Monday, June 26, 2006
No children were harmed in the making of this post.
But not for lack of impulse.

Yesterday afternoon I reexamined the idea that parenting is not about any one day's details, but rather the accumulation of many days and we just hope that there are more good than bad. Because yesterday was not a stellar moment for me.

It started because I refused to throw a tantrum. Emily's dance recital was scheduled for 1:00 in the afternoon, which coincides *precisely* with Jacob's naptime. We're pretty flexible with scheduling, and so I suggested to Willem, "Let's go in two cars, then you and Jacob can head home as soon as he gets tired." But Willem was sure that Jacob would be fine, he had behaved angelically during the dress rehearsal, not going to be a problem.

Right there. I could have injected a tantrum, insisted on two vehicles, and in all likelihod Murphy would have shown up to the party and exerted a Law or two, and with two cars available Jacob would have behaved perfectly and magazines would be writing us up right this very moment.

Instead, I decided I didn't want to challenge Willem's take on the situation, and we all went together in the snazzy new minivan. So starting precisely 30 seconds into Emily's performance, Jacob started to whine and squirm and generally behave like a weasel on speed. Fabulous. I had promised Emily that we would stay for the rest of the recital, so for the next hour and a half, Willem and Jacob went to get gas, on the theory that Jacob would fall asleep in the car, bought a Slushee, on the theory that naps are for babies and so let's sugar-high the kid as far away from a nap as we possbibly can, and then parked in the lot outside the school where the recital was, on the theory that we can have Jacob get used to the idea being allowed to push all of the buttons on the minivan's console at will AND that we can spill purple Slushee in Mom's new minivan, all in one fell swoop.

Fabulous. Nothing better than getting to choose between being a good spouse and a good mother. And then failing to be either.

So after the recital was alllll done (and boy, oh boy, did we ever get our $116.50's worth out of that afternoon, given all of the professionalism and choreography and happiness of the kids on stage...oh, wait, I must be thinking of another performance. That stuff didn't happen yesterday. At least Emily looked cute and enjoyed herself... I can already sense an oncoming repeat of the soccer-team incident last year, wherein she complained incessantly about it during the season and then the second it was over talked about her soccer days like she was an 80-year-old former Olympian reflecting on the glory days), we headed out to the car. I had promised Emily a dinner out on her recital day, and she chose Appleby's. Which I never choose because I find all of the meals to taste the same and then, to add insult to injury, they insist on giving my children balloons for the drive home, which I consider to be an act of anarchy and hostility. But, her choice, okee-dokee.

Except Jacob would not sit in the high chair. We had a 30-second delay between us arriving at the table and the high chair arriving, and in that time Jacob clambered up onto the bench and planted. Which would ordinarily be fine, except he was extraoridnarily tired and still jittery and weasellike, so he was climbing on things and whining and generally being one of those kids that you watch in combined irritation and fascination when they're not sitting at your table. So after a minute or 57 of standing there logicking with an almost-2-year-old, I decided to play the Mean Mom card and have us all leave.

Again... two cars would have solved this problem. It's such a burden being right so often. Or something like that.

To give Emily credit, she did not have a matching tantrum at the announcement that we had to leave. She very appropriately expressed her frustration with Jacob without freaking out. I was prouder of that than of her ability to get through a 3-minute dancce routine on stage without picking her nose.

We decided to drop Jacob and a grown-up at home and let Emily still go out to eat, and since it was her day and since I had sat through the recital with her, we let her choose Willem to take her to dinner. So Jacob and I got home and he reluctantly played with something or other in the living room - his knife collection, or our fireworks stash, maybe the plastique and bomb-making equipment, I don't remember - because I swept him out of the kitchen after he pulled the snack drawer off its track. I didn't *literally* sweep him out, in the sense that I didn't actually hit him with a broom, but I did think about a broom while I ushered.

So I made a package of pierogies and fried up some onions for them, nothing fancy, just a fast dinner to accompany the sundae I had asked Willem to bring home from Friendly's or wherever they chose. Jacob played happily in the living room until the moment that the pierogies were ready, at which point he came out to start pestering and clinging as I tried to set the table. I asked him to climb into his chair, which he can't actually do but which usually buys me the 15 seconds I need to get stuff to the table. Didn't work this time. Instead, he found one of my blind spots and stood in it, so that I tripped over him and dropped a full bowl of pierogies and onions all over the kitchen floor.

By this point, any coping skills I might once have possessed had evaporated. I scoope him up, plunked him in his chair, seat-belted him in (which I *never* do but I really really needed him not to touch me right that moment) and then had the beautiful parenting moment of scrubbing fried onions off the floor, sobbing and swearing and muttering, while Jacob sat in his chair and screamed at me, "No belt! Up! Up! No hungry!" He then shoved his plate across the table and screamed a little more. I deposited him, NOT from several yards away though again the image did present itself, into time-out, and for the first time (he's only been sent there maybe 5 times) he refused to sit there. Great idea, kiddo, let's send Mom over the edge and then push the boundaries even farther.

It was bad enough that I actually tried to call Willem to ask him to come home and keep his son alive. Of course the cell phone was left in the minivan so it was an answerless call.

Finally we both calmed down, and my dad called, so I sat on the couch and chatted with my father while Jacob climbed into my lap, sniffled and had that hitched breathing which just breaks your heart, and fell asleep. He slept for half an hour, then we woke him up because a nap at 6:00 was NOT a good idea and I didn't think he was ready to sleep through the night without eating. The rest of the evening was marginal... it was not horrible, though, so I'll take what I can get.

All of it really enforced one of my primary theories about parenting, which is that you have to love your children, but you don't have to like them all the time. I really, really didn't like Jaocb last night. I never hit him, never shook him, never boxed him up and put him on the curb with a big FREE sign. (It was raining out, I didn't think there would be enough traffic to generate sufficient interest.) But oh, do I understand how people get to that point. Kids consider their parents to be their primary source of study, so they're very, very good at pressing personalized, customized buttons meant to send me, and only me, over the edge.

I've slept on it and have backed away from that edge this morning. If my children actually have any Darwinian survival skills at all, we'll have a better day today.