One of my primary struggles as a parent is to step back from any given situation and ask myself, "Why am I doing this? Am I helping anything? What would help?"
As usual, I failed miserably at stepping back from an escalated situation this morning. If there's one thing I hate doing, it's causing a needless meltdown, but when it's coming, in that very moment, I have such a hard time changing track and moving away from the source of conflict. Sounds like someone else I know. Apple, meet tree.
Me: Flynn, please zip your coat.
F: I can't!
Me: I know you can do it. You do it all the time.
F: I CAN'T DO IT! YOU DO IT FOR ME!
Me: Of course you can. And that's not how you ask. How could you ask me to do that nicely?
F: ZIP IT UP FOR ME!!!!!!!!!!
Me: (walking outside) Okay fine, you don't have to do it. Let's go.
F: YOU ZIP MY COAT!!!!!!!!!!
etc. etc. etc.
Proceed to screaming meltdown outside by the car: "YOU HAVE TO ZIP MY COAT FOR ME!!!" At least he didn't start chasing me around and hitting me.
Fighting about putting on his coat can suck it. I reeeeeeeally can't wait for summer.
Getting the coat zipped has been a ginormous struggle recently, so I stepped in it just by bringing it up. I don't know why, but he has decided that this is my job, when we're leaving the house. He's been slowly getting better about doing everything else to get ready in the morning (getting dressed, brushing teeth, shoes, etc.), but has regressed with zipping the coat, which he has been able to do since he was barely 3. Two steps forward, blah, blah blah.
In the grand scheme of things, who cares? NT kids fight with their parents on stupid things like this, too, right? (Right? I'm really asking - I have no idea). My problem is that, in the back of my mind, I always have that nagging "superior parent" voice, telling me that if I just demanded more from him, he'd do more:
Aren't you failing him by letting him off the hook and giving in?
Aren't you teaching him incompetence?
The world's not going to go easy on him.
And as a dad, society tells me that it's my job to teach him to be self-sufficient. It's supposed to be my job to be the tough one. That's not how we roll in our house (I'm usually his source of comfort), but these things are . . . deep . . . inside me; sub-conscious.
Looking back, I know that I went wrong by assuming that his words accurately expressed his actual problem. There's a reason that literally the final step in getting ready before actually walking out the door keeps coming up as a point of struggle.
He almost never tells me his real problem - my assumption is that, most of the time, he can't verbalize it. He might not even recognize the real source of his problem if it were pointed out to him. In this case, he told us his real problem 5 minutes before we left - he didn't want to go to school. The zipper was just the straw that broke the camel's back.
When in doubt, assume he's scared.
Also, I really need to tell those voices to fuck off. If he's struggling, the answer is to add understanding and love, not to burn the whole place down.
"Will you come find me,
If I crash and burn?"
Crash and Burn, Angus & Julia Stone