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Losing It

Sometimes when Simon is losing it or being really difficult, I pretend I’m being filmed or that I’m in a public space. I know that sounds really, really strange, but I figure if I discipline as though I were on public view, I might just do a better job of maintaining control. It keeps me from screaming (which I do rarely) or swatting (which I have never done) and generally makes it easier to discipline according to my principles instead of just reacting out of anger or frustration.

By this measure, today was an epic fail. We’ll all be OK, but I did have to apologize to Simon before he left for camp this morning, and I may do it again when he gets home to increase my odds of his understanding me.

It was pretty much a perfect storm that began with my waking up late (again) and not well rested (again). The short story about my sleeplessness is that after burning the candle at both ends for too many weeks in a row, I realized last week that I was exhausted and needed to get more sleep. And the very first night I tried, I started having something called “middle insomnia.” I fall asleep just fine, but then wake up at 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. and have trouble getting back to sleep before 5:00 or 6:00. I’m working on my sleep hygiene, but I’m also pooped and not on my A-game.

Into this mix stepped a toddler who is going through a difficult patch of wanting to constantly assert his independence even as he lacks the skills to do so. Lately, everything has been a negotiation: leaving camp, getting into his car seat or stroller, leaving the park, walking through parking lots or other places where he has to hold our hands, changing his clothes or diapers, taking a bath—all of it.

So there I was this morning, running late and not feeling well. I got myself downstairs just after Matt put Simon into his swim-trunks and shirt (today is a water-play day) and asked him about breakfast. Would he like oatmeal? “I can’t eat oatmeal now” came the (whiny) response. Would he like baby-cakes? “I can’t eat oatmeal now” came the (whiny) response several more times.

That cleared that up! So I decided that I’d make pancakes and if Simon didn’t eat them, I would. I just didn’t feel right about sending him off to camp having offered him nothing but dry cereal for breakfast. While I was finishing, Simon asked for grapes. I told him that he could have grapes, but not just grapes, and that he’d need to eat these in the kitchen instead of dragging them into the living room (a bad habit we have with pancakes). That started more whining, as both eating in the kitchen and not having grapes seemed equally undesirable to Simon.

When I finished the pancakes and offered them to him, he was still whining and crying about the grapes. So I put them on the kitchen counter, told him we’d get back to them in a few minutes, and went to fetch his water clogs and pack up his bag for camp. While I was busy putting shoes in his pack, I heard a thunk, a splat, and a wail.

Yep. Simon decided he wanted pancakes and orange juice after all, made a grab for the tray, and knocked the entire thing off the counter. He was covered in orange juice. My floor was covered in orange juice. His juice glass, a two layer thing with frogs, glitter, and discs between layers, came apart in the fall. The pancakes were covered in juice, frogs, and glitter. And in the middle of it all stood Simon—wailing, stomping in the sticky juice, and picking up and crying over his pancakes, whether because they were ruined or because he didn’t want them I was unsure until I threw them away and he wailed and stomped even more.

And there I stood, tired and crabby, facing a horrible mess and an unfed child who needed to be changed and out the door in about three minutes. He wailed and crabbed, and I’m afraid I did not parent as though the cameras were on me. Instead, I yelled. I yelled at him for whining and crabbing. I yelled at him for not wanting his breakfast when I first offered it. I yelled at him for making a bigger mess by stomping in it. I yelled at him for getting in my face and making it hard to clean up. And, for good measure, I yelled at him for only wanting the pancakes now that I had to throw them out.

About the only thing I got right was not yelling at him for pulling the tray over in the first place. I guess that’s a start. I’ve replayed this in my mind a few times to figure out what I wish I had done. I wish I had either sat Simon at the table or put the tray out of reach. I wish I would have consoled him that accidents happen, removed him from the mess, and worked on cleaning him up before I tended to the floor. I wish I wouldn’t have yelled at all, as it only fed negative emotions in both of us. I wish I would have given myself a time-out when I felt the urge to yell.

In short, I wish I would have parented as though the cameras were rolling. Absent that, I’m praying for a decent night’s sleep and am going to start reading Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles.

2 Responses to “Losing It”

  1. blg says:

    I hope you get your sleep.
    Simon will not be scarred for life.
    You are among the very best mom’s I know.

  2. christine says:

    Don’t beat yourself up. You’re tired. You’re a great mom.

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