I’m not putting it lightly when I say, in NO WAY, did the “Terrible Twos” prepare me for the “Freaking Fours”.
My kids are generally pretty good, behavior wise. They have bad days, just like everyone else. And they have their moments of crazy, also just like everyone else. I’ve seen serious attitude and tantrums over silly, miniscule things and full on freak-outs over even smaller things. But, I don’t think I have ever seen anything quite like the events that took place yesterday afternoon.
Now, in the spirit of being fair, the day didn’t start out smoothly for them. After a fun-filled, sugar-fueled, Easter weekend and a Sunday where no naps were taken, Monday morning was not looking so hot. D woke both children up (which is unheard of) and got them dressed. I walked into the living room to the soundtrack of Evie screaming her head off from the bathroom because D was brushing her teeth. Lee was on the couch, chanting over his shoulder, to whomever was close enough to hear, “Yogurt.. yogurt.. yogurt..”.
“Lee man, do you want yogurt?” I asked. “Yes,” he responded, curtly.
“Yes.. what?” I asked politely. “Yes please ma’am, may I please have some yogurt. I’m hungry over here,” he shot back. Seeing his mood and in an effort to keep some semblance of peace, I let it go and went to the fridge to get him yogurt. When I came back with it, Evie was jumping onto the couch beside Lee and, upon seeing his yogurt, asked for her own.
Once they both had yogurt and were settled in watching cartoons for a minute, I went around the house turning off lights and picking up toys (because I feel calmer when I come home to a picked up house in the afternoons). I happened to glance over to see Evie tilting the yogurt to her lips, yogurt streaming down her face on both sides. I grabbed a tissue and went over to clean her up.. this was my first mistake of the day.
She starts crying because, well, in her words, “no clean, no clean”. And continues crying while I put her shoes on. Lee is yelling over the top of Evie crying, “I WANT ANOTHER YOGURT!”. Ignoring them both, and unwilling to let the morning spiral into darkness, I turn off cartoons, put a child on each hip, take them to the car, and buckle them in. Coming back inside only afterwards for my own shoes, purse, and to lock up.
The ride to school is quiet and for that I am thankful. We get there and everyone is all smiles. I get hugs, kisses, and inside they run to greet their friends and eat their second breakfasts (in true hobbit form).
My day is busy, therefore passes by quickly, and before I know it I’m pulling back into the daycare parking lot.
The sun is shining, it’s a beautiful afternoon and I’m genuinely excited to see the kids. Evie is the first through the gate, smiling huge and throwing her arms around my neck as I kneel to greet her.
And then Lee appears.
The first words out of his mouth to me are usually something sweet like “Hey Mommy! I missed you so much!” or “Wow Mommy, you look so pretty, I’m so happy you’re here!”
That was not the case yesterday.
“Mom, I want cold apple juice now,” he says as he barrels towards me.
“We have juice at home babe, come on, I have a lollipop in the car for you,” I tell him in an effort to work with him.
“I’m not getting in your car unless there is cold juice in there,” he says, staring straight into my face and coming to a dead stop inside the gate, hands on his hips. “Okay fine, there’s cold juice in there. Now, let’s go,” I fib.
“No there isn’t,” he says, moving his hands from hips and crossing his arms.
Knowing that he’s having an off day, that he’s four, that we have an audience (one of whom is trying to hide his smile and the other who looks like she wants to hold me), I take the deepest breath my mask will allow and let it out slowly.
With Evie on my hip, I hold my hand out to my son, and tell him to come to me and we’ll get out of the way and talk about it. To which he repeats his statement once more, “Mom, I said I’m not getting in your car unless there is cold juice in there!” The teacher at the gate smiles, opens the gate, and offers to take Evie while I get Lee sorted. Stubborn and unwilling to show weakness (my two biggest character flaws, I’ll admit), I shake my head.
“Lee, come on baby, let’s get in the car,” I say to him calmly. “Mom, I told you, I’m not coming with you,” he responds to me, starting to back away from me.
Balancing Evie, and with all of the upper body strength I can manage, I put my right arm around Lee’s back and under his arms and hoist him up, pinning his chest tightly against my side as I carry him out the front door and to the parking lot.
He kicks, cries, and yells the whole way.
Evie, always upset to see her brother upset, and determined to help, reaches out and opens the car door from my hip, opening the back door. I get Lee inside and tell him to get into his seat. Once Evie is secured in her seat, I round the car and open Lee’s door to buckle him in. He jumps out and tries to run, yelling that I don’t have any cold juice, that I’m so mean to him, that he doesn’t want to be my friend, that he wants his Daddy, etc. etc.
Catching him with reflexes I didn’t know I had, I carry him back and try to get him into his carseat. I can feel the eyes on us as people come and go. An old friend from high school yells over to me, asking if I need a hand as she watches me struggle to buckle him in, “Just any patience you can manage to share,” I say as I continue.
With my face directly in front of his, and looking him in the eye, I calmly ask him to take a deep breath. He continues to scream. I tell him that we have juice at home and that I need to get him buckled in so that we can go get it. He continues to scream. Finally managing to secure his belt, I hop down and close his door.
On the way home, the yelling continues, turning into intervals of screaming. I pull over twice because Evie is crying and the pounding in my head feels like it might just do me in, attempting to reason with him, and resorting to spanking him.
The second we pull into the driveway, the VERY SECOND, he stops. When I get him out of his seat, he wipes his face off on his shirt, jumps down, and starts playing with Evie in the yard, miraculously transforming into the little boy that I know and adore. Like flipping a switch. A few minutes later he brings me a flower and apologizes.
Though I accept his apology, I continue to fume for a little longer until D manages to talk me back into myself.
Sometimes I think that God, or maybe the universe (whatever you believe in), has to find ways of ensuring that we all stay humble. And that we never take a good day for granted by putting us in situations like these.
You see that woman in the grocery store dealing with a meltdown and you smile at her and keep going, thinking to yourself how lucky you are that your kids aren’t “that” bad. Or that man chasing his kid across the restaurant parking lot. Or that kid mouthing off to her grandma at the bank. Basically wherever you go, you’ll come across people in situations with children acting like monsters, like someone with zero home training, and you catch yourself judging the adult. Or at least I always did. “That kid needs a spanking, that kid needs stricter rules, etc etc.”
But, we never really know, do we?
(This morning was easy and painless (below), fingers crossed this afternoon is as well!)