My teacher?

Infrared Daughter

The illnesses continue! My older daughter is beginning to get better, her cough isn’t as constant as it was, and she doesn’t turn as red when she does cough. However my younger daughter is now going through it. Over the weekend she developed pink eye and an ongoing fever. Today we found out that she has 1) Pneumonia 2) each ear has an infection and 3) hives! It’s gotten to the point that even though I was up every hour last night and am quite sleep deprived, I still find this so absurd that I have to laugh. Maybe it should be “because” I’m so sleep deprived rather than “even though” But seriously, when things get so over the top (and no one is horribly suffering) what else can I do? In more upbeat news I fixed my modified infrared camera.. For sometime it wouldn’t see anything when I tried to take pictures, I could look at old ones on the screen but any new ones would come out black.  I think the CCD cables were loose. I was so happy to get it working again, I had already started scoping out replacement cameras to dismantle and modify. The cover photo for this post is my older daughter shot with that camera, still a little sick.

It’s interesting seeing how differently the girls behave when they are sick or at least run down. My younger one gets a little destructive when she’s not feeling well and she appears much more withdrawn than usual, she also gets a little defiant but nothing major. She’ll tell us that something hurts, but she doesn’t really complain or put on as big of a show as my older daughter. My older one complains to no end about the slightest pain, to put it bluntly she whines a lot, and also tends to get really obstinate or defiant and act out.

Whining is always annoying but I’ve noticed this past week that when I’m tired whining REALLY bugs me. But what gets me even more worked up is when my older daughter starts yelling and becomes defiant. When I’m reasonably rested I can tolerate it to some degree, it still really upsets me, but I manage to keep it under control. However, if I’m already in a bad mood, the defiance and yelling trigger something deep in me. It is a huge task to stay calm, to not get aggressive with her. A few months ago during one of her screaming-and-kicking hold-the-door time-outs I got so upset that I threw the door open, restrained her and got right up in her face and yelled at her to stop it. She was kind of freaked out and crying and my wife had to go in and calm her down. I was too upset that night to apologize, and the next day she was telling her teacher that I had yelled at her and scared her. I apologized the next day for losing control and scaring her. I don’t like the way I acted and it really scared me that I could get so worked up. I guess what most bugs me about all this is that I get so deeply resentful when she acts this way. She’s just a 5 year old who is prone to tantrums and acting out. I actually just ran across an article talking about things we can still teach girls to empower them in the future. It’s an interesting problem because I really want to empower her, to have her feel free to express her emotions and act against injustices and I want her to grow up not being afraid to act out because she is a woman. However, gender aside, when that acting out is against me it’s so hard to take.

I think I have such a hard time with her acting out, because I learned early on that it was not okay for me to act out or have strong emotions. I still remember being put into a cold shower with all my clothes for “being out of control” when I was 6 or 7. I don’t remember what the issue was but even years later my parents just said I was too upset or worked up. Later, while coming into puberty I started having fights with my dad. They weren’t full on punching fights, but more an aggressive and angry wrestling. Once, coming back from the mountains my dad and I started fighting over leg room in the back seat. This was before the super strict child seat laws so my sister was up front with my mom. It got heated and my mom pulled over so my dad could drive, so as to separate us. I was so upset that I jumped out of the car and ran up an abandoned off-ramp. My mom had to eventually coax me down back to the car. At another point I was watching TV in my parent’s room and my dad came and grabbed the remote and changed the channel. I got mad and tried to take it back. We ended up once again in an angry aggressive wrestling match. My mom came in screaming at my dad to knock it off and tried to break us up. She ended up with a sprained wrist, and I was sent to my room. I jumped out the window and ran away for several hours until my dad found me and asked me to come home. I still remember my sister crying in her window watching me ride away on my bike. The other incident I still remember is my dad trying to talk to me during a camping trip. I don’t remember the details, but I must have done some earlier in the day and he wanted to talk to me about it. I kept saying no, or repeating something contrary to what he was saying and he got fed up and punched me in the mouth. I didn’t bleed but it hurt and really scared me.

It wasn’t until I saw my first therapist during graduate school that I even considered that what my parents had done wasn’t okay. I had always figured that was how one dealt with an “out of control” child and that I had deserved it. But I now realize that my parents probably learned at an early age as well that it was not okay to have really strong reactions or to appear out of control in any way. I also find it interesting that my dad was acting in such a childish manner. You’d think that a grown adult could handle an unruly child in a better way. However, I can see that it’s only a small step between restraining a child and fighting over a remote control or leg space or punching someone in the mouth.
What I think I am working on these days is learning that is okay for me to have strong emotions or to get worked up at times. How that gets channeled is important, but I think in the long run it’ll be healthier than trying to bottle everything up. It’s amazing to see my older daughter who really has no problems with that at all. She is very free in her emotions and behaviors, even if it does annoy me at times. I guess my other work is finding out how to teach her to respect her emotions and not make her scared to let people know what she feels, but also how to deal with it as a parent. I think she, and her sister, have a lot to teach me.

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