I’ve been very irritable around the house lately, snapping at Hot Firefighter Husband like an alligator. “You don’t treat your friends like this, do you?” he said.
“I can’t,” I SNAPPED. “My friends would leave me.”
To my credit, I apologize a lot. But my nerves are a big block of cheese being grated all day long. Why can’t the little people in this house approach me civilly with their demands? Like, “Hi, Mom! Would you mind helping me look for that penny-sized Lalaloopsie doll purse that you predicted I would lose?”
That won’t help find it, which will only happen after the dog poops it out, but at least I’d be spared that Metallica-like screech of “MAAAAH-UUUM! MAAAA-UUUM! MAAAA-UUUM!” Note: I don’t like Metallica.
And for Old Navy’s Sake, STOP PULLING ON MY SHIRT! Honestly, I’d rather you throw darts at my butt. I can handle acute pain. Chronic aggravation? UNCLE.
Also, just so we’re clear — even though I’m totally amazing, I cannot produce chocolate chip cookies out of air, force Pokemon movies to be produced, make your sister go away forever, or do your math homework. No, really. I’m so bad at math.
I believe I’d be less cranky if my gremlins could be more dependably pleasant. The Diva’s 10, though – she’s a hormonal teenager waiting to happen, and she’s up and down. The Tyrant is 5; I can still sort of bully her into being nice.
But the Pterodactyl’s ability to control his irritability, which is directly related to mine, is limited by how often he gets his way.
“You don’t let him get his way all the time, do you?” asked a friend.
Why, yes. Yes, we do. Don’t judge.
And it’s not all the time. But if he wants to use the chair with the old faded cushion because that’s what he uses every single day, then I will leap tall piles of laundry to make sure he uses it. If he wants green eggs and ham for breakfast, bring on the food coloring. He needs to know what comes next, how life will pan out for the next five or 45 minutes. Even small changes disrupt his confidence and cause him to lash out.
But change is inevitable. So if he says, for example, that he’s never leaving the house again, we have to strategize. The goal is to give the Pterodactyl the space and calm he needs to think he is getting his way while we simultaneously accomplish our goal of leaving the house.
It’s a fine, chaotic balance that I often fail to keep. And if I fail to stay balanced, the gods of child-rearing unleash their wrath on me.
Last week, we attended Hot Firefighter Husband’s promotional ceremony. He’s now a LIEUTENANT! I salute him! Not really. But there’s a little more money for therapy now.
We planned to go out to dinner afterwards with our three beautiful children who were perfectly behaved during the ceremony. But then the Pterodactyl ran through a sprinkler and couldn’t stand to be wet and insisted we go home to change first. Okay, that was doable. Then he wanted to go to Burger King for dinner. Deal-breaker, as Burger King doesn’t serve alcohol. Cue screaming, throwing food remnants and kicking the seat. One thing about riding in the Motorized Landfill: there’s always something good to throw. True fact: McDonald’s chicken nuggets DO NOT DISINTEGRATE OVER TIME.
By the time we pulled into the driveway, my head could spin 360 degrees and my nostrils had stretched from flaring. I had not kept the balance. In fact, I might have inflated into a 350-lb anvil poised above my infuriating yet somewhat sympathetic little rodent of a boy.
New plan: Hot Firefighter Husband would take the girls to dinner, and I would stay home with the beast who would not be tamed. But first – the handyman painting our deck needed an extra gallon of paint and he asked me to run out and buy it. And because I needed 10 minutes of silence before my night was chopped into pieces and set on fire, I agreed, even though the Pterodactyl was screaming at me to stay home.
By the time I arrived at the hardware store, Husband was calling. I drove home and rushed inside.
Trash was strewn all over the kitchen. Chicken bones! Coffee grounds! Egg shells! Plastic containers that should have been placed in recycling!
And a 1-quart jar of rice had been spread all over the house. We’re still finding grains of it, a week later.
So what was his punishment? That’s what everyone wants to know.
Well. Husband and the girls left for dinner. The boy had calmed down enough to think. He remembered telling his dad that he wished he was dead. He remembered throwing a desk across his room. He sat on the edge of his bed and stared at me with his blinking brown eyes, trying not to cry. I sat next to him and held his hand. Eventually, he asked for a bowl of cereal, and he ate it in silence. Then he said he was tired and wanted to go to bed. He reached his soft little arms around my neck and nuzzled against my ear, whispering, “I’m sorry. I love you. I love you. Mom? I love you.”
I helped him into his pajamas and stroked the hair out of his eyes, and he slowly journeyed toward the only place in the world where he is guaranteed some peace. It was not yet 7 pm.
And that, my peeps, is punishment enough. My poor bub.