So I know we all feel like our kids are heathens sometimes; unruly, disobedient, the worst of the worst. And when, through some inexplicable turn of events, you find yourself to be the parent of the worst of the worst, well, there’s truly nothing worse. Unfortunately for the adult contingent, there are no rules when it comes to the parent-child standoff. No three steps in the opposite direction before turning to fire. No rules of engagement to reduce operational risk, or define appropriate constraints and stuff (thank-you Wikipedia).
Anyway, I’ve felt this way periodically since my first son was born, initially when he was screaming his infant lungs out at Target because I’d miscalculated his feeding time, then at the park when I pulled the “I’m pretending to walk to the car without you” move, and many times over in various parking lots, frozen food sections, and notoriously in the middle of a school assembly.
The only saving grace is that with my first son the operative word has always been “periodically”. There was always that “oh crap I forgot to change your diaper so that’s why you’re screaming” moment, or “oh right, you skipped your nap three days in a row so I’ll forgive your delirious headbutting” allowance. With number two, however, all rules have changed. His tantrums are chronic, decisive, and unwelcome accessories to our daily routine.
Take today, for instance. When I picked the little dude up from school all seemed well and good. He even reported that one of his teachers was out sick so he had to be Ms. Gina’s “assistant” in the classroom (Ms. Gina is apparently a saint). He ate a hearty snack in the car on the way to art class, and sat through the hour like a champ. He was proud of his finished picture and didn’t hit his brother or friend in the back seat on the way to hip hop. And for the first ten minutes of big bro’s dance class he even sat on my lap and watched like a benign and obedient four year old. I was seriously dewy eyed – and judiciously deceived.
We all know when our children are teetering on the brink of a breakdown. Today I made the mistake of ignoring the warning signs. The restless pulling of my sweater, twitchy inability to sit still, high pitched whining over the sub-par volume of the Fart app. These were all warning signs; ones that I know, but carelessly ignored. Until he headbutted me. And, as outlined above, all rules were out the window.
There’s more to the story, but it’s not really relevant except to say that we oscillated between peace and power struggle for the next few minutes until little dude was overcome by the apparent urge to sock me in the kneecap. For that he landed some hard “thinking time” in the car while I pretended not to hear him breathing fire at me from outside. And though he fell asleep on the drive home, I can’t justify the kid’s behavior because he was tired; he’s four years old and does this every-single-day between 3 and 6 pm. We call it witching hour, and it’s grating on my already over-taxed mom nerves.
So tonight I’ll do what I always do: pour a glass of wine and turn to the parenting books. You should see my bedside table. Really, it’s a wealth of psychological insight…and vampire romance. Both essential for effective parenting. At times like this I wonder if I’ve got it right, if my I’ll-show-you-by-trapping-you-in-the-car parenting is whittling my son into one of those teenage cat slayers. If all of his spitting, hitting, scratching, and biting are a sign that I didn’t hug him enough as a baby (he’s really snuggly…maybe he needed more?). Or maybe today he really was just…tired?
What I do know is that for all of his challenges that little bugger is worth the fuss. Contrary to how it seems at the moment (to both you and me, I assure you) the kiddo is overwhelmingly loving, he’s audacious, he’s 100% boy (except for that whole pink cake and puppy party thing). And although his brand of tantrum is twice the storm of his brother’s, I guess I kinda’ can’t blame him. After all, I know perfectly well who he gets it from 😉