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Crying in my Cheerios

The middle schooler and I fought this morning. Over her phone. Her phone. That stupid little piece of machinery that she can’t see she’s dependent upon. Her phone. A phone which, before being given to her, came with the stipulation that when we ask for it she turns it over. And yet, today we fought.

After some trouble with bullying last school year, I put an app on her phone to track things like bullying, violence, inappropriate content, etc. The World Wide Web is just too big for kids to have total access to and I worry. Well, with all good apps, updates must happen. So, I asked for her phone.

As a musical kid, she wanted to use it for tunes while she showered. Fine. Totally get it. I too enjoy throwing solo concerts in the bathroom. Great acoustics. Ya know? Time is passing and we need to be out the door on time so she can spend four days at church camp. I’m giddy over the quiet I’ll be able to work in for days on end.

The shower stops and I give her ten minutes to dress before I ask again. And it began. I managed to keep calm because patience is one virtue I value. But the endless stream of excuses from I’m still listening to why can’t you wait until I’m done in the bathroom grated on my nerves. As the stream of everything from don’t you trust me to I’m not dependent on it to I’m nothing like my brother, flowed, my patience thinned. I simply wanted to update the dumb app so I could eat breakfast. Without warning, it snapped. My fraying patience reached the end and I yelled “NOW!”

I’m not a yeller. It hurts my voice. I’d much rather have my voice for singing and story telling. Her world stopped and caved. She hates raised voices and yelling. We aren’t a quiet house. When we are all together, chaos does reign. People talking over people. Laughs bouncing off the walls. It’s loud. Loads of raised voices. But, she hates yelling.

Her face crumbled and I immediately began berating myself in my head. The last thing I ever want is to make my children cry. I’d rather cut off a hand. And a leg. The tears and the words tumbled and she clung desperately her phone. I held out my hand, fighting to regain the calm I pride myself on. This child was a blubbering mess of words, fighting against simply handing over her phone.

Like all good parents at the end of a rope, I reached for it. She backed against the wall cowering as though I’d strike her. Let’s be very clear: I have never, in her life, struck her. Aside from a playful swat on the hand when she’s reaching for my snacks, she is not a child brought up in fear of being hit. That ugly monster of mom-guilt blew back with a vengeance. My mind raced with horrible thoughts of myself as I watched her cower as she continued to cling to her phone.

Somewhere, outside myself, I watched this entire scene unfold. I could see the moment my patience frayed and snapped. I could see the instance she knew I was done with her “reasons” for not handing it over. And, I could see the guilt eating at me as I watched her cry and accuse.

Accuse me of never listening. Another one of those things I pride myself on; being a good listener. Accuse me of yelling at her feelings. When I’m the one always trying to help her get to the bottom of them? Accuse me of being overprotective. Have you looked a the world lately??? Accuse me of not trusting her. I guess last years incident completely escaped her memory while it plays often in mine.

I stopped. I stared at the babbling, crying mess and couldn’t find words. I handed her back her phone and walked away. Maybe I should have walked away many minutes before but you know what they say about hindsight. It’s a pain in your rear.

She’s currently sulking and probably crying and messaging her friends about me. My kids like to tell anyone who will listen that apparently the worst mother on the planet. Maybe I am. Right now, In this moment, I certainly feel like it. And it’s not even ten in the morning. Guess I’ll go finish my tea, drop her at church for camp, and replay this morning on repeat. Maybe I’ll figure out if I was wrong for doing the right parent thing??

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