The Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

I have been reluctant to tell you this story, because I like to think this is a sweet blog. Sure, there are times when I tell you about my son’s love of his boy parts and talk about the tough stuff in my life, but mostly this blog is about how sweet my son is. Because he is. Except when he isn’t.

Two Fridays ago (I know that was a lifetime ago, but I was in an opera, had family in town, am dealing with Parent Council stuff, and basically trying not to drown in laundry, so bare with me) my son and I had a terrible, no good, very bad day. The kind of day that resulted in my husband coming home from work to find me face down on our bed crying while the toddler was screaming and throwing the entire contents of his bedroom into the upstairs hallway. Why? I will start from the beginning.

I am in the middle of an agonizing (to me) pre-school decision and have been touring schools. On this particular day, my son and I had a pre-school tour. That actually went really well, though I was the only mother there who had not pre-arranged a babysitter, and instead dragged a 3 year old through the halls. Oops. I was then also the mom who stayed to talk to the other moms to see what they thought. Another oops with a restless toddler in tow.

After our pretty successful tour, my son and I went to a newly opened coffee shop across the street. We checked out the new place, ordered some drinks, and were getting ready to leave. At this point the toddler had apparently reached his limit, so he was being restless and bumping the small trash can by the check out with his legs. Not knocking it over, just scooting it. He wasn’t being an angel, but I didn’t think he was being terrible. I was waiting while the cashier tried to ring me up in the new computer system, and it was taking just a minute. The woman in line behind me picked up the trashcan. Kinda weird, but if that’s your thing, go for it. Finally we were making progress with the new computer to ring up my order and another one of the workers went over to the lady to assist with her weird trash can accessory. She pointedly looked at me and said, “Well her son was knocking it over and since SHE wasn’t doing anything about it I thought I’d hold it until they leave so you won’t have a mess on your hands.”

Um, what? And then, just to emphasize her point, my son did actually start knocking over some of the bagged coffee display. I promptly put them back and we left the store as quickly as possible. I am not a confrontational person, and I was mortified to tears on the way home. Was he really being that bad? Am I a terrible mother? I know he wasn’t being perfect but I really don’t think he was being so awful that it was cause for that woman to be rude and call me out in front of the entire coffee shop. When he actually knocked something over I picked it up, but you know what lady? Three year olds are wiggly. And sometimes they do stuff like scoot trash cans. And sometimes you should not do stuff like blatantly embarrass a young mom just trying to get some freakin coffee.

I didn’t know if I should be mad at myself, the lady, or my son, so I was just mad at everyone. I fixed my son lunch which he then refused to eat and at some point in our brief moment at home he spilled his milk all over the dining room floor and used my dry clean only blue pea coat to hide it. Not even clean it, just cover it. No lunch, a quickly disintegrating day and one time out later, and unfortunately we had to rush back out the door because we had a speech appointment. It was the day that never ended, he was tired, and my mood was already shot. And that night was the opening night of my opera.

We made it to speech somewhat unscathed, and I sat in the hallway while my son worked on articulating sounds. The speech teacher came out to talk to me and then my son lost his marbles. First, you must know about the squishy bugs. At the speech place there are these squishy bugs. Just some pretend bugs made of of plastic that can stretch and are squishy. My son discovered them at his first speech session and liked them, but we convinced him to put them away. This day when he re-discovered them, he wanted to take them home. After as many patient “Please put them backs” as I could muster and a few from his speech teacher, I calmly told my son, “It is time to leave now. I will ask you nicely one more time to put them away or Mommy will have to take them from you.” I was met with a screaming “NO” and my son ran across the hall to the other classroom and got under the table. There was another child waiting for speech and we really did have to go. Ten minutes of arguing over squishy bugs was about nine minutes too long. I frustratingly dragged my child out from under the table, had to forcefully remove the squishy bugs from his hand, and haul him out of the speech place under my arm while also lugging his jacket, bag, my purse, and his speech homework. To further express his frustration, my son decided to yell “DAMN IT” repeatedly at the top of his lungs while flailing his arms and legs about.

Man handling a flailing, red faced, screaming toddler who has the words “DAMN IT” coming out of his mouth like a broken record while you navigate yourself out of a populated office building is just as fun as you would imagine it would be. Except worse.

After both of us fuming on the way home and ignoring each other, we finally reached the driveway. Where my son promptly fell asleep. Not one to mess with a good thing, I sat in the car and played on my phone until he woke up. Maybe this would be the starting over point.

When he did wake up, he immediately starting yelling and fussing. Start over we did not.

I tried to be sweet and patient again so we could get out of the car and go inside. He did not want me to carry him. He did not want to walk. He did not want to get out of the car. He did not want to stay in the car. He did not want to be mistaken in any way, shape, or form as a sane person.

I was at the very end of my rope and after a few attempts at nice I just lost my patience. I was not going to argue with a toddler about getting out of the car and walking the 10 steps it takes to get into our house. I put that in the ridiculous category, and after he yelled at the top his lungs “NO” at my last request for him to come out of the car, I said “fine” and shut the door and left him there. I walked inside, put down all of our bags and recomposed myself to go outside where my son was pounding on the windows as though he had been locked in prison. We finally managed to come inside and went straight upstairs where I told my out of control toddler that he needed to go to his room until he could adjust his attitude.

That was met with much more yelling, screaming, and now the added bonus of throwing toys. I just couldn’t handle any more. I was so tired of being yelled at and exhausted and embarrassed. I went into my room and closed the door, laid face down on the bed and starting crying. The toddler decided that in order to get my attention he would throw all of his toys out into the hallway, and then started on his furniture. I knew what was happening, but I was torn between addressing the situation and encountering more fighting, or ignoring his behavior because I did not want to reward his ridiculousness with my attention. I choose the later and by the time my husband got home from work my son had pulled all of his toys, including toy containers, his ottoman, and his oscillating fan into the hallway and was still screaming at the top of his lungs.

Thank goodness my husband came home to diffuse the situation. He dealt with the toddler first and then came to me, where I explosively explained every detail of our entire day to him. What a thing to come home to, huh? Apparently my opening line was, “Your son is an asshole” and though I’m not really a cuss-er (aside from the occasional use of the word damn it which my son has obviously picked up) and don’t remember saying that, this was a memorable moment for my husband.

The husband saved the day, made the toddler clean up the hallway, apologize to me, and stop screaming. He let me rest for an hour before I had to leave for my opera and even straightened up the living room a little. This is our new romance.

That night my husband and son came and watched my opera and my three year old sat through an entire performance and even came backstage with me after it was over. We’ve even had some pretty amazing days together in the past two weeks.

But that terrible, no good, very bad day? Was just that. I’m telling you, if living with a teenager is as hard as living with a three year old, I’m not sure I will survive it.


When Parenting Deflates You

Have you ever reached a moment of deflation as a parent?

The preschool my son goes to is academic based; it really is school for little people that operates on a curriculum,   lesson plans, and is nationally accredited, so is held to strict standards.

Last year, he thrived in this environment. Even though he was the youngest in his class, he was also one of the brightest. His language was early, his vocabulary is quite advanced, he was fully potty trained (even at night) at 29 months, and his teachers always talked about how impressed they were with him.

I guess we were so impressed and pleased with him that we just stopped trying. We never stopped loving or taking care of him but we stopped trying to challenge him. He seemed so far ahead and we were so proud that we forgot to do a very basic part of parenting; teaching.

Earlier this school year, my mommy heart was broken when his new-to-him teachers said he was having a bit of an attitude problem. This was in direct contradiction to the rave reviews his first teachers had given him. I felt bad, because as he transitioned into three I transitioned into trying to find a balance between motherhood and womanhood again. I have finally regained parts of myself and feel balanced, but I am afraid that my new-found balance has thrown off my son’s.

I am also afraid that this set of teachers is quite a different fit. Last year he adored his teachers and talked about them frequently at home. This year he often says he doesn’t want to go to school and I don’t hear about his teachers unless I ask him directly.

Parent teacher conferences were held Monday. Unlike last year when I went in to pick him up each day and was very aware of his progress, this year he does car pool, so I very rarely see his teachers  I had a very narrow understanding on how he was doing in school.

Based on his teachers, he can recognize half of the alphabet, has no number recognition, and only a few shapes. The only skills he has mastered are colors and social skills with peers and he has a good start on writing his name. He still needs help wiping his bottom and pulling up his pants after going to the bathroom, when his teachers would like him to be self-sufficient at this already. He also is not able to dress himself yet, though the teachers would like them all to be able to put on their own coats to go outside. And the main concern they have with him is his attitude. He is frequently stubborn, says no, and once threw a tantrum in the middle of class because he did not agree with the way another student dressed the weather bear during calendar time. Also? They recommend he get a speech screening.

That is a lot of information to take in about your child in 15 minutes.

A lot of it I don’t feel bad about. I used to teach Kindergarten and it was the goal at the end of Kindergarten for children to have mastered all letter and number recognition, write their name and a few basic words, and recognize more advanced shapes. This will all come, but I also know that he is intelligent. He knew half of the alphabet last year. It is our fault that we have not pushed him farther this year.

And I guess we have just been babying him with self-care. I don’t mind still helping him wipe his bottom or helping him get dressed. I guess I just didn’t realize that these were self-help skills he should have mastered already. When I said this to my husband he said the same thing I’ve been thinking, “But he’s our baby.”

This attitude is something we are struggling at home with, too. I am finding three to be the most challenging age (so far) because he is full of attitude and pushing limits. I’ve talked to a lot of people who have said that three is harder than two, and I assumed his earlier attitude problem had to do with his lack of sleep and consistency due to the fact that in the fall I was involved in a lot of late night rehearsals for a musical production.

The speech I was expecting at some point, because when he was 20 months old my poor little guy had to under go general anesthesia and have extensive dental work done because his teeth actually came in yellow. (Weird, right?) Part of the dental work done was actually the removal of 3 of his four top front teeth. I anticipated that speech would be a part of his life once his permanent teeth come in, because touching his tongue to his teeth will be a new skill. I just didn’t realize it was something we would need to start already, but of course we will do that.

The hardest thing for me to take away from the conference was that all of these things are direct reflections on our parenting. We’ve babied him too much with self-care, we’ve not challenged him enough academically, and we’ve chalked attitude problems up to his age rather than addressing it as an issue. We are also very laid back and joke around type of parents, which has blurred the lines between authority figure and friend, and not set clear expectations for him.

The moment you realize that your child is not thriving and that it is entirely your fault is a very deflating moment.

I summarized the conference to his teachers with this, “I think he is intelligent, I think he has an attitude, but I also think he is very young in comparison to the rest of the class.”

He teachers said they agreed completely with that assessment.

And so we will try harder, baby less, and challenge more.

And I will be welcoming any and all words of (constructive) advice.