Ever Have A Day That You Wonder Why You Got Out Of Bed?
It was one of those days. There wasn't anything specific on which to blame the yellow-brown cloud hanging above the roof like the fumes from a 10-wipe diaper change. Nothing horrible to point to, like a finger slammed in a car door, a tube of toothpaste squeezed onto the dining room carpet or a Nerf mini football flushed down the toilet; just a general aura of discontent and deafness manifesting in myriad tiny skirmishes between the Big People and the Little People of our household.
There was the Putting on the Boots Battle, coupled with its twin, the Putting on the Raincoat Battle. Then there was the Getting to the Car Skirmish, enhanced by the buckets of water pouring down on our heads. I tried to shield Kinsey in her car seat with my raincoat while Benjamin moseyed along in his yellow slicker and frog boots, stepping in this puddle and that one, looking high at the rain clouds and low at the pulp of leaves covering the sidewalk.
Once we actually got to the car, the three of us looked like the losing
side of a water balloon ambush and the raindrops burned into steam instantly
off the top of my red-hot head. Oblivious, Benjamin lolled in his car seat
like a boneless chicken, forcing me to stand, backside exposed to the
torrents, as I tried to force his rubberized arms through the straps. "Help
Mama," I pleaded, but he just lay his head back against the seat and smiled
beatifically, unaware that my frustration level was rising with the water
level in the gutters.
All strapped and snapped, he began a "Lord of the Dance" rhythm on the back of my car seat with his muddy boots, and in the three miles to our play group I got tired of hearing myself tell him to stop, my voice getting louder and meaner at each chorus. Between dance steps, we argued over whether or not the car wash was actually open in the rain.
"It's not open," I said in response to his request to take my car in. "Yes, it is," he insisted. "No, it's not," I repeated for the 15th time. "Yes, it is." "It's not open, and I don't want to talk about it anymore," I said, anger clear in my voice. "Sorry, Mama," he replied, fell silent for a moment, then added, "But it is open." I sighed and turned the radio louder.
On and on the day went, with Benjamin breaking every rule of conduct I'd drilled into him over the past three years. His chair remained unused at lunch while he wandered around the restaurant, greeting the other diners like a miniature denim-clad maitre d'. He refused to eat the pizza I'd ordered for him when he wouldn't make up his own mind and the waiter was getting impatient.
The day was a laundry list of his errors: The refusal to zip his raincoat, the mad dash into the parking lot without holding my hand, the "accident" at the restaurant which forced me to whip off his boots, soaking-wet pants and underwear and exchange them for the spares forgotten in the diaper bag since his successful move to big-boy pants last fall. Despite my repeated resolutions to respond with more kindness and love, I'd catch myself lashing out shrewishly, contempt coating each word. But my bad humor didn't seem to impact my son; he continued on his slowpoke manner, splashing in puddles and catching raindrops.
By the time we made it to his afternoon gym class, I was a wreck. Not only was every ounce of my patience gone, my opinion of myself as a mother was rock-bottom. As I settled down on the cold gymnasium floor, seething, to watch his class, I was struck by how little and earnest he was, examining each item and person around him with an intense curiosity.
He's only 3, I scolded myself. He's got a lot to think about, see and keep track of. He's not trying to drive you crazy. You're not making things any easier by being so nasty to him. What kind of a mother are you to respond with so little patience and love to the most precious thing in your life? My eyes filled with shameful tears as I watched him take his turn on the mat, trying to hold his small body upright in a straight headstand. Of course he's going to make mistakes. He's just human.
And then I realized in one of those astounding moments of connection, so
am I. So am I.