May 10, 2019
By Ekta R. Garg
Oh, what a difference a day (or a month) makes.
In April I blogged about how my husband and I stuck by our guns and practically forced Ten into playing soccer for the park district. We did so because we knew she would enjoy it. The only reason we hadn’t signed her up sooner was because she had refused to play for anyone other than her school team, which stemmed from her anxiety around meeting new people.
We pushed her into it. She loves the team. Now we have a different problem, which has driven me nuts in equal proportion as when she didn’t want to play for the park district.
The problem is this: due to excessive rain this spring, several practices have been cancelled. On the days that practice gets cancelled, Ten gets into a Mood. You veteran parents know what I’m talking about. I thought I had a few years, at least, before she exhibited this kind of behavior, but what can I say, this child has proven over and over again that she’s well ahead of her time in many things.
Ten now loves soccer so much that on the days she can’t play, she becomes a first-class grump. Given the fact that we’ve had rain for several days at a stretch, this means grumpiness for several days at a stretch. I’m waiting for the end of the rainy season not because I care so much about all the rain but because I can’t wait for my child’s mood to turn around.
The grumpiness, of course, doesn’t just stay with her, however. She walks around with her frustration plastered all across her face, and that frustration spills over to the rest of the family. Because she’s already annoyed about soccer, when one of us says something she doesn’t like she snaps in response. She gets agitated. She replies with sarcasm dripping from her words like acid from a beaker.
Like I said, this is a Mood.
On Wednesday night her Mood began to influence mine. As I washed the dishes after dinner and listened to her gripe about one thing and the other, a few choice words came to mind. I could have let loose a torrent of lecturing then, but I didn’t. I didn’t think it would sound as good uncensored; mostly it would have been me ranting and doing the adult version of what she’s been doing for the last week or so.
Yesterday morning when Ten came down for breakfast before school, she showed up in a tank top and shorts. The temperatures earlier in the week had soared to the mid-70s, but yesterday they came back down again. When I told Ten she needed a light jacket, the Mood reappeared. I ignored it for the moment.
She asked me whether practice later that afternoon was cancelled.
“I don’t know,” I said. “That’s a decision that Coach makes almost at the last minute.”
“Is it going to rain today?” she said.
“It isn’t supposed to, but it also depends on the condition of the field,” I said. “With all this rain we’ve had—”
“But if it’s not raining today, they should let us practice!” she exclaimed.
“It’s for your own good,” I said. “If you go out on a really wet field and play, you could twist an ankle or something and really get hurt. Then you wouldn’t be able to play no matter what the weather was like.”
She argued that during a game a couple of weeks ago when the rain poured the coaches had let them play, that she didn’t understand why that was okay but this was not.
“Because adults are humans too, and sometimes they make mistakes,” I countered. “They made a judgment call that day, and it turned out not be a good one.”
She kept brooding, kept murmuring her discontent.
That was it. I had officially hit my tolerance limit. My patience reservoir for Ten’s bad attitude had run dry.
I told her in a loud voice that it was time she stopped behaving the way she was, that she was no longer two years old and that a temper tantrum was no longer a permissible way to express her irritation. If she continued to behave that way, I said, I would text her coach and let him know that she couldn’t attend practice yesterday evening. More than that, I said, I would also let him know that she wouldn’t play in the game tomorrow morning.
Her countenance rearranged itself right away—my children know I don’t make empty threats, that if I say I’m going to punish them in a specific way that it happens—but I wasn’t done.
“If you really want to be a team player, prove it to me,” I said, my tone still above normal. “Show me you can be a team player on the days you can’t play. That’s what a team player is.”
That seemed to catch her attention.
“No one can do anything about the weather, and if you can’t handle that then in the future you don’t need to sign up for soccer at all,” I went on.
My blood pressure had risen, and it took a considerable effort to stop talking. I don’t want to be one of those parents who just lectures needlessly for hours at a time. There is a considerable amount of power in silence, in stating the point and then just staying quiet after that to let it sink in.
Sometimes, though, in the moment it’s hard to remember that.
I turned back to the sink and kept putting away the dishes from dinner the previous night. Ten sat quietly eating her breakfast. Twelve came down, oblivious to my outburst, and chattered about the events of the day. I allowed myself to be drawn into her conversation and after a few minutes even roped in Ten.
We left for school then, and she got into the car with a chastened expression. Since then she’s been able to approach the possibility of canceled practices and even games with a little more pragmatism. I truly hope it sticks, because I really don’t like lecturing the kids. But sometimes, I guess, a little outburst is warranted.