Another day in the war of attrition. Skirmishes began early this morning, almost as soon as Elder awoke. I had told her last night before she went to bed that she could get a start on her day by straightening up her room and bathroom, and save herself some work in the morning. She had refused then, and had doubled down by telling me that her room was clean and continuing to insist that it was in spite of clear evidence to the contrary.
It was excruciating. I let myself lose my temper and raised my voice at her, despite the fact that my throat was still sore. I was livid. The entire episode lasted well over an hour, of which I spent most of the time sitting in the hallway staring at her while she went through a variety of responses. Her room was clean, despite there being pillows and trash on the floor. A jewelry box of Pokemon cards belonged on the floor, despite the fact that she hadn’t played with them in weeks. A basket of hand towels that I had given her days before to fold, still sitting in front of her dresser. Et cetera, et cetera.
I felt like the shittiest parent the whole time. She wailed, she hated me, she yelled at me to go away, she cried for her mother. This would cost thousands in future therapy sessions, I told myself. I was genuinely worried that someone walking by the house had heard me screaming and my brain began to role play possible interactions with the authorities.
I am not one for de-escalation, as my wife is, and I worried that my tactics put her in a state that might cause her long term psychological damage. It can’t possibly be that bad though, comparatively speaking. Younger for her part, bless her soul, is amazing. After things got bad I found her hiding under a desk, but I called her out and told her she had nothing to worry about. One of Elder’s complaints is that I don’t treat the two of them fairly, but she’s in no position to relate to how she was treated when she was five. And since she was going off and preventing me from properly managing Younger’s attention, I gave her candy and let her watch her tablet in her room to further punish Elder. It set her off, but I didn’t know what else to do with the two of them at the time.
Things eventually settled down after I sent Younger off to play at the neighbors. Elder acted like one possesed, screaming and scratching herself, before finally telling me she was starving and curling up into something resembling catatonia. I had already cleaned her room during the episode, and once she was finally quiet I made sure she understood that I expected obedience from her and that I was no longer going to tolerate the type of disrespect and defiance that she had been accustomed to the past few weeks. I was done with it.
The rest of the day was actually quite pleasant. We managed to get by without any further episodes, save for a few minutes by Younger when she came back and it was time for dad school. They got their treats and their shows and games, and managed to actually have some fun. She might have pushed back a bit when I asked her to do things, but no further meltdowns or unacceptable behavior.
Hopefully tomorrow will be smoother. Now that the kids understand that I expect their rooms and the common areas to be in a particular state, it should make things a bit more tenable around here. Lately it’s seemed like we’ve had two Tasmanian devils tearing up the place, but I won’t have it anymore. Missus is going out of town tomorrow, and after being sick last weekend and seeing the house fall into filth, I won’t have it.