It is the morning and I am looking at this hot dog bun and feeling dread. I am sending rays of hate towards Sara Lee, imagining she is a real person and is responsible for what’s about to happen. I don’t even know why we have a Sara Lee product in our refrigerator, but Clem wants a hot dog for breakfast (turkey dog, don’t think too ill of me) and we have just returned from vacation and there is precious little else in there. So I concede to this, just this once.
But I can tell the bun is stale and fragile (and crappily made to begin with) and it’s going to fall apart when we put the dog in it. And Clem is going to freak out. She is going to scream and cry as if rats were eating her toes. It is January 2nd, and I need to go to work after having been gone for two whole weeks. Really gone. Checked out. Did nothing. Stuff is piled up. We have a major launch event in three months and basically everything left to do on it. I need to get to work.
I give her the hot dog and the bun, in that way that you do something you know is stupid, but you don’t know what else to do (I had told her she could have it) and you think maybe this time it will not have the consequences that it usually has. But it does, of course, and then you realize you knew it would and you wonder if you are an actor in some boring movie and not an actual thinking human being of your own. So your toddler is crying uncontrollably about the broken mess on her plate and isn’t remotely ready to go to school and it is 8:30.
So you non-parents are mostly thinking “Why do you put up with that kind of behavior?” And I think the same thing, often. And the alternative? Please come over here and show me how not to put up with that. She is crying, loudly, so I can take her upstairs and put her in her room and let her cry louder. I will need to lock her in her room, since she will just run out if I try to leave her there. I could lock her in there and go get myself ready in the meantime and then decide what to do. I could, and frankly I have done that, but I don’t like to lock a child in a room alone. I could say to her “I can help you if you can stop crying and talk to me.” I do this. Yes, well. I believe in my heart of hearts that this will work one day. It does not work now. I can say it a few more times, but it is more ritual than anything. Does she hear me?
It is five days later and I don’t even remember now how we got her to calm down. I think Chris did it. We made it to school, late, to work, late, but the sky did not fall. There is not enough room in memory to store all of these moments. I remember the bun. I threw the rest of them out that afternoon. They tasted like paper anyway. I don’t know if I’m a good parent. I know I’m a loving parent, but I might be way too lenient. I might be raising a total brat. I do not want Super Nanny to come to my house, but I sure as hell wouldn’t mind a visit from Mary Poppins. Or just magical powers. But I believe the idea was that Mary Poppins only visited houses where the kids were neglected and under-loved. This is not our problem.
I have come to the conclusion that we do put up with our kids. At school, the teachers don’t tolerate meltdowns, I know that, and I’m glad of it. She knows how to keep herself together when she has to. Apparently when she is with Mommy is not when she has to. I know I am supposed to teach her to get a grip, helping her channel her emotions while validating them. I have read books, some of them very good and very helpful. I have the best intentions. But sometimes I want to slap her. Sometimes I wonder if that in fact would be helpful. I decide it probably would not, but the thought comes back from time to time.
We tried something today that worked so well and was so cute I think Miss Poppins would be proud. After an unfortunately pretty typical after school hour of what the books say is her letting out all the stress of her school day on me (she is after all, only 3 ½ and was in school for 9 hours today! Ugh. I was held up at the office.) I suggested that when she feels like crying or whining about something, she should instead say “Mom, I need a hug.” Miraculously, this worked. She needed a hug about every 25 seconds in frequent spurts throughout the evening, which made cooking dinner difficult, but she gives fantastic hugs. Her giant round cheeks are so soft and they squish up against your cheek or your neck and she wraps her legs around your waist and squeezes. It’s pretty damn awesome. The anti-matter to a whine. Some of the hugs were just for fun but several times throughout the evening I saw her start to freak and instead ask for or just take a hug and actually calm down. Magic! And magical.
I know from experience that this will probably not work tomorrow. At the most it’ll work for a week or two. Then we will have to find something else, and in the meantime there’ll be dozens of meltdowns. And maybe one of my friends or family will nominate us for a visit from Super Nanny. Does she scare me because she looks mean or does she scare me because I’m raising a brat and I don’t want to face it?