not necessarily at each other – but you take it out on each other anyway?), it only vaguely registered that Saber had wandered into the living room. I figured he was just going to his bed. I was wrong. His smart ass totally had an agenda.
One of the kids was holding the front door wide open for another kid to bring their bicycle inside. Don’t ask me why they felt like the bike needed to come inside; some questions just can’t be answered. I can’t even remember who was holding the door open and who was bringing the bike in. Anyway, the dog ran out…and he never came back. It felt like the millionth time he’d done this and we had talked to the kids (it felt like) hundreds of time about not opening doors around him until I was with him, had him leashed, crated, or in the back yard. It was one of those “how many times have I told you” episodes; that whole couple of months in my life just felt like the perfect storm leading up to everything that happened next. I exploded and unfortunately Princess Sassypants unfairly received the brunt of that explosion.
I was very emotionally stressed at the time. We had just bought the house, my husband was always working or sleeping, I was always the one cleaning and watching after the kids, making sure they got their homework done, etc.. Two of them were struggling in school (academically) and I was constantly back and forth talking to teachers and staff about their performance. Our marriage was strained, we were still acclimating to civilian life after my husband was retired from the Army, and trying to deal with his PTSD which is a hard thing to try to navigate as an individual, let alone as a couple/family. To top it all off, I had a dog that wouldn’t listen. I’m sure there were some other contributing factors at the time, but I don’t really remember any of them now, they were so trivial. Anyway, none of that is an excuse for how I reacted. I actually made the statement, “if something happens to him, it’s going to be your fault.” Of course I didn’t mean it. Let the perfect parent cast the first stone, okay? I was just angry & emotionally frayed. But, she was only 7 or 8 years old at the time and she is the most sensitive of all my children; how could she have understood that? Something like that should never be said to a child, but I feel especially bad that I said it to her, given her sensitive nature.
If I had said those horrible words to her and he would have come home that night, I’m sure only minimal damage would have been done. As it was, something actually did happen to him. When we took the kids to school the morning after Saber ran off, we actually saw him lying in the middle of the highway before we got to the school. We couldn’t stop the kids from seeing it and there was no opportunity for any of us to prepare ourselves. No one reacted well. Unfortunately, I couldn’t seem to reign my anger in and “keep calm.” When we saw him laying in the road, I screamed, covered my mouth with my hand and looked directly at my daughter in the backseat with an expression that, I’m sure, held more contempt and blame in it than any I’ve ever given her in her life. That only served to make her feel even more guilty than I’d already made her feel the night before. I will never truly be able to forgive myself for that. It was the one time in our entire relationship so far that my husband has had to be the one to tell me to calm down in front of the kids instead of me telling him. All the kids went to school sobbing. We should have let them stay out that day and looking back at it, I’m not sure why we didn’t.
Any child’s first experience with death is not going to be pretty, nice, or comfortable, but it’s even more traumatic when you have someone outright blaming you for it…even if it is ‘just a dog.’ I know it wasn’t Princess Sassypants’ fault the dog got ran over and I’ve apologized to her more times than I can count for my reaction. We’ve talked about this repeatedly and she really seemed to accept my apologies. I can’t take back what I said though, and I know she will never forget it.
This is where the point of my post really comes in:
After Saber’s death is when everything that is happening with her now (ODD and all) started to surface. I really believe that everything that has happened with her since that day happened because she felt an overwhelming amount of guilt & probably some feelings of worthlessness. (Which, as you can imagine makes me feel like the effing mother of the year. :/) A child her age doesn’t know how to deal with feelings like that, so she started acting out. I feel like it’s my fault that she is the way she is. Whatever emotional problems she has now, I caused them so I don’t give myself the luxury of serious OFI moments anymore. I refuse to make my daughter feel that way ever again.
I’m not saying I don’t still feel insane half the time or that I never break down; I do. I just don’t do it quite like that and I don’t do it with or in front of my kids if I can help it. (My OFI moments now have more of a humorous ring to them these days.) I HAVE to stay calm with Princess Sassypants in particular, or risk doing more harm than good. I’m telling you this because if you have an ODD child or a particularly strong willed child, staying in control of your emotions when you’re dealing with them is going to be the key to handling them & not completely losing your sanity in the process. That’s the case with any child, but the typical child isn’t going to push your limits to get you to the point where you’re tempted to lose control as much a SWC will. In order to do anything with a strong willed child, you have to have a relationship with her or she won’t respect you enough to give a damn what you say to her. I damaged my relationship with my child at a time/age when most kids practically worship their parents. I had to backtrack to try to repair it & we all know I can’t just cram the words back into my mouth no matter how much I wish I could. Don’t do that. It’s not worth it.
Lesson #1: Keep calm…for real. Whenever you feel like you can’t stay calm anymore, just walk away. Your relationship is more important than any temporary negative emotion you feel. Send the kid to his/her room or whatever you have to do to get the space you need. Tell them you love them, but you both need to calm down and you’ll revisit the subject later after you’ve had time to collect yourself & decide on an appropriate course of action. Don’t end up saying or doing something you’ll regret.
I’ll continue this story tomorrow, but for now if you have any thoughts feel free to leave them below. Have an OFI moment you want to share? I know mine was kinda heavy, but there are some funny ones, too and after this confessional little blog post I feel like I could use the laughs. 🙂 As you’re going about your day with your babies, just try to remember to stay calm (but firm) with them. It gets better!! Now, I’m going to go clean myself up…nobody likes tears in their biscuits!