You'd think by now my buttons would all be broken. I have parented kids with ODD or conduct disorder since the first day of 1998. That's over 15 years of arguing, resistance, escalating behaviors, being sworn at, demeaned, ordered around, and belittled. Every button I have has been pushed so many times that you would think they were broken. But apparently not.
This morning our son who came at 20 months almost 17 years ago, who is now eighteen and unemployed (a long and annoying story) was up early. He's never up early. But our new dog (yes, a beautiful golden retriever mix that we "adopted" yesterday from an animal rescue place) apparently woke him up and so as I was trying to get out of the house I was accosted by a fairly large, very annoying person determined to argue with me.
And I responded poorly and it escalated and by the time I walked out of the door I was annoyed and angry and he was calling me what apparently is my nick name... a word kinda like witch but different.
So on my way to work today I was thinking about all this and realizing that all through this journey I have been the one who, 90% of the time, determines the outcome of any argument or discussion with my children. My response, either gentle, calming, soothing and kind or argumentative, angry, rude and obviously annoyed, is what takes us to the next step. I choose how much things escalate by what I do.
I wish it were different. I wish I could blame it on them. But the truth is, I'm the one who controls the emotional environment in my home based on the way that I respond to my children and their special needs.
This isn't intended to be guilt producing for me or anyone reading the post. It's just a factual observation. And it isn't true 100% of the time -- there are times when kids are going to rage on even if I respond perfectly. But if I can keep from getting sucked in, a term I learned long ago from my friend Cindy, things go better. But I can distract, divert, and change things with humor, kindness, understanding and compassion more often than not.
I've gotten better over the years. I've learned some things. My buttons have gotten harder to push. But again today, as I have had to do so many times, I have to inwardly acknowledge my mistake and say to myself, "my bad." Not my favorite thing to do.
Maybe next time I'll do better. I hope so. If not, I'll forgive him, forgive myself, and keep on moving on like I have for 15 years.
Part of why I can do that is that the first child who taught me about ODD is now a 26 year old married elementary school teacher with an adorable newborn who is living in his own new starter home that he and his wife had built last year. He is very responsible, pays his own bills, attends church, and is living the American dream. Not bad for a kid who didn't have permanency until age 11 and was so defiant I was sure he'd self destruct.
I screwed up this morning. I've screwed up thousands of times. But I don't give up. I still plan to improve and respond better the next time. Maybe by the time the last one leaves home I'll have this figured out. :-)