Time Out

We’ve had a week of big emotions. A lot of anger and tantrums from the pint-sized population.

And I’m trying out something new.

Every time one of the kids freaks out, I’m calm. I offer words and solutions. That’s old hat. But when one or both refuses to listen to gentle reminders that “we don’t hit mommy,” or “use your words, please, so I know what you want,” I lock myself in the bathroom.

It’s not an ideal technique, I’ll grant you. I’m sure it’s not a Dr.-Sears-endorsed way of coping. But I’ve totally regressed in this week of absolute chaos. And I have such a raging temper that, if I stay and try to reason with the inherently unreasonable, I eventually lose it.

I’ve always liked locking doors. As a kid, we had one room that locked: the bathroom. My brother and I would fight, and when it got nasty I’d run straight for the bathroom. Lock. Space, relief, and relative safety.

Even in corporate life, when my stress levels rose, I’d head for the bathroom. Big mirrors, granite counters, brass rails, and locking doors all spell deep breaths and rapid recovery. Personal space brought to you courtesy of American shyness about excretion.

So I’m trying the retreat-to-the-loo technique here. To keep the peace. To show the boys that I will not tolerate being abused. To offer a game changer and a reset button. To cue a new round of, “it sounds as though you’re angry. Would you like a cuddle?”

Yesterday Butter and I came home for lunch. He said he didn’t want to eat. I told him okay, but that I wanted leftover stirfry. So I scooped and reheated. And he screamed and raged and tried to knock the bowl out of my hand. I explained it was just for Mommy. He freaked. I offered some, in case he though I was keeping it from him. He took a swing at me. I offered him his own bowl; I offered yogurt; I offered to go outside with him; I offered to let him choose.

He screamed and hit me.

So I said, “I can’t stay here if you hit.” And I walked downstairs and locked myself in the bathroom. Childish and ridiculous. But I got to shovel a few bites my broccoli into my empty body all by myself. Without being hit. An unusually productive meal, actually.

When I came out one minute later, I offered to cuddle him. He took me up on it. Calm, cuddly, and full belly?

Bathroom for the win.

Peanut came home from school later the same day in a foul, foul mood. As the minutes clicked away, he yelled at me, he called me names, he pushed me. I explained each time that I absolutely would not stand for that behavior and that feeling grouchy is fine but spewing anger on other people is not. I offered him some options, including the game of taking his own grouchy face off, crumpling it up, and putting it in his pocket so the sweet Peanut inside could cuddle and read books. He screamed at me. So I went downstairs and locked myself in the bathroom.

You may remember that, when the now 6-year-old Peanut was small, I made the mistake of staying in the room as tempers escalated. My belief that I couldn’t leave him when he was troubled, no matter how violent he got, was not good for my blood pressure. Or emotional well being. Or our relationship.

So this week I leave. I explain briefly that I will not stay for screaming and hitting, and I go. They hate it. They cry and beg me to come out. And that goes against every bit of my “follow your instincts and do what is kind” parenting.

But I totally love the door between us. Admitting my relief at abandoning my tantruming children might get my attachment parenting card taken away, but I don’t care anymore. Locking myself in the bathroom means my temper stays in check and I can reset my energy back to where it needs to be when dealing with insane raging lunatics.

Hiding behind a locked door means not teaching them that people will stay when they’re being terrible. I have always wanted them to believe that I’m a safe person with whom to lose it, but, increasingly, I reject that idea. You may *start* to lose it with me until you lose it *at* me. You may rage and writhe. But you may not hit me. I can help you find words and solutions. I can let you know you’re loved while and when you’re done being angry.

But I will not stand still and be an inflatable Bozo for your punching needs.

So excuse me. I have to go stash some magazines in the bathroom. I think I’m going to be in there a lot.

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