This past week has been a real struggle for Benji, my oldest. My suspicion was the whole “summer vacation” thing was throwing him off. He is the type of child that thrives on schedule and order, and going to a different camp every week seemed to be taking its toll. He’s been argumentative, disobedient, and at times downright unlikable. I know, I know – he’s four. But still, my Benji usually isn’t like this.
Tonight, as we were getting ready for bed, he did things back-to-back that he knows he shouldn’t. He did them as I was telling him not to, and just smiled at me while he disobeyed. So, at 7:38pm, I yelled. If you read this post from yesterday, you know that making it to 7:38pm is no small feat for me, but still. I tried so hard to make it all day without yelling, and there I go, flipping my sh*t. But I digress…
Once I’d calmed down, I tried to talk through things with him. I asked “Benji, why are you doing things when you know you shouldn’t? I’ve told you not to do these things, and I’ve told you why you shouldn’t do them. You remembered why you shouldn’t, and yet you still did. Why?” His answer absolutely shocked me. With a tiny voice, so wracked with tears I could barely understand him, this is what he said:
“Mommy, it’s just so hard for me right now because Daddy has been gone for a really long time. He’s never here and I miss him so much and that’s why I’m being a bad boy.”
Wow. I wasn’t expecting that.
Both of my kids have handled my husband’s deployment so well, so much better then I ever expected. Maybe too well. I had no idea this was all simmering inside my sweet little boy. He’s said here and there that he misses Daddy, but I had no idea it was hurting him so badly. No clue at all.
We sat and talked for a few minutes. I told him that I missed Daddy too, that having my best friend gone for so long made me feel sad and frustrated just like he was feeling. I told him that these were really big, really normal emotions to have, and that it was okay for us to share these feelings with each other. He calmed down and seemed to feel better. He apologized for being “bad”, and said he’d try harder to be “good” from now on. We hugged.
I walked out of that room with two very important realizations: one, I need to have a better appreciation of how hard big emotions are for little guys to handle; and two, I need to pay more attention to them and less attention to me. Perhaps if I wasn’t so busy woe-is-me-ing myself over how tough my life is right now without Daddy, I’d have realized my boys’ lives without him are much tougher.
Kids never stop teaching us, do they?