We’re talking parenting at church and growth group lately. As we sat around the table last night, discussing discipline and the good and bad things we’ve done, I recalled moments when Little Man was younger, pre-diagnosis, and I could almost feel a sharp knife through the heart. There were times he had me so at the end of my line. I recalled getting in his face when he was working on a tantrum, and just yelling, “What is wrong with you?” Even writing it now, I am embarrassed. Trust me, I know those were not my better parenting moments. I wish I could go back and take every single one of those incidents away. How have I damaged him through my own frustration?
We didn’t know. I get it. We didn’t know he was different. He was just so challenging. I lived each day on the edge, trying to figure him out, trying to micro-manage so he wouldn’t act out, lash out, fall apart, throw a fit. Many days, I truly believed we just needed to be better parents. He is the youngest. Maybe we were following the stereotype and being easier on our “baby” than the older two. Maybe if we were just more consistent he would be better. But it seemed no matter what we did, his behavior did not improve.
I’m scarred by every time I yelled that question at him. Asking it implies there is something broken in him, something wrong, something he can change just because we want him to change it. It hurts me that I did it. I can’t imagine what it’s done to him. Not a parenting win. I haven’t asked him that in years. But the heart holds onto things. And the pain can resurface in an instant.