I’ve been saying “no” an awful lot lately.
I wish there was a way to stop the day as a parent so that the memory of the day would be from the high point, not the low point. We had such an awesome day today. I woke up to the sound of Avery’s milk-thirsty smacking lips and fumbling, flailing hands. The moment I removed my fuzzy pink eye pillow to let in the day, she grinned her gummy little grin and batted her beautiful lashes at me in a subtle gesture of pure delight. We cuddled and nursed for a while until Ronny and Maysie came in, then the four of us snuggled and played until it was time to get up and fix breakfast.
After Daddy went to work, we girls just hung around the house, playing in our jammies for a few hours, then when it came to lunch time we went for a walk to the Whole Foods down the street to pick up something to eat. Both of the girls and I met Daddy for a little picnic at the playground next to Whole Foods. Hubbs and I ate sushi and salad while May played on the playground and A cooed and smiled at us from the stroller. Sunny and about 70 degrees, the weather was perfect. Maysen giggled and squealed as she ran around in the grassy field chasing Mommy’s “you can’t get me’s” with her crazy curls bouncing every direction out of control. We even had a nice walk home. No screaming, no crying, no complaining or struggling to get out of the stroller. Nap time even came easy, and I was able to do some serious cleaning while listening to music. I even scrubbed the marker off of the glass doors, the crayon/paint/food mess from the play table, and vacuumed the carpet in the sun room. But Little Bit didn’t ever actually go to sleep.
I usually tell her that she doesn’t really have to sleep during nap time, that she just has to play quietly in bed for a while. It’s a tactic to get her to let me shut the door without constantly running errands like getting Coco, getting choco-bok, getting a pillow and blanket or just five more minutes of rocking. Half the time it works and she plays until she falls asleep. About 45% of the time she just plays or reads or sings until I tell her she can come out to play. But today was one of the last 5% where it ends in disaster.
I heard her calling me for a good 10 minutes or so, but I really thought she just wanted to get up and
antagonize me play. I had fallen for the trick just 20 minutes earlier where she screamed “mommy mommy mommy” until I finally came, and then she just said, “it’s time to get up now.” So, when I heard her calling again I figured it was a girl-who-cried-wolf scenario. But there’s a subtle, yet undeniable, shift in the call that tells me when something’s really going on.
I heard the shift.
When I opened her bedroom door I could see immediately that we weren’t going to make it to the bathroom in time. And after a bathroom emergency, there’s no nap time to speak of.
Our day just went downhill from there. She ran straight to the freshly sparkling sun room and pulled out toy after toy. No problem, except that when it came time to pick up the blocks, our play time turned into a huge power struggle that went from me telling her it was time to pick up the blocks, to me bribing her to pick up the blocks, to me putting the blocks in jail, to her screaming at the top of her lungs, to her breaking into jail to get the blocks, to me swatting her butt, to me putting her into time out, to me getting her out of time out only to see puffy red eyes, snotty nose and heartbreaking catch-breath sniffles.
And she actually had the nerve to say that she didn’t know why she was in time out. She said she didn’t understand why mommy was mad. I was pissed, but sometimes I have to remind myself that this is a 2 1/2 year old I’m dealing with. She may talk like a third grader, but she hasn’t even gone to preschool yet. I overestimate her ability to process all of this. But then again, I also underestimate her ability to drive me up the frigging wall.
Any time we have time out I wrap it up with a good hugging and rocking while we talk about what happened and why she had gone to time out. But this time both kiddos were screaming, one in the carrier on my back, the other tugging at my hand and asking to watch her shows. I succumbed to the TV while I tried to cool off, get the baby to stop crying, empty the dishwasher, and make dinner.
Then she refused to eat. Then she refused to answer me when I asked her questions. Then she refused to look at me when I was talking to her. Then she peed on the couch. Then, when I turned the TV off, she refused to stop screaming. Then Daddy said flippantly, “only one more hour” and Mommy replied, “no, now.” So Daddy took her to bed when Mommy gave him the look…an hour early. (I’m sure every mom has the look, right? The look of being up to her neck in exasperation, right at her breaking point, on the verge of losing her patience/cool/mind/shit?)
As I fed the baby I listened to May’s yelling and screaming from behind her bedroom door, I listened to Daddy counting to three to get her to comply to his demands of changing into jammies and reading stories before bed, I listened to my own guilt and fears and disappointment at being the mommy who just can’t handle her toddler. The mommy who wishes she could just disappear sometimes.
It was a miserable end to the day. I don’t like hearing my baby so upset. I don’t like hearing her daddy yell at her, and I don’t like being the one yelling either. Most of all I hate that I have spanked her so much lately. I don’t ever want to spank her, and if I do, I want it to be an absolute last resort. But lately she’s been wearing me down to the point that, every now and then, it becomes a reflex when I’m feeling absolutely helpless and flustered. It seems that toward the end of the day all I’m saying is “No, no no!…I’m going to count to three! One…two…two and a half… and You’re asking for a time out!”
And yes, I do actually count all the way to three. I learned as an adolescent that if you don’t, the threat is useless. Now Maysen knows I’ll get to three, so two and a half usually suffices. Today, though, it didn’t. Today I got all the way to three, hence the time out.
So I really wish I could have ended my day as mommy right when I put the girls down for naps. Everything was perfect up until then. Right when my two angels closed their eyes…