Shut up and let me work/live
When understanding runs out and turns into to deep systemic offense
I had a good old-fashioned flounce on Tuesday morning because I was mad at my 8-year-old kid.
I got up early, as I normally do, to edit and send this very newsletter and drink some coffee.
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He got up early as well (sad!) and came into my room. I asked him to go play anywhere else, which he ignored, and he started interacting with the dog (allowed to be in my room because he is a quiet morning angel) shortly after I warned him that I was working and I needed him to be low-key.
This story has a predictable ending. Instead of thinking, “My mom really wants me to be quiet and I’m lucky to be here in her sanctum—I’ll just leave her alone,” the way I always hope he’ll think and he never does, he poked the dog, made plenty of noise, wiggled around with increasing velocity while pressed next to me and read aloud to me from his book about animals, through my ongoing reminders that I was working and needed quiet time, please. Please.
My pleading didn’t work and I let it get to me big time. I flounced out of bed and into my office to try to get some quiet. Instead of zoning out on the many quiet zone-out materials we have in the house, he followed me and made more noise in the hallway (my husband was still asleep, and the older kid was doing his own thing.)
These are the type of moments where having a kid with ADHD and a boy specifically can lead me down distinctly different reaction-paths.
Sometimes I am pretty good at reminding myself that he, a child, is extra attention-seeking in the morning because he hasn’t had food or his medication yet, and he’s not being extra to torment me personally. That sometimes the stuff I do on my computer is silly stuff or busy work and not always actual work-work and he can’t suss out when I really need focus or I’m just fiddling around online. That morning peace is a gift that comes at random and can’t be depended on, so I should enjoy it when I have it and not get too ragey when it doesn’t. That I will have quiet in just an hour or two, and everything will be okay, big picture.
But… other times, I can’t fake this funk. I focus on how the kid has demonstrated that before he is old enough to get himself some breakfast or go play independently, so why not now? It sometimes feels intolerable to be bothered in this way, and it does feel personal and obnoxious. I think about how my husband is still asleep in the spare bedroom like a princeling, the sweet privilege of the unconscious, and how apparently his honk-shoos are more important to the kids than my actual career and autonomy. Then I think about how high the stakes can feel not to raise a male jerk, and I think, “I can’t believe my kid is being such a jerk. Am I raising a jerk?? All this effort, and I’m still raising a jerk??? Who is being a jerk to me??!!!”
And I lose my shit like I did Tuesday.
I walked the in a huff dog, got dressed, and told my kid loudly I didn’t think he took me seriously when I had to get work done but does take his dad’s worktime seriously (the dad was still sleeping at this point, but maybe I hoped he heard the commotion).
I started doing that thing where I’m ranting, and I don’t know where I’m going but I’m digging in. I told my kid to think about the next time he asks me to buy him something from 7/11, where that money comes from because that is money he is keeping me from earning when he doesn’t respect my working time.
“It’s sexist, is what it is,” I announced, packed my laptop and stormed down to the lakefront where I did some work at a picnic table until my husband, whom I had emailed with the subject line “Leaving,” assured me he had taken the kids to camp. (He also said he would start getting up earlier, which I didn’t request, but I don’t think is a bad idea. We have an unspoken agreement that I handle more mornings, and he does more bedtimes, but sometimes we all need to revisit the terms of our arrangements.)
I don’t feel guilty about my flouncing out—it actually accomplished nothing in terms of making a point, but nobody was hurt, and at least I got outside and got my quiet time, and that kept me from spiraling into a further rant about how my individual child specifically is endemic of all toxic male behavior in the world. I’m glad my flouncey end game wasn’t to get the people I live with to ask, “Why’d you leave like that, Mom? Were you angry? Can I do something better in the future?” Because I’d be hoping for a long time.
I can’t be a perfect understanding parent every morning any more than he can be a perfect rational child every morning. This is easier to swallow because we’re all working on it in our various ways, and I know w can’t have good mornings without hard ones.
But sometimes, it’s less so the bothering, and other times it’s the implication of the bothering that’s the tough pill to swallow. Have you found success in sometimes convincing your kids, if they’re old enough/able to help themselves, that when you need time to work/be alone, to throw you a bone? To believe it when you say, “Don’t bother me/figure it out/get someone else to help”? And if not, how do you not take it less personally the times it seems like they think the other parent is less bother-able than you?
Or do you just flounce?
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Our Instagram, curated by Carly O., lives here. The Evil Witches archives live here. A few random old issues from the wayback machine cover mean shit your child has said to your very face, changing careers in adulthood, strategies for living with an ADHD kid, what it’s like to be a teacher mom, and stories of ghosting/being ghosted.