The whole sordid tale

By Mir
July 28, 2008

Oh, there’s so much else I’d rather talk about. Like how we’re having company for dinner tonight, which I love, because it means I get to show off my dining room (but I’m TOTALLY SUBTLE about it, you know, just saying offhand things like “Tell me the plaster is pretty or I’ll cry”) and also that I get to experiment with new recipes.

Sure, I could do new recipes just for my family. And I DO, sometimes. But on a Monday I’m not terribly likely to start planning dinner at 9:00 in the morning unless we’re having company. SUE ME. Nevertheless: Maple-lime glazed salmon! Basil-lime sorbet! Let’s pretend this weekend never happened! WHO WANTS SECONDS?

And I struggled with this, because I have no desire to impugn my kids when I relate stories about them. But this was A Very Big Deal and I suspect a landmark event for our family, so I’m going to go ahead and lay it out and put some extra money in the therapy fund.

The plan was simple: On Friday we would drive the couple of hours to Augusta, trot around the city a bit, stay in a nice hotel, and then get up early on Saturday morning and take the kids to Fort Discovery.

It wasn’t an elaborate plan. It wasn’t meant to be a huge vacation. But it would’ve been the ONLY vacation we’ve taken with the kids this summer. Thanks to the crack-addled summer schedule granted us by the judge, we made a conscious decision not to do a “real” vacation with the kids this summer; they were on the go so much, as it was, that we wanted their time at home to just be relaxing. Nevertheless, we DID want the chance to make a few fun family memories before school starts up again next week.

We headed out Friday around lunchtime, saying we’d stop for lunch, first, and then hit the road. A restaurant was selected and we were on our way…

… except that the chosen restaurant was absolutely mobbed. Nowhere to park, people out the door. We (and by “we” I mean “Otto and I, the adults in this scenario”) decided to go elsewhere. And that’s when it started.

Chickadee did not WANT to go elsewhere. She wanted to go to the restaurant where we’d have to wait forever. She was not shy about making her displeasure known, either. (I know, you’re shocked.) She complained loudly and got her huff on and was informed that she needed to pull herself together by the end of lunch or we would simply go home. Then we ignored her until she pulled it together.

We finished lunch and drove to Augusta.

We checked in to the hotel and then spent some time strolling along the Riverwalk. It was a beautiful day. We passed a fountain where I encouraged the kids to go ahead and get drenched (hey, it was about 93 degrees out), and that bought us some more time to explore without too many complaints. Although there were, of course, ample complaints. And some pouting. And stomping. And what was I saying about not too many complaints? I totally lied about that.

The next problem came when it was time to eat dinner. Perhaps we waited too long and walked too far—I don’t know—but both kids were tired and cranky and not very interested in wandering around looking for a suitable restaurant. So we basically walked into the first place that looked like it had a kids’ menu, and the food was decidedly sub-par. We were willing to deal with that, but Chickadee was aggrieved again. This wasn’t where she wanted to eat. They didn’t have what she wanted, and she made it clear that she was ordering something just to MAKE ME HAPPY (let me tell you, the way she handled it truly filled me with sparkly rainbows and butterflies, for sure). Her food came and she poked at it and barely ate, complaining all the while.

We considered getting dessert—which perked her up considerably—and then when neither kid ate very much, decided against it. We talked about maybe finding dessert elsewhere, but we weren’t ten paces out of the restaurant when my darling daughter was complaining again, so we decided everyone was tired and we should head back to the hotel.

Once there, we perused the television’s movie menu and decided we’d go ahead and order The Spiderwick Chronicles for a bit of evening viewing. The kids got into their jammies and we all lounged on the beds and enjoyed the movie. I was starting to feel really good about our decision to persevere with the day—surely Chickie was just tired and would, after a good night’s sleep, be ready to have a great time the next day at Fort Discovery.

Yeah, that fantasy lasted about five minutes.

After the movie it was time to brush teeth and get ready for bed, and the bickering began. Whatever Monkey did or wherever he was, it was offensive to his sister. And when I tried to take a pillow off of “her” bed to ready Monkey’s pull-out cot, she went—in a word—positively apeshit.

“THAT’S MY PILLOW! GIVE IT BACK!” I tried gently explaining that her brother would need a pillow for his bed, too. “TAKE ONE OFF OF THE OTHER BED, THEN!” she screamed. I pointed out that the other bed—which also had two pillows—would be hosting TWO PEOPLE (me and Otto), whereas she was only ONE PERSON and only needed ONE PILLOW. “NO ONE CARES ABOUT MEEEEEEE!” she wailed.

It was right about there that I lost it. We had spent the entire day trying to placate her. Really, if we’re going to be completely honest, here, Chickadee often gets a lot more attention than Monkey does, ALL THE TIME, because she is “higher needs” in that way. And while it usually feels like the right thing to do, as I watched my ten-year-old throw a fit the likes of which would trump any toddler tantrum, hands down, I realized that in “cutting her some slack” because things have been difficult lately and she’s very prone to emotional lability had done her no favors whatsoever. What we had intended as compassionate understanding for the challenging circumstances of her life, right now, had somehow translated into her complete inability to deal with not having it her way, right away, all the time.

I told her that her best bet for getting out of the hole she was digging was to go say goodnight to Otto and go straight to sleep and get up in a better mood in the morning. That she had been mouthy and bratty and ungrateful all day and I’d had enough. She flounced into the next room to say goodnight to Otto.

Otto said something to her that sent her flying back into the bedroom to fling herself face-down on the bed. (I found out later that he also admonished her behavior and told her he didn’t really feel like hugging her right now, but that maybe in the morning things would be better.) When I tried to rouse her to say goodnight to me, she refused to budge, so I left the room.

At which point she began to SHRIEK.

And then the gauntlet was throw down: She was told that she had one last chance to get herself together and quietly go to sleep, or we’d pack up and head home. It was about 9:15, by that time. Monkey crouched in the corner of his bed, pillow over his head, muttering about how he really wanted to go to sleep.

She didn’t stop, and Otto and I started packing up. 10 minutes later we were back in the car, on our way home. The entire ten minutes, Chickadee gulped and wailed “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’ll be good! I promise! I’LL BE GOOD!”

I held it together until Monkey very quietly said, “I was really looking forward to this.” I apologized to him, reiterated that this was not his fault, and that I was terribly sorry his trip was being ruined. I told him we would return and he would get his trip to Fort Discovery. And then I burst into tears.

That was when Chickadee came out of whatever spoiled princess-pants tizzy she’d worked herself into, and she patted my shoulder from the seat behind mine in the car and wailed, “Don’t cry Mama, don’t cry! Please don’t cry!”

In other words, that was her lightbulb moment that OH YEAH, her actions have consequences to OTHER PEOPLE. How she managed to get to age 10 without knowing that, I’m not really sure.

We arrived home around 11:00 and I carried Monkey up to bed. We ignored Chickadee completely and she put herself to bed.

The next morning we had an emergency family meeting. We talked about how we hope that we never have to do such a thing again, but that we will not hesitate to do so if it becomes necessary. That we take the blame for having indulged some bad behavior, in the past, but those days are over, now. We also told them we’d been considering a bigger trip this fall that we are now not going to take.

We told Monkey he’ll get a trip to Fort Discovery next week, just him and Otto. I will stay home and work, and Chickadee will spend that day in her room.

Then we dismissed Monkey and just talked to Chickadee. We had her turn over her saved allowance to help pay for the hotel room we didn’t use. It wasn’t enough to pay for it, but it was almost all the money she had. We talked about how it’s okay to feel things, and we can’t control how we feel, but we CAN control how we act. (And if I had a nickel for every time I have THAT conversation with her, I’d be rich. Here’s hoping that in the wake of this disaster she actually HEARD it.) We told her that she’ll be doing extra chores for a while. She was quiet and agreeable.

I looked her in the eye and said, “I don’t know what happened to you last night, but here’s what I do know: Something broke, last night. Something between you and me broke. And I don’t know yet how we’re going to fix it.”

Her eyes filled up with tears and I wanted to take it back; I wanted to say “I know that this is how you deal with stress, I know that circumstances beyond your control make you lash out and push everyone away because you need to test us, over and over, because deep down you fear you’re not lovable. I know you didn’t mean to ruin everything. I know you need me to tell you I’m always in your corner no matter what, and I know we’ll get through this.” But I didn’t say a word. I was afraid of what might come out of my mouth if I tried.

That night as I sat on the edge of her bed, she said, “I feel so ashamed. I never felt this before. I DON’T LIKE IT!” And I told her that I was sorry she didn’t feel good, but sometimes negative feelings help us to change our behavior. I kissed her and hugged her and told her I love her always, and then I went back downstairs and cried some more.

The rest of the weekend was passed quietly. Monkey went geocaching with Otto and grocery shopping with me and generally got a lot of parental attention while Chickadee did extra chores. She didn’t complain.

I want to believe this will be the event that gets burned into our memories as the Last Straw Before It Got Better. I know we made the right choice, coming home. I know this is that tough love thing where it’s awful and hard but necessary and correct. I know all of that.

But I also know that something here is broken so badly that I fear it will never mend.


  1. Damsel

    Oh, Mir… (((((hugs)))) You REALLY ARE a fantastic mother, from where I’m sitting, anyway. Keep up the hard work.

  2. Janssen

    This story hurts to read, but also so very impressive of you. If anything can mend this, it’s your good parenting.

  3. hollygee

    Wow. You are so brave. And you are both such excellent parents.

  4. Ani

    Sometimes, it takes a big shock to get us back into place. Here’s hoping that a return to a more normal schedule and school/friends will stabilize Chickie.

    You did the right thing, the difficult and sucky thing, but the right thing. Big hugs from all of us fellow moms.

  5. Crockstar

    I have nothing enlightening to say except that I have been there, right there. You have been able to write your experience out so concisely, I am unable to. Thank you. They tell me it gets better and that traditional non-divorce families deal with the same things. That only helps a little; but it is what I hang on to.

  6. Marlen

    ((Hugs)) Mir. We, too, have a blended family and I feel so much of what you express in your writing at times with your children, especially your daughter. But, for me it’s my son and it’s not any easier now that he is 17, but that is due to his choices. Anyway, I just wanted to give you a cyber hug and tell you that you made the absolute right decision and things will mend. Don’t lose hope!

  7. RuthWells

    I can’t possibly be the only one thinking that the f-ed up schedule the judge concocted for the kids this summer has an awful lot to do with why Chickadee is feeling so out of control? The fact that she’s been swinging from an orderly environment to one without boundaries all summer long? No?……..

    Mir, I really feel for you. My practical brain wants to urge you to document this (with C’s therapist’s help, if possible) as leverage for future discussions regarding the kids’ schedules. (My emotional brain is in a puddle under my desk.)

  8. Niki

    Congratulations on being strong enough to do the right thing. And it was the right thing, no matter how wrong it might feel. Also be proud of Monkey, who voiced his feelings, but did not throw a fit about it. The slack you’ve cut Chickie this summer surely didn’t help, but it surely didn’t cause the whole problem, either. I blame 10 – it’s a horrible age for a girl, and sometimes they just can’t help being unreasonable, they just are, and they don’t even realize it. Hang in there – it will get better, but stay strong, and try not to dwell on it for too long. Let her feel bad for a bit, it will be good for her, but once Monkey’s been on the trip with Otto alone (that right there will probably kill her), let the whole episode just fade away, unless she wants to talk about it.

  9. LiteralDan

    Man, it’s stories like this that add perspective to the struggles of the toddler years. I think the pre-teen and teen years are like The Toddler Years Redux, but with a kid who’s bigger, stronger, and (slightly) more sophisticated.

    Just when you think your 10-year-old is so kind and generous, mature and intelligent, the shrieking starts, right? I’m shuddering for you, but I also know you guys will work through this and figure it all out. Good luck!

  10. The Other Laura

    Oh God. What a terrible trip – I’m so sorry. And I have so much respect for you guys sticking to your discipline guns and packing up to go home. I can imagine how tough that was for everyone.

    I do hope things get better.

  11. Nina

    I think you did all of the right things…..hugs

  12. Sheryl

    Mir, I’m so sorry, that really sucks. It will mend, really. Just give it some time. Also, I know it’s not even an option at this point, but in about 3 months you might want to reconsider taking a trip you had planned this fall. You may be surprised at how she redeems herself. I’m especially sorry for Monkey. I’ve had to pull similar “red cards” and it’s no fun for the non-offending kids.

  13. Sophia (Adventures of Brown)

    I want to tell you something. I promise, promise, promise that you and Chickadee will mend what was cracked (not entirely shattered). I know that you are older than me in parenting years but I was Chickadee and my mother let me get away with far worse things and I tested my mother in far worse ways but it always fixed itself. It will for you, too.
    I also want to tell you that you did the right thing by leaving and providing additional concequences (you know that). My daughter did not have the 7th birthday party we planned and spent money on because she was a brat. I won’t tell you that the concequence cured her of being a shit – it didn’t.

    Please know that my thoughts are with you and your family. I know how difficult this situation is. It will get better, eventually.

  14. Becky J

    Thanks for sharing Mir! We had the “last straw” episode this weekend with my 8 year old son and I so appreciate you putting everything out there. Our house has gone into martial law mode and I can’t stop thinking that somewhere along the way something went wrong and I missed it. It really helps to know that this happens to others.

  15. Megan

    It does mend – it does even when it seems like its all shattered beyond repair. And it’s you (and Chickie) trying and talking and being firm and making the hard choices and never stopping no matter how utterly tired you get that will mend it. Honestly sometimes I think it’s like some creature who has to split open and crawl out all helpless and vulnerable in order to grow into something bigger and stronger. It hurts, of course it does, but sometimes its the only way. I have my own needy prickly one and have said to it right from the start just what you said above – of course you have emotions, of course you get angry and frustrated and sad BUT that does not mean you get to take them out on anyone else. It’s been stormy sometimes but we’re getting to calmer waters now and our relationship is a deeper, better thing than it would have been if we hadn’t taken the journey together.

  16. Nelson's Mama

    Niki is a wise woman…

  17. Jennifer

    Thanks Mir – My daughter and I are headed down the same path. I think this is just a normal part of growing up and you did the right thing in making her realize that there are consequences to her actions. It’s hard to understand how our choices (your divorce, my adopting a son) affect our children. In my case it seems to have made my daughter negative, snotty and insecure. I’m trying to help her through it in the best way I know how, but I will try to take a page from you and Otto’s book and not let her get away with actions that ruin things for everyone else. Ultimately, it’s hard to remember sometimes that I’m not there just to be her friend but to be the one who teaches her how the world really works.

  18. Amy

    I think you did a great thing by giving her the warning and then following through with it. One of my biggest parenting problems is that I warn and then warn and warn again but have a hard time following through. I guess I feel bad for my other kids that they get “punished” too because their sibling was acting out.

    At least Monkey will get to go another day!

  19. Jamie AZ

    I feel like we’ve got a similar situation in our house with the 7 and 4 year olds. I’m not sure how they got such a sense of entitlement, but it’s ridiculous. And the 4-year old is the whiner/tantrum thrower and we just can’t seem to get him to get out of it. I’m hoping that will happen some day. I hate that you had to go through this episode, but hope that learning will come out of it. I suspect we’ll have to have this tough love soon, too. :(

  20. Sheila

    Don’t worry too much about things never mending. Chickadee said some pretty introspective things to you as you put her to bed the night after the debacle, and the fact that she did extra chores quietly and without complaint speaks volumes, too. She’s smart. She gets it. You will mend the break.

    Meanwhile, I’m taking notes over here and documenting every eye roll and smart remark my own ten year old daughter makes…

  21. Sheila

    P.S. Have a great dinner!

  22. divrchk

    Wow. I’m sorry you are all having such a hard time. It does seem that you are doing all of the right things. It will get better. The tween years are hard under much less stressful circumstance.

  23. Emily

    As a former “spoiled-princess pants” wearer, I wanted to assure you that this will get better and it will pass.

    I’m honestly grateful that my parents didn’t put up with that kind of nonsense past the point where they knew I could controll it. It’s made me more aware of EVERYTHING I do now (and I’m almost 30).

    I don’t recall specific incidents – though I know there were many – but I do know that my parents always loved me no matter what. And, we have a wonderful relationship today.

    So, no, it wont always be howler monkeys and demon children. Sometimes the best moms are the ones that feel like the worst moms.

  24. Katie

    And I thought my weekend was bad. Mir, you are such a good mom and strong woman. You and Otto make a wonderful team. I am sure that you guys will get it fixed.

  25. Bob

    of course it isn’t broken so badly it’ll never be mended. It isn’t your turn to be overly-dramatic. I know it feels that way. Chickadee is still a child and has many years of emotional development ahead of her. With your (and Otto’s) guidance she will come to know the emotional security you say she lacks. Don’t forget that you’ve only been a family for a year. That year has included shenanigans from her father that would upset any child, much less one that wears her heart on her sleeve (and apparently all over GA too).

    Also remember that her punishment shouldn’t include emotional distance from you at a time when she needs you most. It is hard, this, but I know that you are more than capable – you and Otto both. Y’all are good people and with your guidance Chickadee will grow up into a fine woman, a credit to you both.

  26. Mom24

    I always kind of laugh to myself when people complain about how hard toddlers are–that’s nothing. This? This is the hard stuff. Good for you. So, not easy. I hope it makes a valuable impression on her. I am amazed at your ability to parent and not worry about the other parent looking over your shoulder. That’s the only chance you’ve (she’s) got. (((hugs))) That sure doesn’t make it easy though.

  27. Wendy

    My daughter (who is almost 7) is just like Chickadee. It’s exhausting and frustrating. You did the right thing, as hard as it was. Hang in there!

  28. Burgh Baby

    For as crappy as Chickadee behaved, I can’t help but be VERY impressed by Monkey. He handled things so well (from what you have said) that there is no doubt whatsoever that you are doing a fantastic job with those kids. Hormonal/crazy moments happen, but when one kid keeps calm through one of those moments? That’s a victory.


  29. elizabeth

    Niki IS a wise woman.

    What a rotten weekend, I’m so sorry. You are much stronger than I. I would not have been able to pack-up the non-offenders and head back home and probably would have started crying much sooner. I want to be like you when I grow up. Just hang in there. Its gotta get better, right?

  30. Rebecca

    I am so sad for you. You are such a good mom though and you did so well. I can’t imagine how hard it was. I’m glad Monkey is getting to go next week too. One of the hardest things for me is when I discipline one but everyone misses out. As for not mending the break, I think it will. Love can heal all sorts of wounds and it’s quite clear that your family has plenty of that kind of love.

  31. Nichole

    That was very hard to read. I can’t fathom how hard it must’ve been to live. I’m sorry you had a rotten weekend, but I know things aren’t irreparably broken. You’re a great mom, and you and Chickadee will weather this.

  32. dcfullest

    My mom would’ve done the exact same thing, growing up we had boundaries, consequences, and lots of love. (Like your house)
    My aunt did things differently. My cousins always got their way and anytime they acted like brats, things were changed to make them happy.
    I firmly belive this is why my sister and I are happily married, with advanced degrees and great jobs. (Not bragging, just telling the truth.)
    My cousins, on the other hand, are college dropouts, living at home and are only occasionally employeed. They have quit
    nearly every job, because they were “too hard.”
    Good parenting sucks in the moment, but pays off in the end.

  33. Kimmers

    If it helps any, I think you did the absolute right thing… for Chickadee and for the rest of you. My parents took the other road with my brother (who also had outside circumstances that made them feel like he needed some extra consideration and attention) and it shows… badly. Now he is 22 years old and a financial as well as an emotional drain on my parents. They can’t afford the things they want for themselves because they are too busy paying for his school, his apartent, groceries, utilities, cell phone… He isn’t graduating on time because since he doesn’t help pay for school, why should he waste his time getting good grades? When they try to gently suggest that he help pay for things, he manipulates and when the manipulation doesn’t work he says hurtful things to make my mother cry. In his world, anything he wants he should just have, immediately and with no effort on his part and no consideration that it might mean someone else will go without. Instead of being grateful he is cold and selfish. He frequently skips our birthdays and intentionally refused to acknowledge my parents’ anniversary this year. I could go on but what I mean to say is… sometimes you just have to say no, a firm no, and really mean it. And the earlier the better, because too many yesses don’t do anyone any good.

    I’m sorry you had such a stressful weekend! It sounds like Chickadee is genuinely repentant. I hope this does become a turning point for your family.

  34. Melisa

    Wow. You, madam, are GOOD.

  35. Desiree

    Hang in there!!!

  36. Jan in Norman OK

    I don’t think the connection is broken…I think that it’s turned a sharp corner. There’s a difference.

  37. Jaime

    oh my word, that had to be hard to do! But it sounds like all the right things started happening. (((HUGS)))

  38. Cynthia Samuels

    Mir, this may be the best hardest thing you’ve ever done. I know from friends that divorces add to parental guilt (as if any of us needs any extra) and the urge to compensate is strong. I had it just because of my son’s learning issues so I know how it feels.
    But you made a huge sacrifice and did Chickadee a huge service, in my opinion. Kids need limits (no original thought there, but true) and sometimes they act out to get help setting them, I think. I’ve always believed that when we don’t take actions like these, we’re avoiding the punishments for our own sakes, because it hurts too much, and not really for the kids themselves. It is a great parent who is willing to make such a sacrifice and I have to say my hat is off to Otto too for being willing to be part of it. As for your tears, there may be no crying in baseball – but in parenthood, not so much.
    As for “broken” I would bet not. A mom is allowed to be disappointed and angry too – and the fact that Ch saw the pain she caused may help her to stay in control in the future. Reading you all these months I know the humor and love, warmth and energy you offer your children and they know it too. You’ll all get your balance again and, I hope, our young lady will learn to be proud of the self-control she will be able to muster because she saw how much harm she did to people she loves. The older they get, the harder it is to help them learn this, so it’s good that, if it had to happen, it happened now. Give it some time; you are a wonderful mother and if your readers can see it, you KNOW your kids know it too..

  39. Karen

    I think I may be raising Chickadee’s identical personality, twin, other than mine’s 7. I don’t know why some are more difficult than other’s to raise, but we all have ’em. The number of times we have headed out of the house to go have dinner only to turn around before we even hit the edge of the subdivision because of mouthy-ness or tantrums or a slap fight in the back seat. Things won’t always be broken. There will be times that it will mend, only to be broken again. I am comforted to know that I know her better and she knows me better every time we work through things, deepening our realationship. Hang in there! You’re doing good!

  40. merlotmom

    I am so impressed with your strength. That must have been so difficult. But you did the right thing. I only hope if that happens to me (and I’m sure in some variation it will), I have your fortitude. I’m sorry the weekend didn’t work out as you planned.

  41. Crisanne

    You have a very smart girl who will surely learn how to apply to book smarts to her emotional trials. It will take time, and a few good therapy sessions for sure, but you will get through this. Have faith and keep praying for guidance and wisdom.

    Three cheers for Monkey for handling the situation well and understanding that it was not the time to pitch his own fit.

    Here’s to a great dinner with friends and the return of “normal” soon!

  42. suburbancorrespondent

    It will mend! You are on the right road and doing the right things, and deep down she is relieved. No one likes to feel out of control like that. Way to go!

    But don’t expect this to be the last time…

  43. Randi

    Oh Mir! I’m so sorry that happened to you guys, and especially to Monkey. I’m learning how hard it is to have two children who are so totally different, and to give one the attention they need when the other one often needs a bit more.

    I think, however, that you did exactly the right thing this weekend by packing up and heading home. I know that it is hard on Chickadee (coming from a child whose parents are divorced herself) but placating her often won’t help her to become a strong individual. She needs to know that, no matter what happens, you will love her and care for her enough to put your foot down and demand mutual respect. I’m glad you were able to give Monkey some extra time this weekend, and I know that things will get better!

  44. Deputy's Wife

    I think dcfullest and kimmers have given two fine examples to back up what you did. As hard as it is to make these choices as parents, we all know our children, and us, will benefit from them.

    As for Chickadee, she will in time learn from this. My step-daughter has similar issues as Chick and she is 16 now. I remember the time she was acting like a brat school shopping, complete with screaming and saying very unkind things. She was 10 at the time. After several unsuccessful attempts to get her to stop, I took her out of the store and drove 70 miles back home. I left every stitch of clothing at the store. That year, she got the bare minimum for school.

    I hated doing that. We rarely get to see her. Yet, she had to know that behavior was forbidden. What’s funny is that ever since then, she will not throw those fits with us. Though she does it almost on a daily basis with her mother.

    Good luck! And I think you did the right thing. (If that matters!)

  45. FCL

    For the record, I have the same exact situation with my two children, same s***** summer schedule and same bratty behavior with my daughter (the older of my two children). Everyone says she will either outgrow her sassy behavior or I need to turn up the notch on discipline a whole lot to deal with her. Neither works. I too feel scared that there is something broke in the relationship and that she won’t be able to pull herself out of these bad behaviorial patterns. It will be my fault, the fault of the divorce, the fault of the summer schedule, etc., but what matters is not who or what fault it is, but fixing it, changing it for the better and that doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon. The behavior can be tolerated/handled at home, not fun, but at least there is space to send to room, walk away and breathe deeply, but on trips/vacations/outings, it is overwhelmingly bad and embarrassing (example, recent trip to beach – very unpleasant) as she seems to know I can’t discipline her in a way that works in public (I am a single mom, no SO to help for me…). Mostly, I am horribly sad that this may be the behaviorial/personality path my daughter choses for her entire life and it will not be pretty for any of us…

  46. Jen

    Wow… you described the attitude my 8 yo had whilst camping over the 4th of July… we are not a blended family, but she is the middle child between 2 with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and in her mind, everything our family does is in preference to her siblings, while in fact, most everything is done to keep HER from being the brat that she can so often be. I hope that next time, I have the guts to follow-through with something like you did, instead of constantly giving in. Lessons need to be learned, and despite the feeling of brokenness, I agree with the others – it’s not broken, just cracked, and there is always Gorilla Glue to put things back together. ((HUGS))

  47. Sue @ My Party of 6

    Sometimes really good parenting feels really awful. And that was some good parenting, woman. It really was.

    I agree that what you have isn’t broken, it’s just turning a sharp corner. Wise woman, that Jan in Norman, OK. This will definitely make Chickadee a better person (and that is our ultimate responsibility as parents), but I think it will also strengthen the bond between the two of you. The tumultuous years are just beginning and laying down the law now will make a smoother road ahead.

    ((HUGS)) to both of you.

  48. Melissa

    So sorry that was so rough, but I agree with everyone – you did the RIGHT thing. And, not to be cynical, but documenting this as someone else suggested, as a for-instance for next summer? A good idea. Judges like examples.

  49. Mom on the Run

    I totally with all other comments. You did the right thing. I am glad that your youngest will get to go next week. The extra chores will probably have a huge impact as well as spending the day in her room. Sometimes as parents we have to bring out the big guns. I recall admonishing my daughter that she would not have a birthday party due to lack of cooperation with plans, bad attitude, and ungratefulness. She pushed me very close to the edge. She got the party by the skin of her teeth. She used to have huge tantrums around her birthday time that I would excuse as growing pains or excitement about her upcoming birthday. She is now much more calm around her birthday. She is 12…her “life-changing event” happened at 11.

  50. Nancy

    Congratulations on being good parents. It is hard. When it gets tough, remember what it would be like to be handling this kind of outburst with a teen – and know that providing her the structure now will prevent huge consequences later.

    This is my theory of parenting – for what it is worth. Babies get born in a box of structure and limitations. We create that box as parents. We make the rules to keep them safe. As they grow it is their job to push on all sides of that box, and our job to let it get bigger and bigger, with fewer and fewer limits set by us. Eventually they stand on their own with the box structure set by the government, with their own ability to set their own limits. Just think of what would happen if we never pushed back on that box and set up the expectations. Your setting limits means she is learning how to set them for herself.

    I know it does not feel like you can trust her now – but as the parent of 2 twenty somethings – having gone through divorce and lots of other crap – I can assure you that it will get better. YOu are doing the right thing.

  51. Deb

    You are a GREAT mom, you warned her then followed through. That is the best thing any parent can do. She needed to know that a line was drawn and that she can’t cross it. Hugs to you while you deal with this. And super big hugs to Monkey too for being such a big boy and handling this so nicely!!!

  52. paige

    Wow. These are the times that try the souls of parents…

    I think you handled it very well. It’s really, really important that you are able to impress on Chickadee that lesson that *someone* will hold her accountable for her actions.

    Because in the blink of an eye, she’s going to be old enough to drive a car.

    My oldest son is almost 17 and still doesn’t even have his learner’s permit because of his limit-testing the past year. This summer, as his friends drove to each other’s houses, it sank in that we REALLY are serious about his self-control issues and he’s started (finally!) to pull it together.

    His issues are not Chickadee’s issues, but they have significantly impacted the whole family.

    Parenting is not for cowards, that’s for sure.

    You and Otto are the opposite of cowards. You two are heroes.

  53. The Other Leanne

    Ditto what the others said, especially Niki and that wise woman in Norman, OK.
    “It’s just a sprain,” the Doctor said, “lots of pain and bruising but it’s not broken.”
    At some point maybe you can find a way for her to redeem herself.

  54. All Adither

    This must be so difficult because so much of this is out of your control: how Chickadee chooses to act, how your EX chooses to parent them while they’re with him. About all you can control is how you react and it seems like you’re doing an excellent job. Really. I admire your parenting skills and I’m sending a big virtual hug your way from one of your biggest blog fans.

  55. the planet of janet

    *standing up and applauding wildly*

    that may seem like a flip answer, but it is not. you were absolutely right in your handling of this — up to AND INCLUDING your personal breakdown.

    tough love is one of the most difficult things to do, but it is also the most effective tool in your parenting arsenal.

    stick to your guns, hon. something may have broken, but, like blood platelets rushing to the scene of an injury, the healing, however slow, begins immediately.

    and they say that scar tissue makes the connection stronger.

  56. emily

    I’m so sorry that you had to go through that, but I think you did an admirable job dealing with it. Reading it truly made my heart hurt for you and Chickadee and Monkey.

    I hope that you can find some peace soon and work on discovering how to repair the crack in your relationship. I’m sure that you will find a way to do it, that will make it even stronger than it was before.

  57. Jane

    Way to go… I know that had to be so tough. And I was so glad to read that Monkey will be getting a special trip with Otto. Growing up, my big brother was the one that had “trouble dealing with things”, and I just faded into the woodwork. Good for you for rewarding his good behavior, not ignoring it!
    And more hurrahs for dealing with the hard stuff, and following through on your warning. She needs to know you mean what you say. I’m sure she won’t forget this episode any time soon. And when you two come out of the other side of this, you’ll be stronger, I promise you.

  58. arduous

    Oh my heart aches for you and Chickadee. But you are a wonderful mom, and Chickie is an amazing girl, and I know that this is not unmendable. And in 15 years, you will be looking at your amazing 25 year old daughter, and you will be able to be actual FRIENDS, and you will be so, so, proud of the woman she has become. That is my prediction. :)

  59. tammy

    It’s not broken..just changed and it will change again as the two of you grow and learn together. Everybody knows that a child has to grow up and form a separate identity from a parent but what no one ever says is that a parent does the same. The love remains the same.

  60. Libby

    Oh my God Mir, this was so hard to read. I was weeping by the end. I also agree that as hard as it was to do, it will benefit Chickie in the end. You are awesome. Big hug to you.

  61. Lisa C

    Mother’s Day, 2005. That was the day something broke between my daughter and me, the day I spent crying, the day I wondered if I was raising a sociopath. I wasn’t, we recovered, and she’s a responsible caring young adult now. We are closer than ever.

    It’s a hard, hard thing you’re going through. I truly feel for you. You’re such a good and loving parent, and you did the right thing. Both your kids will be better for it. In the meantime, do something nice for yourself. And you might want do something nice for Chickadee. Just something little, something to let her know that she is redeeming herself and that things will get better.

  62. Lucinda

    All I have is my own experience as a child. When I was exactly Chickadee’s age, I remember the FAMILY MEETING we had to discuss my behavior. This was huge given my parents had already been divorced for year, hated each other, and were coming off of a custody battle. But something had broken in our relationship because of my behavior. I remember being told it would be a long time before it was repaired and I was devastated. But I also did everything I could to change my behavior because this had made a big impression.

    It took a long time, but I managed and my parents weren’t nearly as attentive as you are. It might feel broken but it isn’t. Just damaged and it will heal.

    I hope you can see by the number of comments above there are lots of us who feel for you (and are shedding tears with you) and we believe in you. Your kids are lucky to have a mother who loves them enough to make them angry sometimes. Who loves them enough not to be their friend but to be their mother.

    I just hope I have the same strength when I go head to head with my daughter someday (because it will happen–I can see the writing on the wall and maybe a reflection of me in her face. Oy.). I think if we are good parents, we all go through this moment at some point. I just pray this is your only one.

  63. Walking In My Sleep

    Nothing but admiration for you in how you handled this. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to stick to my guns like you did. And, if I had, I would be feeling just like you. But, you did the right thing and your daughter will be a better person for it. Can you imagine what kind of an adult she’d be if you hadn’t?

  64. Karen

    How far pasther 10 year birthday is she? When I think back, I remember that my girls had PMS like days for at least 2 years before they had their periods. So, in addition to the disruption in her routine caused by the judge’s orders, she may well be having hormonal issues. Yeah, 10 is a terrible time for girls, both the one that is 10 and the one who is her mother.

  65. shannon

    Mir –

    I don’t have kids, and I don’t pretend to know how to raise them or discipline them, but this blog entry will most certainly stick with me when we DO decide to have kids. I wish more parents were like you.

    On a side note, GEOCACHING! I’m crazy about geocaching! We go out at least 4x a week. Our GC name is shannienkitch, you should be my “friend” if you are involved.. ;-P

  66. Vane

    It was really sad to read this post.

    Making the right decision is always though, especially when it comes to our children, but be assured that it was the right thing to do.

    I know Chickie and you will figure this out. You’re a great mom, hang in there!

  67. E

    Mir, your words brought tears to my eyes. Once upon a time, I was a ten year old very much like yours. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a mother who was able to do for me what you are doing for your daughter, and I suffered through a childhood that still reamins painful to this very day. Hang in there — it’s tough, but oh, so worth it.

  68. Liza

    Oh Mir, I’m sorry that you and the whole family have had such a hard summer. It seems like it ended even more difficultly than it began.

    But like everyone else, I don’t think you’re in danger of having a situation that is unfixably broken. All of you will work your ways through this, and you are doing it together as a family. That’s a success story, even if it doesn’t feel so much like one right now.

  69. becky

    Oh Mir. This reminds me so much of me and my daughter. It’ll get better, and it’ll possibly get worse, then better again.

    Unfortunately, it sounds like the hormones are starting to wreak havoc with her. It’s so tough being a young girl when that happens. My daughter struggled so much with it, and I’m not sure how much help I was. But we did get through it, and she’s a lovely woman now. At times, I wasn’t sure our relationship (and my sanity) was going to make it.

    Just keep loving her. Keep reassuring her that you love her, but not her behavior. It’s not easy, I know. You’re not a horrible mom, even though it feels like it. She needs the consistency. Don’t forget that. (I could tell you stories about kids going between households and how tough it is – some other time.) Great big hugs to you.

  70. birchsprite

    Take care Mir. I’ve not been by the site in a while and things seem to be bad right now. Love will always win and you all love each other so much!

  71. MomCat

    You’re right — A+ is exactly the right grade for how you handled it. Hurts so much, but it’s worth it later.

  72. kim

    Oh man. The tough choices. Are you sure you didn’t have my 8 year old daughter with you? I think some kids are just wired more high maintenance, more high strung and self focused. I know your Chickie has a good heart, my daughter does too. But our two week road trip a few weeks ago had several moments like this. Leaving the trip wasn’t an option, but my DD did almost spend a night on the balcony of one our hotel room. This is the same daughter that called me a b—h over this past weekend. So yes, I hear you on the testing and the wondering what broke inside of her. And yes, she got her mouth washed out with soap. Good luck. There’s a good person in there. You are strong. Take care, you are an inspiration.

  73. kim

    Oh and by the way, my husband and I are not divorced. My daughter has what would be considered a “normal” home life. (Whatever that may be). Some kids just come with more difficulties hard wired in.

  74. Kris

    Sometimes doing the right thing is the hardest thing of all.

  75. Katy

    Wow–would you move in with my sister and show her how to set limits with her kids???
    But seriously–I am moved by your openness, and I think your actions will pay off in the long term. Thank you for sharing this story instead of a sanitized version, b/c we have all “been there” at one point or another, and we all worry that we will break something beyond repair. I choose to believe that we are all resilient and that healing is a powerful experience.

  76. Mom, Ink.

    Color me impressed. From the thick of it, I’m sure it was incredibly tough. But as an observer, I’m amazed at your parenting skills. To have the presence of mind to identify the issue, outline a consequence and then FOLLOW THROUGH? That’s the stuff parenting books are made of. Not to mention the emergency family meeting and brilliant rewards/punishments. The situation may have been difficult but I cannot imagine a way to handle it any better. Your kids are blessed to have such wonderful parents in you and Otto. Someday they’ll see that…even if it’s not today.

  77. Headless Mom

    Chickie will get it, All is not broken. Limits are good and when they FEEL the consequences of crapy behavior the lesson is usually learned. It’s never easy, though. Kudos to you for following through, and (((hugs))) for a better week.

  78. Mama Bear

    I am impressed! We also have a very high maintenance 10 year old daughter (adhd/anxiety, anger issues and several learning disabilities) The tantrums she has thrown all her life rival wars. I am so impressed with the limits set, and how Chickie handled them in the end. I’m not sure that Miss 10 would have done so well. Nice work!

  79. Jackie@agsoccermom

    Oh My, I think the broken thing your feeling is your daughters feelings. She feels broken and needs to rebuild and of course your feeling the same thing. I always feel the same emotions my kids do. It just plain sucks sometimes to be a parent. My ten year old daughter is also putting me through the wringer.

  80. Mother of Two


    I don’t know that anything anyone says right now will make your heart feel better. I think the crack you feel is that your baby girl is growing up and will soon be a teenager…

    My daughter will be a teen in January. When we have moments like you had this weekend, (not the shrieking – I would have killed her… congrats for some self control!!) I get really worried that it can’t be fixed and that she will somehow go into the teen years loving me less than she “normally” would have. As you know most teenage girls can’t stand mom anyway.. but eventually recover… I worry that because of the cracks before… she won’t recover. I don’t know if this is what you’re feeling… but hang in there…

    I also think you should reconsider your trip this fall, however, I don’t think Chickie should get to go, I think she should have to stay with someone while the rest of the family went on their trip – the reason for this… I think it really stinks that Monkey loses his vacation because of his sisters behavior. Chickie shouldn’t be allowed to have that kind of control over your family… she’s only 10. — Just a thought.

    Also, I would like to commend you and Otto for leaving – that was brave at that time of night after walking so long… Also, the point that you and Otto show her you can be mad at her and still love her… that is a good lesson for her to learn.

    Hang in there, and just be careful of the slack and power you give to a 10 year old. And… remember poor Monkey… cause if you don’t, he will start resenting his sister (and it will eventually effect their relationship).

    Good Luck!

  81. DR

    Mir, I certainly cannot add much to the great insights others have given you. However, I thought you might find it interesting to hear what a junior high student asked me as class was about to start one day. (He was probably 13 at the time and this is yet another illustration of how teachers never know what’s coming when they call on a child whose hand is raised…lol) I taught mathematics so this came completely out of left field that day as he asked, “Why do adults lie?” It was such a strange question that I had to ask him to elaborate since I had no inkling of what he referenced. “You know,” he said, “like when they say they’re going to do something the next time something happens and then they don’t.” Many of the other students nodded and made agreement “yeahs” when he said this. Quite an interesting perspective from a child’s eye…

  82. jennielynn

    Oh dear. It doesn’t matter a hill of beans, but I think you did the right thing. I applaud you for having the fortitiude to follow through. You and Otto are great parents. Oh and (((hugs)))

  83. Dawn

    Oh lord. This post struck close to home for me. I had tears in my eyes by the end, which is highly unusual because I am a tough old boot.

    I am so familiar with that broken feeling and it is horrible. It always mends but there’s always that dark moment when you just don’t know how that will ever happen. My younger child was the uncontrollable one whose behaviour forced me to leave places time and again. I’m still not sure I’ve ever made my point and she’s 19.

    You absolutely did the right thing. Positively, totally. Kids need boundaries in order to feel secure and on some level they know that we insist they behave because we love them. You’ve got the teen years just around the corner, so now’s the time to reinforce that not only are there consequences but you’ve got the backbone to enforce them.

    So not only are you pretty, but you’re right! Woo hoo! Go, Mir!

  84. Woman with Kids

    Tough love is so hard, I’m not sure who it’s tougher on: us or the kids. For what it’s worth, well done.

  85. Mary Anne

    Your post brought back so many memories, I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of this situation
    At about the same age as Chickadee my parents left me home from the annual grape festival(a major event in our town) I had been uncooperative and difficult that morning. I never doubted that my parents would follow through ever again.
    As the mother of four I’ve played the tough love card with my children as well. They’ve all grown up to be responsible loving adults…. Well the youngest is getting there!
    Don’t over do it with the punishment one is enough, She will remeber for the rest of her life… Believe me I still recall that day back in 63 vividly
    hang in there

  86. Rick Bucich

    I finished reading and couldn’t help but be impressed with Monkey, that is some great self-control he exhibited. For all of the self doubting this episode will bring on…you can be proud of your parenting.

  87. Carolie

    Sometimes, I look around at the spoiled, self-involved brats surrounding me (of all ages), none of whom seem to have any sense of personal responsibility, and I want to run out and get sterilized, and never have children. I lose hope for the entire human race.

    Then I see (or hear about) a parent making those hard choices and following through. A parent who cares about being a parent, no matter how desperately difficult that can be…and who is not focused solely on being their child’s “friend.”

    You give me hope, Mir. I want to grow up to be just like you. (Yes, I know I’m 42, and you’re way younger. Shut up.)

  88. Carolie

    p.s. — it may not help at all, but I behaved just like Chickadee to my mom when I was about her age. My parents were divorcing, Mom was “the strict parent” and Dad was busy trying to buy our love. We’d moved from a big city in New England to a small town in the South, I’d skipped a grade, and I’d gone from an all-girl’s private school to a public, co-ed, multi-racial school. I was a bitch and a brat…mostly because I hated myself and life. (It didn’t help that I could not seem to stop myself from trying to make myself seem cool by constantly talking about how much BETTER everything was in my previous city!) I will never forget making my mother cry.

    We survived it, had an easier (well, relatively easier!) time in my teen years than most of my peers, and are now best friends. I wish the same for you and Chickie.

  89. Teedee

    Dear Mir,
    Long time lurker first time poster ever! But HAD TO this time. Mother of three, all in thier twenties now – all girls – middle one EXACTLY like Chickadee – This too shall pass, BUT expect more of same for a few more years! I know, am sorry but true! Please be patient, you handled it perfectly! All three of my girls are GREAT humans and my friends as well now. It is tough, but so is LOVE! One day at a time…I can say that now..but I and they lived! :) I know it hurts now but it does get better.

    Love Teedee

  90. Michelle

    Once again, it sounds to me like you’re making all the right moves as a parent. Don’t give up on her! I know it’ll work eventually.

  91. amy

    Thank you for sharing what must have been a very difficult and upsetting parenting experience. I think you and Otto did what is called “Logical Consquences” – there are actual parenting books out there espousing this theory which can be difficult to do, but you both did it in every way down to the expense of the wasted hotel room. I know someone who has a child just like your Chickadee in many ways, and he is 15 now (some things have not changed). As bright and talented as he is, he has been extremely trying to parent. One thing they do when they travel is get COMPLETEY separate rooms for the difficult kid with connecting doors because he does melt down and need space(from them and his sibling) which when traveling on a budget can be tricky. This has solved a lot of problems when they go on trips as they can put him in his own space when he acts up, and they go on their merry way. It beats having to go home, and Chickadee is old enough to stay put in a hotel room (obviously you have to be able to give her a cell phone for emergencies etc… and not be too far away) if her tantrums ruin a day or evening excursion planned for the following day. Or at least one parent can stay and the other can take the sibling if there were a safety or health concern. Or if a melt down begins (naturally often at dinner or bedtime due to exhaustion, hunger etc…)the child can be quickly dispatched to his or her own room without further ado. Sometimes kids really do have issues that do not have to do with being spoiled brats etc…sometimes there are deep rooted, even biological causes of these behaviors and figuring out how to manage them is one way to parent too and I think you are doing an amazing job.

  92. Leanne

    Welcome to the joys of puberty. =)

    It doesn’t get easier, but if you are consistant, they grow less frequent as they grow and mature.

    And at the end of it all, you smile proudly at your young adult, and you realise, hey, you didn’t break it after all.


  93. jen

    Hon, I’m sorry! I know this is difficult for all of you, we’re in the thick of it with our 7 year old. I keep hoping and praying it’ll get better and it will. Just not as fast as I’d like. Hang in there, we’re all there for you.

  94. jenn

    Oh, man, Mir, that is awful. The thing I kept thinking as I read this was “HORMONES!” What else except hormones will reduce you to a shrieking mess with a complete lack of self-control? My mom and I did not get along really much at all from the time I was about 10 until I was, hmm, about 13. And then again when I went to college. But now we’re really good friends, and you two will be too. Someday.

    You did the right thing. You and her, you’re not broken, just fractured a little bit. You’ll figure this out. HUGS.

  95. Chris

    Gosh, you had me in tears this time. My lil’ ones are all grown now. You sound like you are a wonderful Mom and I think that things will never be the same because I believe they will be better. Good for Otto too, he is awesome for hanging in there as well. Kids can break our hearts sometimes and not even know it. Truth is they can do it at 10 and 20. Oh, the joys of parenting. You are good people.

  96. M

    Not broken at all. I was a “prickly” difficult child who lashed out at my mother horribly. We have a wonderfully close relationship, and really always have. With her I felt safe enough to unleash all my emotions. And those pre-teen years are tough! Now that I am a mother, dealing with disobedient 3-yr-olds, I have even more respect for my own mom. I have no idea how she was so strong — and calm! She would remain calm and I would just get more and more upset — I wanted a reaction from her. And oh by the way – I was this way without all the emotional upheaval Chickadee has been through.
    So hang in there. It will get better. I hope to hear a glimmer of it by Love Thursday…

  97. GoteeMan

    Sometimes it is so hard to do the right thing… you are amazing parents, and you will not regret the investment you are making now, and the rewards your children will reap as adults from what you are teaching them…


  98. Linda Sherwood

    Big hugs, Mir.

    I was surfing, and I saw this bacon-related cartoon and thought of you. I thought you could use the smile (that is, if it makes you smile).

  99. just beth

    Oh, good work Mir. You did the right thing. Poor Monkey and all, however, he’ll remember it, too. It sucks being the parent sometimes. If you hadn’t done all that you did though, it would never end. And don’t feel badly for telling chick how you really feel. If she’s old enough to ruin everyone’s vacation she’s old enough to realize how it affects you.

    loads of love from here…



  100. Chris

    Good for you. And good for Otto, too, for jumping in there and acting like a parent. It’s not easy for stepparents to do that (they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t sometimes).

    Nothing’s broken. It’s just the aftermath of a sucky Parenting Trauma night. You’re going to have a few of those before the kids are up and out. It’s okay. She accepted the discipline–that tells me she gets it, she WANTS to get herself under control. I’d be worried if she was acting worse (instead of taking the punishment without complaint).

  101. melanie

    I remember my first ski trip. I hated it. Hell was great big snowy mountains.. and I complained and complained and complained. I’m sure my parents would have liked to have taken me home but there was a blizzard and we were pretty much stuck. I remember my dad explaining how much he had spent on ski clothes, lift tickets, ski rentals… etc.. and I told him in a most ungracious way that I would go skiing, but I hoped that I would break my arm and then he would be so sorry. He just laughed at me. Long story short, before the week was over I was quite the ski bunny. Only since I’ve had my own kids do I see my behavior for what it was.. I was quite the spoiled brat and I know I made mom and dad’s life pretty miserable.. but they are my best friends today. Nothing is broken.. It’s just moved up a step. I think Chickie gets it… and she got it a lot quicker than me. I even raised a fuss that I didn’t get a proper gift for my college graduation. Yes, slap me now.

  102. KarenNM

    I just wanted to say that I feel your pain. We had a rough weekend in our house, too, and I spent my evening today at a “Collaborative Problem Solving” workshop in an attempt to make our home life a little bit better (see We’re just starting down the path with CPS, so I won’t endorse it quite yet. I keep telling myself that we just have to try and do our best, every day. So I keep trying…

  103. Suebob

    Not that I know anything, but I think you did good.

  104. Laura

    My heart just breaks for both of you, but you really did do the right thing. Wouldn’t it be nice, just occasionally, if the right thing was *easy* or felt good at the time? Y’know, just to shake things up.

    Thinking of you all and wishing the best for you-

  105. Trish

    You are an awesome parent. You are what your daughter needs, not what she wants. I wish more parents were like you. I am 25 with a 3 and 5yr old and I constantly get compliments that my kids are so wonderful and well mannered. And guess what? I feel like the wicked which a lot of the time too, but that is the price we pay for raising great kids and being a great parent.
    Where I live there are so many parents who are older than me and indulge their children and don’t have enough spine to stand up to a child. Can you come be my neighbor?
    Hang in there. SOME DAY she will thank you for doing the right thing, instead of the easy thing.

  106. Claudious

    Sounds like one of the real pains of being a parent. Sorry that you had to go to such extremes to get her to figure it out, but at least she did eventually figure something out. It’s been a rough summer and I totally understand the pain.

    Your self control is amazing, it’s difficult for me to imagine being in the same place.

  107. mama speak

    Everyone else has already said it. So *HUGS* I think you all could use one.

    I totally thought HORMONES too. Not that it’s an excuse, but it does suck for everyone involved. I remember being this age and doing things like that and feeling a sense of watching myself, knowing it was wrong, but somehow being unable to stop myself. Hell, I remember being bitchy while PMSing last month & feeling that way.

    I’m sorry for all of you. This kind of stuff sucks. Being right doesn’t always feel right. *HUGS*

  108. Brigitte

    You did the right thing, Otto is great for supporting and helping you, and Monkey has been great through the whole trauma. The testimonials in the comments from formerly Chickadee-like women gives me (and I hope you) some hope that your actions will eventually stick with her!

  109. Angie

    Oh Mir, my heart aches for all of you. But it reminds me of the theme my church chose for Lent a handful of years ago: “there’s a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in” (I think that’s a quote from Leonard Cohen, but I’m not sure). We talked a lot about broken-ness and how it can bring grace and healing. So things with Chickadee might feel broken right now, but have faith, keep putting one foot in front of the other, and it will get better.

    And I agree with everyone else who says you did the right thing, even though it must have been heart-breakingly difficult. I really admire you, and hope I’d be able to do the same thing.

  110. annette

    What Bob said…

    I adopted a 6 yr old from Russia about 2 1/2 yrs ago with severe ADHD. It is very difficult to show him affection when I am angry with him, but I know I need to. We have 5 others that have minimal discipline issues. I am sure it is as difficult for him to be the high needs kid as it is for me to be the constant discipline mom. Also, anytime anything changes in the least ( and when does change not happen regularly in a family of 8?) It sends him spiraling behavior wise. Lord help us all! This parenting gig is tough!

  111. Kathryn Jaehnig

    De-lurking to say I’m glad you decided to share this — it’s a great model for how to cope with a difficult child and by being so open, you give other parents permission to take a harder line with misbehavior. I’m often amazed, when I read blogs written by women with children, how much the moms let their kids get away with. I never comment; I know I’d just be jumped by loyal readers as a troll. Hard as this is for you, it’s a great “teaching moment.” As the mother of two in their 30s, I have a lot of respect for you and Otto. Hang on — it’s a rough ride, and it’s not over yet, but you can do this (and better than most).

  112. Aimee

    Oh, sweetie… ((((hugs))))

    I can’t tell you how you guys are going to get through this. But I can tell you that I’ve had moments like that with people I love, where I don’t know if it can be fixed. And it has been fixed, and ultimately, it’s made my relationships with those people better. I hope, so much, that the same happens with you guys. It’s still pretty raw right now, I’m sure; and when things are raw, it’s easy to feel like there’s no way out. I hope you find it.

  113. Trisha

    As a person who is lucky my mother didn’t kill me while I slept as a teenager, you did the right thing. Chickie will appreciate you later. I appreciate you now.

  114. Sarah

    These are the kinds of events I dread in the future, since I am still such a newly-minted mom. But looking back on my childhood, my parents were willing to make the hard decision to leave a place/event/good time if my brother or I weren’t acting appropriately. And it was always the right decision.

  115. Ramblin' Red

    (hugs) Mir….

    You did the right thing, and she’ll respond to it. I have to keep telling myself the same thing when my LMNOB gets like this, including this morning. She is so much like your Chickie, and I try so very hard to attend to her needs, and yet not let her manipulate everyone around us.

    It’s hard, this mothering gig.

  116. Nancy R

    I agree that you did the right thing, regardless of the contribution to the therapy fund.

    Fwiw, I would have tried sending mine marching to the shower. There’s something about water with my kids – along with the usual stern ‘you have a choice to change your attitude…’ speech – that mellows them.

  117. neecie

    If it makes you feel better, my mother and I had that type of relationship when I was a kid. And now, she’s my best friend. Chickadee may be too young still for this to really sink in, but it is a stepping stone to the right direction!

    You can do it! You’re amazing, and even though she spazzes out, deep down inside she knows you are amazing!

  118. Beth


    I have nothing pithy to add, other than the fact that I know you love each other. And you are a GOOD mother… as well as a good Mom. Those can be two different things at times, and you do both well.

    {{{{{Mir & Otto}}}}}

  119. Susan

    Mir, I have had similar issues with my 11-year-old son and had a similar “break” last fall with him. It was so bad that I truly feared we couldn’t get past it. Since then he has matured (though he’s still a challenge, to be sure) and he told me just yesterday that he was SO sorry he acted that way. Just wanted you to know that as dark as it seems, it WILL get better, especially if you keep handling it the way you are. Bravo.

  120. June

    You are such an awesome mom! I wonder if your method would work on a difficult husband as well as a difficult kid? I love him dearly but the moods drive my crazy!!

  121. Megan

    So I found your site today when looking for Stephanie Klein’s (my favorite blogger) name in the Redbook article. I found myself getting sucked into this entry, but I definitely identified with Monkey, rather than you. I’m 22, engaged, with no children, so that possibly has something to do with it. I know that you say you have sympathized with her in the past, but I think way too many parents forget what an awful stage it is for kids at that age. I know that I was constantly disappointed, and I probably acted out. Actually, I know I did, because my mom gave me the exact same speech you gave to Monkey. Let me tell you that I believe it is completely horrible for Otto to reject a hug from Monkey. What is the lesson? When you apologize you still get treated like crap? And for any mother to guilt their daughter with “something broke between us” is heartbreaking. Please know, as much as my mother and I are now best friends, I remember those conversations and hate her for making me feel that way. You are not only the adult, but the only advocate and nurturer your child has. It is those conversations that, to this day, leave me not wanting children ever, because I never want to make someone feel bad about themselves the way only mothers can with their daughters.

  122. JenR

    Oh Mir – you are fantastic! Turning round and going home again, my goodness how tough to actually do that, to actually follow through when you’ve said you’ll do it. I feel for you, really I do. My nearly 18 yr old daughter was terrible at 10/11, thank goodness it got better! We divorced when she was 3 so I don’t think that had anything to do with it: I’m more inclined to blame hormones. “This too, shall pass” was my motto when she was that age! Oh and the talk about feelings and how we act on them? Been there done that!! Just wanted to let you know you are not alone.

  123. Sharon

    Mir, this situation will heal because your daughter knows you love her. When children feel secure in their family, it is where they know they can fall apart. As hard as that is for parents, it is the safest thing for the kids. I think children look to their parents for boundaries and sometimes will push until someone says “enough.” When my daughter turned 10, it was like a switch was flipped and she entered early adolescence. For the better part of 8 years it was life one-day-at-a-time, working to keep lines of communication open, setting boundaries, reassurance that I loved her even when she said she hated me, and working with her to learn how to channel her independence, intelligence, and thinking outside-the-box. She learned to respectfully challenge people and ideas she did not agree with, to stand up for herself appropriately, and to believe that she could do anything she wanted to do. There were days that I wasn’t sure we’d make it to the other side, but we did. I like the saying “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” Our daughters can and will change the world because we, their mothers, see their potential.

  124. Dawn

    You are strong and brave, which is what mothering takes. You and your chickadee will both be fine.

  125. joe

    in addition to that conversation you had, good therapists (and books if you can’t afford or find such a person) teach people (including kids) how to use “tools” to express and process their feelings. willpower, or the desire to “be good” is not and will never be enough. what happened on your weekend away will happen again. it may help chickadee to say how she’s feeling all the time–even if she doesn’t know what she’s feeling or why. a simple “i don’t feel happy” may suffice. that way she won’t wait until she’s feeling desperate or dissociative. it may help keep things managable. do consider finding someone who works with children and is really good at it. thank you for sharing.

  126. Tootsie Farklepants

    I once had to follow through on canceling a trip to Sea World when my youngest son pushed me to the limits. But we didn’t have all of the extenuating circumstances that you all are saddled with. My son was just being an ass.

    Hugs to you, Mir. It’s hard to be the mama.

  127. Jamie D.

    Hey, Mir–
    I’m new here, but I’ve been reading your stuff for a while…It’s all good! For some reason, this post really touched me. Could be that you made me feel for ALL of you.

    Just my two cents–You’re doing a great job, and it’s obvious that you love your kids and know them well, to boot. They’re going to be just fine! However, I think you’re wrong in your closing statement. The relationship/”something” didn’t get broken last weekend. It was never broken. It was just a little out of whack.

    But you did take a BIG, first step in getting it straightened out. It’s painful, but the return to you and more importantly, to Chickie, will be invaluable. We moms try so very hard to do the right thing, but sometimes, in the process, we give too much power to a child–who really can’t handle being in charge and making a lot of decisions for the family. (Hmm…sounds like I might have had some experience here…) Anyway, the big event–while painful–ended in the best way possible. You took back the power that had gradually made its way into her hold–but that she was not equipped to handle. It’s a burden for a child to have too much control over the family. (I don’t mean for that to sound harsh…It’s complicated, I know…All families are different.) I think it must be comforting to her to know that you are in charge–and that you will always love her, no matter what.

    So, keep your chin up! You did the harder thing now so that she will have an easier time in the future. (And believe me, it WILL get better.)

  128. Kailani

    Sometimes the right thing to do is the hardest. You and Otto make a great team and this too shall pass. Chickie shouldn’t feel she is unlovable any more than you should doubt that you are an AMAZING mama. It will get better.

  129. angie

    spank her. You’ll both feel better. and it will be over

  130. cupcake40

    I applaud your decision. My oldest who turned 13 in April is my child from hell. I said she came into this world bullheaded and has remained that way. There are forever meltdowns because she DEMANDS she gets her way and pouts when she doesn’t. I have stopped giving in and have told her tough luck. She has a brother and sister who desire to have a say. I am worried about what will happen when she gets out in the world.
    It sounds like your daughter is starting to see the light. Keep up the good work.

  131. Flea

    Oh Mir. You’re such a good mom. Being a GOD mom is the hardest job in the world.

  132. Flea

    I meant GOOD mom. My fingers are sleepy. Sorry.

  133. Cele

    Mir, I didn’t read all the comments, so I’m probably reiterating what most of 120 people already told you but,”As a parent you rock.” As a step parent, Otto, “Rocks.”

    While the nice moments in our childhood are there in our memories, it’s the eye opening, “I’m ashamed and embarassed moments” that stand out in our thoughts day in and out and make us who we are.

  134. Pamela L

    Wow – My heart is breaking for you!

    I have 2 sons and I’ve had many such heart wrenching moments with them. You are a much better mom and woman than me because I had the hardest time following through. It hurt so much that I often just gave in instead of standing strong.

    As a result, there are things that are wrong today. I regret that.

    You hand tough – no matter how hard and all of your hearts will mend in time.

    Sending all hugs your way!!

  135. The Mom

    I’m at the end of a long list of fans that are on your same page. My 10 year old has had those difficult momments as well. Her father has put tremendous strain on our lives and unfortunately, the reality is, the kids bear the brunt of that strain. I know, I remember, my father did the same. Everytime The Daughter and I hit that wall I know what is broken isn’t us….it’s our hearts. We just have to keep on loving until the loving fills in the broken parts. Eventually it does. I know that too.

  136. Nothing But Bonfires

    I cried my way through this. For ALL of you. But you definitely did the right thing. I think I might have been a bit of a Chickadee many years ago, and this is exactly the sort of thing that helped.

  137. dma

    I dont think i would ever have the strenghth to do what you did. Girls are so much harder to deal with than boys. Your family will be fine, you are a wonderful mother.

  138. Angela

    You did something that so many people (myself included) wouldn’t have the strength/courage to do. It would have been so much easier to stay at the hotel. It was unfair that Monkey had to be “punished” too. But absolutely necessary and my hat’s off to you. It’s sad that you have to clean up the mess that someone else is making, but it is completely apparant that you are more than qualified to do it.

  139. dallimomma

    You don’t know me so you have no reason to believe what I’m about to tell you so I’ll just say it for what it is; my story. I have a daughter who is now 21 years old. When she was young (starting with the pre-teen years), she felt much the same way that I imagine Chickadee feels and acted accordingly. Your story is just a page out of what we experienced with her. As a little background, her dad was an addict/alcoholic, left us, died of an overdose, I remarried a really nice man much to her dismay, her picture was beside the word “rebellion” in the dictionary for several years. Fast-forward to today. She is a young, single mom starting college in a few weeks, living on her own and taking excellent care of her daughter. She has told me on more than one occasion some variation of this speech. “Thank you for not letting me get away with anything. Thank you for being consistant, even when I was unbearable. I’m sorry for all the crap I put you through, all the things I’ve said to you and Husband. I didn’t mean any of it.” She will tell anyone who asks that she needed every bit of training and discipline that I dished out and, while she strained at the restraints, it made her feel safe and cared for when she felt so out of control inside.
    All this to say, it may get worse before it gets better; hormones are your enemy. But the chances that it WILL get better if you continue to hold the line, make your expectations clear to her and love her through it all are excellent. Yes, things are broken now. But not irreparable with God’s grace. I pray for His strength to be made perfect in your weakness.

  140. Takhara

    You made a decision and enforced it amongst very difficult circumstances. That took intestinal fortitude and I admire you for that. Sometimes that is the best way to show someone you love him/her.

  141. Deb@Bird On A Wire

    Mir, while you haven’t a clue who I am, I am you 20 or so years ago. What you and Otto did and how you did it deserve such great praise. While as teens, we were all affected and effected by hormonal spikes and some of us continue to be, its not always the good/right thing to let them play out in such a way that it totally effects everyone concerned. As well, you know, through your family counseling sessions that some acting out is to be expected. But, when you hold your line in such a loving manner, your children learn to respect boundaries. And like you said learn that their actions have consequences, and effects beyond themselves. As parents, I think you and Otto deserve big huggles. Chickie will continue with some outbursts, its almost always normal, as will Monkey (yeah boys go through it too), but they will grow as humans, and in a household with such love and kindness and true discipline, they’ll come out alright.
    By the way, the broken feelings will heal too…don’t worry, its just changes in the views.


  142. KD @ A Bit Squirrelly

    Deb from Bird on a wire directed me to this post and I needed it today. We are really dtruggling with our five (almost six) year old daughter. Thanks so much for your honest insight. I hope to visit you blog again!

  143. Laura

    God, you are the mother I hope to one day be. I have two boys, 4 and 1 and I wonder how I am going to deal with their meltdowns and the bigger things when they get older. The way you handled the whole situation was just amazing. Thank you for opening yourself up and posting this, it was affirming.

  144. Zukppr

    {{{Mir}}} I too have had one of those ‘broken’ moments. It happened a few months ago. “I can’t ever trust you again” were the words which flew out of my mouth. For all of her live I’d told her that ‘words have power’ and ‘ you can’t take them back’. I was hurt and angry. We’ve since had conversations about ‘that’ moment and she understand a lot better about the power of speech. We’re rebuilding and I trust we’ll be ok. Adolescence has begun so we’re headed into some potentially choppy water. I have faith we’ll be ok, and maybe even better than before.

    You made the right choice. Sometimes it’s hard to be the grownup. {{{}}}

  145. Lisse

    I’m very impressed, not only with you and your quick thinking, but with the impact it appeared to have on Chickadee.

    I’ll be interested to see if the tantrums diminish somewhat. I too have a child that is, shall we say, hypersensitive with poor reactions. It is sometimes very difficult to distinguish when he is reacting to his surroundings and when he is just being a brat for the attention it gets him.

    We struggle sometimes for meaningful consequences. It is both sad and satisfying when we have to change our plans in order to follow through on something that might finally have an impact.

  146. Catootes

    I believe what will come through in the end is the talking and staying connected. We all overcompensate with our kids when times are bad, but if dialogue continues and consequences reinforced, they come through the other side as better people. It’s hard holding that line as a parent but you do the best you can. Your best seems pretty damn good from where I’m sitting and reading. Hang tough, Chickadee and Monkey have a solid Mom.

  147. Overflowing Brain

    If you spoke with my father today he would tell you that your daughter is me, 15 years ago. And after reading that I just want to applaud you because while that had to be such a difficult decision, it was such a great one. I only became the adult I am and got in control of my emotions because of good parenting. And I have every reason to think that your daughter will turn out just fine.

    Good for you. I’m remarkably impressed and while I hope I never have to be in that situation, I do hope I’d handle it as well as you did.

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