We’ll look back and laugh, right?

By Mir
March 29, 2011

I turned into That Parent when I wasn’t looking. I don’t know if it was inevitable, or if it was brought on by these recent feelings of simply ping-ponging between the kids’ needs, but somewhere inbetween finding-a-therapist-for-Monkey, now back to setting-limits-for-Chickadee, now back over here to deal-with-this-school-meeting-for-Monkey, then back again to find-a-new-specialist-for-Chickie, I became That Parent. The one who delivers a single, terrible indictment, then turns and walks away.

“Please take the door off the hinges. Your bedroom door is gone until further notice.” Later, I said to Otto, “I am so angry about this, you have no idea.”

“Actually I do,” he answered. “I know you’re beyond furious because you didn’t even yell. Chickadee’s terrified.” He had a point. I always yell. I wish I didn’t, but it’s true. She was right to be terrified.

I can’t tell the story of what led up to it, but today at Off Our Chests I’m talking about what followed after. I don’t know if hindsight will be kind to us on this one, but I can hope, I guess.


  1. Jessica

    I don’t have kids, but if I did, they’d know how mad I was by how quiet I became, too. My friends and loved ones say that if I yell and rant and rave, they know that it’ll blow over and I’ll be over the entire situation soon. If I quiet down and get really calm? That is bad. No, that’s Bad, with a capital B. (I never would have noticed it if people didn’t mention this penchant of mine.)

  2. Em

    Oh man, I hear this post. Especially about the tightrope walking. The worst part is, you don’t know if you are doing the right thing for years and years. What will that feel like, I wonder? When you get to look at her all grown up and let the tension out of your shoulders and exhale and know that you did it right, at least most of the time. I believe you will see that day. And I hope we both get to see the day our daughters are dealing with daughters EXACTLY LIKE THEM!

  3. Deirdre

    Oh, yeah, I’ve been That Parent, too. We have removed the door a few times, to the point we had command hooks over the door to support a cheap curtain rod and shower curtain so she could have privacy to change her clothes and keep the hall light from shining directly in her eyes at bedtime. I hope things improve!

  4. suzie

    When I was a teen, I went through a crazy rebellious period. Crazy was relative, based my family’s own idiosyncrasies, but it was a big deal to the family I was in at the time.

    Now we have a normal relationship (for the most part), and there are several pieces that we can look back and laugh at. There are also some we don’t discuss. Or if they come up, we are capable of getting in a huff over, still. (FYI, the time my dad BROKE my bedroom door down is one of the times we DO laugh at.)

    But even the history we can’t laugh at – it’s our history. It contributed to who all of us are today. My parents say that they, too, learned from those struggles. And when I – as a 38 yo mother of 2 teens myself – look back on what I still think were poor decisions made by my parents, I don’t hold it against them. Looking back, I also see all of the good, and even the good (albeit different good than they intended) that came out of the bad decisions.

    You are doing a great job. Thank you for sharing as much as you are able with us.

  5. Hally

    You & Otto are doing a FANTASTIC job…it’s hard in the moment, but just know in the midst of all this chaos other mamas across the country are smiling and nodding into their third cups of coffee. In total agreement with you, we raise our mugs and salute the mom that shared with us how hard it was to take a stand. And how much we tremble on the tightrope of parenting.

  6. Erin

    Oh Mir. Whenever you write about struggles you and Chickadee are having, I am given very powerful flashbacks to my own adolescence and early teen years. I’ve commented before and said this–that Chickie seems so much like me at that age–too smart, thinking–no, believing–I’m more mature than I actually am, confident in who I am but easy to succumb to peer pressure. I never did anything truly AWFUL (underage drinking, drugs, sex, violence, etc.), but I made many questionable choices, particularly regarding interpersonal relationships and lying.

    And let me tell you–I am who I am because of those blow-ups with my parents when I would do something monumentally wrong. One of the strongest memories I have from that period of my life is my parents sitting me down and calmly explaining that I caused them to lose trust in me and my ability to make smart decisions. My dad (and I can truly SEE him saying this) told me, “Trust is like stone. When you lie, you chip off a little bit of stone, and it’s really hard to rebuild stone. It takes time, and it takes honesty.”

    It was one of the most influential experiences of my life–and though it didn’t immediately change my behaviors (because I knew better!…and we all make mistakes), it’s something I think about often as an adult. I rarely tell white lies, and never tell lies when it matters–and I never lie to my husband or parents. It’s not worth it. The price is too high.

    All of this (LONG comment) to say…she knows. She’ll be OK. She’s absorbing what you’re saying, even if she doesn’t look like it, because your message is consistent and it’s true and it’s full of love. She’s getting the message, and it will make a difference–maybe not immediately (unfortunately), but eventually. There’s hope, I promise. And your message is getting through.

  7. Kelly

    Read the other post… wow. I have two girls to do this with! Fun!

    Its funny because the 3 1/2 year old is already starting to talk back. And we decided we have to start standing our ground now. Because she is already building the person she will be… similar themes to you. And as I held her on my lap and we re-explained why she didn’t get a tv show or a book, I make sure to tell her we love her and that we have high expectations for her…

    And reading your post was really what brought me back to thinking about myself growing up. I was a pretty good kid when it came to behavior I think (maybe I should ask my mom) but I do think there were definite areas where I wasn’t proud of myself. Tattle-tale, a bit whiny… eager to be loved. I really think I grew into who I wanted to be after about 24 or so… I much more like who I am now than who I was then… I still find myself making choices today though – it never ends. We constantly make decisions that will either reinforce or shift our path.

    Thanks for sharing (and I get not sharing what led to it, but man am I curious haha.)

  8. The Mommy Therapy

    I’m actually a little terrified. Heading over to read….

    By the way, I always yell too…and only am scary calm when I’ve hit my semi-crazy, so angry I’m beyond any extra engry for emotional outburts.

  9. bob

    It isn’t easy. You do what you have to do. You can’t worry overmuch if this punishment is right or over the line or you’ll drive yourself to distraction. You have to have the confidence that your decision making process works. Not that you shouldn’t evaluate it based on the experiences of previous punishments, but you shouldn’t continually second guess the process itself. At some point you need to have the confidence of knowing you are doing your best and that will have to be enough.

    You cannot keep your children from the pain of growing up. There are universal truths and experiences in growing. Your kids will encounter some of the angst you did. They will also probably encounter things you never did. Kids, the little devils, are individuals and bring their own unique gifts to the trials and tribulations of growing up. These are things that you cannot prevent.

    No one wants their kids to suffer. Unfortunately, they will. These experiences, though, are a part of life and as such are valuable learning experiences that will teach them how to deal with the inevitable problems of adulthood.

    I guess all I am really saying is – keep your perspective about this new problem. It isn’t the end of the world. No kittens were harmed and no limbs were lost. Chickadee has consistently proved she is a good person and one who learns from her mistakes. You’re doing a great job guiding her to adulthood, don’t doubt your ability to do so.

  10. Heather

    Sounds like a lot of us are scary quiet when we hit our maddest! I remember losing my door as a tween/teen, and I survived to tell the tale ;)

  11. JennyM

    Yeeesh, Mir, that sucks. Hugs? Honestly, sometimes I think the most effective kind of anger is the “I am now so angry that I am not even going to waste time with paltry responses like yelling and stomping around. This is too important. And here are the consequences, and here is why. And the matter is now closed.” But, that is also the scariest kind of anger to feel.

  12. Tara (Do These Kids Make Me Look Crazy?)

    I’m a psychologist who works with children with behavioral issues, and I’d like to give you a big high-five for not being your kids’ FRIEND, but being their mom.


  13. Megan

    Oh damn. This parenting gig! I mean, really! But hopefully it helps to see so many comments on having BEEN that child who earned the removal of a room door or the equivalent thereof and having not only survived, but thrived.

  14. Kelly

    I can only HOPE we’ll laugh!

  15. All Adither

    I’m going to star, highlight, bookmark, and otherwise SAVE this post for the future. I’m going to need it. Is it wrong that I look to you for parenting guidance? :)

  16. Katie in MA

    Heartbreakingly poignant. I don’t know about laughing, but I promise she’ll one day look back at episodes like this and wonder when dealing with her own daughter, “How would mama handle this?”

  17. Karen

    My 15 year old daughter was on the phone with her boyfriend at 11pm. This was during a very snotty teenage attitude period of time. My husband picked up the phone and said “It’s late, please say goodnight.” She snapped at him and he hung up. Ten minutes later, still on the phone. He walked up to her bedroom door and it was locked. He knocked and asked her to please unlock the door and get off the phone NOW. She said something snotty and then ignored him and continued to talk. About a minute later I heard a very large racket and splintering wood. He literally took the door down with his feet and fists. (he is not the violent type at all, ever.. so this was more funny to me than frightening). He then walked over to my daughter who was stunned into silence and said “Now say goodnight to R, and you have lost door privileges for a month”. No yelling! He left the splintered hole where the door used to be for exactly a month, and then replaced it minus a lock. She was much better about phone and the mouth after that.

    Feel any better?

  18. pam

    You are following through. You are doing the right thing. You are her parent not her friend. This too will pass (pinkie swear!!!)

  19. Tracy

    I wish I would have thought of the whole door off the hinge thing. You are doing the right thing. Parenting is the toughest job in the universe.

  20. Lynn in Mass

    My daughter just turned 10 and I get the occasional sass from her. I am not looking forward to the “teen years”.
    I don’t think I was that bad of a teen (as bad as I could have been anyways) but, my mom at times has said You Just wait.

  21. Jodie

    Sometimes I feel like the only time I comment is to basically say “I really think you awesome and stuff.” I’m sure it’s pretty creepy. Sorry about that.

    In any case, I just had my second daughter. My first is almost five. Since my second is only keeping her eyes open for about one hour at a time currently, let’s use The Bee as the point of this ramble. Since she was born, I have marveled at just how flipping hard it is to balance respecting her innate personality and strengths, with the weaknesses that may get in her way as she grows into a woman. It frankly seemed much more clear cut when I was just a teacher with no children of my own.

    I remember reading a blog post shortly after she was born that said the mom always tried to remember that the skills we value in children are usually very different than the skills we value in adults and the trick is trying to build more of those as our daughter are young.

    My MIL of course thinks I am crazy that I am secretly pleased that The Bee now has a snotty streak…although I am scared for her to reach Chickie’s age. I should just be thrilled that my daughter has always been so sensitive that she falls to pieces instead of advocating for her needs. Sorry – to me that is a weakness even if her sensitivity is also one of her greatest assets.

    That’s a really round about way of saying, that I think you’re awesome. I come to this blog because at least several times a week you inspire me to think deeply about who I want to be as a parent. And talk to my girls about deciding what kind of people and women they want to be…even this young.

    I was such a shitty little middle school kid. And I CAN look back on my childhood and point to very specific instances where I felt defeated and not enough. But I also know that my mom in the throws of her mental health issues likely never asked herself the questions you do here. She existed just barely and did the best she could with little to no thought for how it would affect my later.

    And despite that, I’ve grown into a deep and meaningful relationship with her. And I value her for the lessons she did teach me that have made me better. Chickie will come out of this with some scars…it’s impossible not to. But I suspect she will also come out of this with a really strong sense of self and when she hits her mid twenties (sorry…I know it’s long stretch of road), I bet you get a very heartfelt and earnest call letting you know how awesome you were to her right now.

    And yes…I bet you laugh about the door.

  22. amy

    This was always threatened to me, but never done. One day my dad put his FOOT through my door though. I smartened the hell up after that.

  23. navhelowife

    I remember my friend introducing me to the ‘kicking them out of the Garden of Eden’ idea.
    Works especially well for disrespect of the chronic kind.
    She took EVERYTHING out of her daughter’s room, including the furniture (except for the bed)
    She got her bed, her clock, a lamp and ONE book.
    Earned it back one thing at a time.

    It will all be well and very well, all manner of things will be well :)

  24. Daisy

    Hugs to you. .This parenting gig? It’s tough.

  25. Wendy

    We took our daughter’s door off her room for a couple of months when she was around age 10 I think. The last straw in a long series of issues. Things eventually got better, she is soon to be 15, and is still a trial (she IS a teen you know), but things are way better than they were at that age.

  26. kattebee

    Jinx. We were just discussing at work today the “joys” of teenage girls. Mine is now 21. My manager’s is not quite 2. Our co-worker is contemplating and has a 15 year old sister.

    Fifteen years old is the peak, the ultimate of hormonal weeping, eye rolling, saying-those-words-with-that-tone.

    There should be an island with coral reefs and sharks where we can send them.

    And then they can come back.

    My dealings with teens was to take the age, subtract 10. Same moods and struggles only bigger swings and you can use more syllables in the words.

    Five is not a fun time. You’re person but not wholly independent. 15 is too old for Barbie and too young for a real Ken. You can’t drive, have a job or be taken seriously. People still tell you when to go to bed. You’re not a grade 8 but you aren’t a senior either. You’re stuck in a body that might still look 12 or 22. No two friends are exactly alike.

    It will pass. Eventually a lovely young woman will emerge. Those base rock values that you have taught and lived with show through.

    I just hope that parents can recognize the “sassy backtalk” that is the baby step towards having an opinion and voice. That ability to speak their mind is what is going to keep them from following the herd of stupid choices. If the price I paid was a bit of sassy wit to have my child “just say no” to her peer group it was a cheap price to pay. That she stood up and called the police when she was assaulted was magnificent. That she will not tolerate abuse by employers while managing to soften it with a little style is laudable.

    Parenting is an art. Fortunately children are more like clay than marble. You both get the opportunity to reshape and smooth it over.

  27. Jane

    Thank you. I do not have a teen, I have a 7 year old; however, I did a copy – paste – print to that last part at Off Our Chests. It will be posted on the mirror in the morning. You are so generous to share your wise thoughts and discussions with the rest of us.

  28. Debra

    In the house I grew up in only Mom and Dad had a door on the bedroom. Every one else had a curtain on a rod. It prevented a lot of door slamming and still provided every one privacy when needed.

    It wasn’t something they did. It was just a really old house and they never put doors on all the rooms. I think Mom and Dad were smart to never make that “home-improvement”
    I am definitely a “slammer.

  29. Jill W.

    I, too, survived the no-more-door-for you punishment and lived to tell the tale. : )

    I think you are doing a brilliant job, and I am another one who bookmarks certain of your posts so that I will have them handy when it is my turn to deal with those issues (my daughter is 6).

  30. vickie

    man – i’m going to have to print these posts out & save them. i have a 3 year old – i worry about how i can be her “parent” and still get her to confide in me as a “friend”. ya know?

  31. Mare Martell

    I used to laugh at parenting sites. I mean really, don’t you just wing it and hope you make the right choices? It doesn’t matter how much sound advice you’re given, your child or mine may not respond the same way. Clever words only work so much and so long.

    HOWEVER! Today I read your post at Off Your Chest and Lady, that’s astounding. My favorite is to lead them through the logic of why it was not good that they showed up later than the given curfew or why I need to be asked instead of told what is being done. So far, this method has been working for a while. But…

    You said, “This is the part of your life where you’re growing into who you’ll be for the rest of it,” I explained. “Not that you can’t or won’t change, but this is where you consciously start making choices. This is where you start deciding, what kind of person do you want to be? Do you want to be the kind of person who lies, who breaks the rules, who sneaks around?”

    Can I worship you? Wait, I can’t, we’re friends. ;-) Three criteria for my parenting: Happy, Healthy, and Safe. Respect being the butter on the bread. But, that line…wow. I’m stealing it. I won’t feel guilty about it either.

  32. gone

    I read this post and decided that I wasn’t coming back, but have done so mainly because it’s still on my mind.

    I spent my teenaged years thinking about suicide and telling myself to hang on until college. Things were bad at home and bad at school: shutting and locking my door for me was very much about shutting and locking everything else out. A closed door didn’t make things okay, but it meant that nothing was coming at me without warning. I still vividly remember the day that my mother took the door off of my room. It was not parenting. It was parental rage, which is not the same thing. I cannot think about your post without thinking about that day and how unjustified it was.

    Personally, I would never look back on that time and laugh. My mother and I have a decent relationship now, but we have it in spite of the things she did when I was younger, not because of them. And I don’t believe that most of those things made me a better person, though I’m sure she told herself that was why she acted the way she did. I believe that quite a few of the things she did and said gave me more that I had to overcome.

    There are a lot of commments on this post saying that it’s okay or even great to do what you did, and maybe that’s true for some kids. Maybe it’s even true for Chickadee. But I wanted to give the other side. It isn’t always a good move and it isn’t always the right thing to do.

  33. Liza

    Wow. Thank you for the slightly frightening insight into what the future probably holds. I think you are a great mom.

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