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Stories

Stories, observations, and reflections from a life of raising boys

The Captain

Jenifer DeMattia

Christmas Tree Farm 048.jpg

Sometimes I’m lost at sea. The other day my son hit me for the first time. I used to say I felt bad for parents whose kids hit. Mine pulled his fist back, looked me straight in the eye, and punched my leg. The next day he rammed a car into my foot because I said no. I don’t know why it started. It seems to have come from nowhere. But I do know one thing, I absolutely hate it. Soon after his birth I would just stare at him and think of all the ways I could give him the world. After more experience I’ve come to realize it’s not about giving him the world, but teaching him how to navigate through it. This is going to be quite the challenge.

This new phase we’re entering did not start with hitting. For the last few weeks I’ve watched his patience thin, and his anger build up. He’s testing his limits, sometimes hitting us, sometimes himself. I know it is not uncommon and I know it can go away just as quickly as it comes, but this is particularly hard for us. Especially because reflecting back on the last few days, I know I could have done better. Anger is an anchor. For my son he is just now discovering the power it has over us. And as for me, I thought I already knew but I was wrong. When he hit me I was so angry. The fact that he is only three made no difference. I yelled at him, grabbed him, put him in his room, and shut the door. No, I slammed the door. He came out laughing at me. The anchor pulled me under. I yelled at him again and went through the list of everything he was losing for the day. After a drawn out back and forth of ridiculousness, I broke him. He cried and apologized for what he had done, and I apologized for yelling at him. It never fails that even though I am the parent, I end up re-teaching myself a lesson in the middle of the mess.

He is watching me. Always. He is watching how I brush my teeth, how I interact with others, and how I handle my anger. He hit me again today. I was different and so was he. As he continues to grow and challenge me I must remember that he is the captain. Not in the discipline sense, that’s my job, but it helps me to think of him like that. When it’s all said and done, he is ultimately the captain of his own ship, and I, I am his first mate, the one who holds his map for now. I guide him but he’s in charge of his decisions. He ultimately chooses which path to take, which way to turn the sails. There are so many anchors in our lives. So many opportunities to get pulled under or become stuck. I don’t expect that my boys will live a life where the waters are always calm. But I do want them to know they are the captains. They control their actions, their path, and to what extent they allow anger to hold them down. I need to remind myself of this as well. As a parent I am not lost at sea, and I am not stuck. After all, I am the captain.