Being the only parent is not fun. There is only me for the kids to be angry with, and they are angry. They are angry their dad isn’t here. They are angry that I set limits and hold to them. They are angry they do not get their way with whining and crying and fit pitching. They are angry that I hold them to a standard of respect for adults and the rules of the world.
And there is no one to back me up. When a limit is being pushed, I stand alone while they hurl their best at me trying to make me bend and break, give in and take away the consequences. I don’t. Still, it hurts. In fact, it breaks my heart regularly. I don’t like being yelled at. I don’t like being criticized and told how mean and uncaring I am. I don’t like being accused of never, ever, ever doing anything nice for my children. I don’t like being challenged at every turn. You would think I was running a prison camp the way they go on about it. The indignities of being required to make your bed and pick up the floor of your room. The outrageousness of being expected to carry your own beloved stuffed animals and your new clothes all the way upstairs to your bedroom.
The thing is, I know they are sad. And I know, surely better than they can imagine, how sadness that is difficult to feel is eclipsed by anger directed at any convenient and available target. I know that while they yell at me and call me names and tell me what a big bad old wolf they truly think I am, their little hearts are just filled up with too much loss. And I wish I could take it all away and leave them with more sunshine. I am doing my best to bring what sunshine I can. But nothing I do or say will bring their daddy back. And when they want him, I am a very poor substitute.
What they don’t know, what doesn’t get said – after all they are children and it isn’t appropriate for them to think about – is that when they are tucked into bed dreaming of magical places, I am left with the echoes of their anger and sadness that I am powerless to assuage. I am alone with my doubts and my worries about whether or not I am doing the right thing or am being too hard on these girls that are still trying to navigate the loss of their father.
They want to act out and know that I still love them, to know that even in the midst of a tantrum that they will get a hug. They want to come out of their rooms ten times and beg me to come up and give them one more kiss, turn Ellie on one more time. They want to know that I am there, and they need that. And I am. I am here. I may huff and puff from time to time, but I haven’t blown the house down yet.
Maybe the big bad wolf just wanted a hug, too.