Sometimes, I pick a battle and I take a stand. Yesterday it was an orange. Elazar likes me to cut gently into the orange to make it easier for him to peel. However, if he peels and breaks through the membrane, it's "juicy" and it's dead to him. We've had this discussion about bananas and ice cream sandwiches before. I will take off the wrapper or the peel, but sometimes it breaks or cracks a little and he may not have another one. That is wasting.
Well, we didn't have that conversation before the orange. (He is 5 now. I would think this is a 2 or 3 yo problem, by the way.) I accidentally over-enthusiastically cut the grooves, and they sliced into the membrane, making nearly the entire orange "juicy." He lost it. He behaved obnoxiously and disrespectfully. I think he first threw a tantrum, which I respect, because life isn't going his way and it's infuriating. I often use these tantrums as an opportunity to let them ride the full wave of fury and frustration, and reality doesn't change. I try to maintain a solid and loving presence while they do this. I feel like in that jumbled way that children confuse parents and God, it gives the psyche the experience that there is a loving presence while reality goes against their will. And eventually they pick themselves up and move forward. Which I think is an important life lesson.
But not Elazar. He escalated. He tried to hit me. He threw the orange at me. I maintained my loving, calm presence for a while. But soon I began to feel, like in that jumbled way that children confuse parents and God, that Elazar might be soon about to experience a capricious, vengeful and wrathful idolatrous god. So I decided to clarify that I was taking a stand. I crouched down, looked him in the eye, and stated very firmly: "I will NOT do another orange. I don't like the way you screamed at me and are screaming at me."
This escalated things further, and sometimes when he shrieks like that I begin to wonder if I was wrong to take this stand. But instead of my usual second guessing, I just felt irritated and justified. I do not want to be treated like this. I will not tolerate being treated like that. The only way to put a stop to it is to make it clear that he cannot speak to me and treat me like that. I will die on this mountain if I have to. You will not cross this line.
This occurred in the middle of the day. At various points over the next hour and a half, he cried about it and screamed about it. When he finally spoke to me calmly about it, I said I am still upset at the way he treated me, and maybe if he asks me in half an hour I will do it. He did ask me in half an hour.
I thought a lot about how much of our day this orange incident took up. This is definitely one of the things I like about homeschooling. In the early elementary age years, there are so many strong emotions and so many interactions that are intense for the child.* And in homeschool, we really do have the time and the chance to walk them through these incidents when they occur. In school, he'd probably suck up his feelings, which would be age appropriate for 1st grade and not necessarily a bad skill to master (or he would cry a lot, and hopefully have a compassionate teacher). But he'd be coming home at 4pm and we have to do homework and dinner and bedtime, and there just isn't the same leisure to devote to these turbulent emotions.
* (During puberty, there are also so many strong emotions and interactions that are intense for the teenager. During life, there are so many strong emotions and interactions that are intense.)