Quinlan and Drew vacillate between love and hate on a conveniently unpredictable schedule. They'll play like bffs right when dinner is ready or when the timer has gone off for bedtime, but when I'm about to hop on a conference call, they decide to initiate World War III.
Quinlan gives me a running commentary like she's reading from a set of cue cards.
"Mom, he's kicking me. Now he's jumping on me. He just hit me on my leg."
She's slowly learning to actually do something, other than perfect her tattle telling skills, but even when she pushes him off, or gives him a well-deserved shove, I know she's probably still annoyed. And rightfully so. Little brothers can be a big fat pain in the ass.
So a few nights ago, we were getting ready for bedtime stories when we couldn't find Drew's book. It had literally disappeared into thin air, and after searching high and low for it, I asked Quinlan if she had seen it.
She shrugged her shoulders a few times and gave me the "I know exactly where it is but if I don't talk then it's not technically lying so I'm just going to keep shrugging my shoulders" look.
As it turns out, she had hid it. Not as a joke, but because she had just taken it one too many times from her bratty little brother that day and was going to jab him in the side when he wasn't looking.
Yep. She's already refining her womanly skills at an early stage.
Teaching kids about emotional expression is one of the hardest lessons because they very often get in trouble for expressing them. Annoyance, frustration, and anger get an almost automatic time out or punishment (hello tantrums), so trying to explain to kids that it's okay and even good to express them seems counterintuitive.
Sure, there's the whole thing about expressing it appropriately, you know, like counting to ten, or screaming in your pillow, or telling the person that you are mad "dag gummit" - all of which are clearly not as satisfying as throwing a big ass hissy fit and screaming a few choice obscenities. Did you really think we all actually outgrew tantrums? Please. We just get better verbal skills and the ability to raise a finger or pull down our pants. I've told her 4000 times to tell the person how you feel in actual words and in the back of my head I'm going "And then give 'em the finger!"
But on that night, as I was talking out of my ass, I had a rare mini-epiphany.
If you don't express your feelings at the time that they occur, you don't give the other person a chance to make it right.
And a light bulb went off in my daughter's head.
The truth is, when you don't tell someone how you feel when you've been hurt by them (which is what anger generally stems from, really), you're not giving them the chance to learn from it, apologize for it, and most of all make it right by you. You're not holding them accountable for their words and actions.
The backhanded, passive agressive bullshit that many of us (yeah, me included) engage in does absolutely nothing to resolve anything and basically gives them a free pass. And not only does it do nothing to allow the other person to atone, it doesn't give you the opportunity to forgive, which is just as important a process as apologizing.
It's one thing to be able to say you're sorry. It's another to be able to forgive.
I know the kids will still fight. And I know that she'll still want to swipe his toothbrush in the toilet when he's not looking, but I hope that she'll feel empowered by her own emotions, and not powered by them.
There's a huge difference.