Hmmm. This seems to be a theme in my journey through parenthood. I seem to have to keep re-learning the same things over and over again. Like when Joel becomes an absolute walking talking nightmare that is so angry and destructive, it’s not time to lay down the law. It’s time to lay down the pillows and bed sheets and take a nap. God, I wish I would learn that one. In retrospect, it’s always so obvious but it’s always so hard to think clearly in the heat of the moment. Then, there’s my perpetual ignorance about Ruth’s temperament. She’s been super sensitive since she was a baby. We’re talking seven years here, people, and still, I play the fool. I’m the freakin’ court jester over here. Just hand me a hat with jingly bells on it and some juggling balls and watch me dance around like a moron.
Ruth can’t be pushed. She can’t be persuaded. She can’t (and shouldn’t be) coerced, though, believe me, I’ve tried all of these things at one time or another and every time, I lose. Not only does she not do what I am trying to get her to do, she loses trust in me, our relationship suffers and life is just yuck. This is a lesson I am forever learning and re-learning. I could give you a million examples from the earliest struggles of trying to get her to eat food as a baby to our most recent blunder: I thought it would be a good idea to sign her up for ballet. Big mistake.
In my mind, of course, it’s all with the best intensions. Though I usually shy away from anything traditionally slated for young females, I honestly have a hunch that dance would be something that Ruth would not just be good at, but that would be good for her in turn, being a venue for emotional expression, which is something that she seems to struggle with. “What’s the harm in trying” I reason. “Try anything once”. Plus, I got her to agree, which I took as a sign that perhaps she’s ready to start branching out more now that she’s begun to lose teeth and has reached that magic age of seven. In Steiner’s view (the father of the philosophy behind Waldorf schools) the age of seven to fourteen is the supposed “heart of childhood”. So, thought I, time to seize the freakin’ day.
I should have known it was all going to go south when she refused to put on the clothes that we picked out for her to wear to the practice. I should preface this by saying that Ruth will only usually wear one outfit (she’s extremely particular about clothes) so by the time she had put on the outfit, she was already acting a little out of control, a little like a caged animal ready to tear the shorts and shirt off her body and run screaming naked out of the dance studio. We persisted, though, and stood waiting for the class to begin. The teacher was a sweet blond woman (cha-ching! (This might sound odd, but I think because Ruth’s first ever gymnastics coach was young and blond, she’s partial to this type of adult working with her)) and used a quiet voice and seemed extremely serious (all good signs) yet Ruth refused to go with them to the bar. That was ok. I was willing to stand out from the crowd a bit to sit with her on the sidelines to watch. People always look at us like we’re odd, but I’ve done it enough times that I was ok with it.
Thus ends the things that I was ok with. To make a long and painful story short, she became fidgety and restless with a bunch of false starts to join the class until finally degrading into disrespectful sulking and finally flinging herself to the floor out of frustration for the situation when I had to leave the room with her and then she flew into a rage and started screaming/crying.
As we drove away from the place, like a thief fleeing the scene of the crime, I suffered the usual feelings of being outcast and different and not being able to do things that are “simple” and “normal” that other families seem to be able to do so easily. I tried not to let these feelings out toward Ruth but failed miserably. Then, after all the anger, frustration, and tears had subsided, I found myself sitting there astounded with my own stupidity. Why had I pushed her? Why? When will I ever learn my damn lesson and just let her be?
As parents, I believe it’s important to examine our own motives for acting the ways we do towards our children. We need to confront our own demons or the same unhealthy family patterns will just persist through the generations. I don’t have the answers. I am confused and lost and always doing the wrong thing. But I have hope. And I am motivated to do well by my kids, whatever that means to me (what I think it means is to help them to be emotionally and spiritually whole people who are able to unleash their gifts into the world and find satisfaction and fulfillment in their lifetimes). I am always falling short. But I get up every morning and I try again, damn it.