There is a class available for the taking called Dealing with Difficult People. I have seen a couple of versions available through work or for extra credit at the Justice Institute and every time I think, now THAT is valuable skill building. Why isn’t that class mandatory at a high school level that we all might start our lives as adults with at least a primer in conflict resolution and skills of interpersonal negotiation rather than the oh-so-useful Western Civilization (and its Discontents) class where we watched slideshows of bronzed busts for 8 months or heaven help me more algebra (sorry math-heads).
I was talking to a mom of two the same age as my two who lives in my neighbourhood and she helped me nail something down. She said, “I am so tired of all the fighting, all the negotiating, all the back-and-forth about every little thing.” I said, “It’s like we’re at war.” I finally clued in, then, that my exhaustion is mental as well as physical; hence even when I get a nap in the afternoon and awake semi-refreshed, if the rest of the day is spent in non-stop conflict I close out the day feeling like a used dishrag. Conflict is tiring!
I am choosing my battles, never fear. I’m not spending 10 seconds on whether his socks match or whether he can have bread and butter again for the 14th meal in a row or whether we go to X park or Y park. I am very laid back about almost everything. I know you are shocked.
But Trombone is 2 years and one quarter old and he has to assert his identity so he is running away from the diaper change, waffling about the walk to the park, having tantrums about sliding down the slide, claiming there is only one spoon that he can use to eat his oatmeal (okay…) and then dropping that spoon (well – maybe it was an accident) and then commanding me to pick up that spoon and wash it off for him. (not a fucking chance, bub) Though we are rarely actively fighting, I am always engaged, always talking, explaining, teaching, repeating myself, parenting. Gah! No one said it would be like this. I do not like to talk all day! I am a closet extrovert with a history of introversion! I am an Aquarius for heaven’s sake!
On a bad day like yesterday when I am as physically tired as I am emotionally tired, I admit: I just don’t have the energy to be the parent. I don’t have the energy to engage. It is a little frightening sometimes how well I can disengage, how I can be listening for the important bits but not actually paying attention. Saving that last precious bit of energy in case there is an earthquake, I like to think.
And the pendulum swings back – today, after a night when I have had an extra couple of hours of sleep in a row, I can see that it is useful stuff I am learning, that I am more rounded than I used to be. The days when my face is pinched and I have mean-mouth are balanced by the days when my cheeks hurt from smiling. We are all figuring out how to fight fair. How to avoid the battle but still address the conflict. How to help each other – the unique combination of quirks and weirdness and good-hearted soul that we each are – figure out what we need and how to get it. A thick slog, it is. But good.