Before my little grandson’s birthday party today, my son and I got into a fight over sneakers. He insists that his sneakers have wiggle room for the toes, and the only shoes that fit his rigid specifications have holes in the toes from heavy use. I know we need to shoe shop for my growing son, and I plan to do that this week. In the meantime, I wanted him to wear a nice pair of shoes from our shoe bench. The pair I had in mind fit his feet but don’t give him the voluminous wiggle room he wants. In the end, I let him wear the shoes he wanted, mostly because I wanted to end the screaming session we had fallen into.
On the drive to the party, we all discussed the shoe dilemma. I promised we would buy new shoes this week, we talked about ways we can avoid fighting in the future and my son and I apologized to each other. We arrived at the party ready to celebrate the birthday boy.
During the party, the birthday boy said to his momma, “I not like you, Mommy.” She and I chuckled over that comment and discussed how this statement defines motherhood sometimes. Our children do not always agree with us or appreciate our rules, requests or guidelines. In fact, we sometimes want to respond with, “Mommy not like you either right now” when our little ones do things that we do not like.
Conflict happens in any relationship. What do you do when your child, whom you love more than life itself and would die to protect, declares that he or she is unhappy with you?
As the adult and a mom, I have to put aside my emotions sometimes and choose to practice what I preach. Patience, self-control and calmness must define my behavior when my son expresses displeasure at something I say or ask him to do. In addition to shoes and clothing conflicts, we sometimes argue when I tell him he has to read for school, attend his online class, write his letters starting on the top left corner, or cannot ride his bike around the block when we are ready to leave for an errand run. Some days, it feels like we argue from son-up until son-down.
On these days, I have to pull out my arsenal of tips that help deflect the conflict and restore peace. Some of my ideas include
1. explaining that I need a time out then walking away for a break (my favorite time out spot is my closet where I can sit on the floor and cry, scream or journal for a few minutes until I can calm down),
2. changing the atmosphere by engaging in an enjoyable activity like turning on music, starting a tickle fight, reading a book or playing with him and his favorite toys,
3. relaxing and asking myself if the fight is worth it (I don’t want him to think he can get his own way just because he whines or says he doesn’t like me, but sometimes I need to reassess my demands or requests and give him more reasonable tasks or help him accomplish what I need him to do.),
4. taking time after we calm down to discuss how much I love him, and
5. being thankful that my child feels comfortable expressing his emotions.
While I cannot make my child happy with me all the time and I cannot always be happy with him, I do try not to take his displeasure personally. In fact, I am probably doing something right if he does not always agree with me. After all, my job is to be his mother not his best friend or his clone. By nature, our relationship will experience moments of conflict. As a family, we all benefit from learning how to resolve conflict at home in our controlled environment.
That being said, as soon as I finish writing this post, I’m sitting down with my son to look online for sneakers. Hopefully, the pair we find will include plenty of wiggle room.