Want to know where I’m sitting as I write this blog post?
I’m in my van in the parking lot of the restaurant that we decided to go to after church.
Want to know why I’m sitting in my van writing a blog post on real paper with an actual pen like I’m one of the Brontë sisters, only less talented and less tuberculosis-y?
Let me tell you. Sit back. It’s going to take a minute.
It started about two and a half weeks ago. My mom came for a visit because she needed to escape my dad for a little while. When you’ve been married for 43 years, sometimes you need a month or so apart so that you don’t beat your spouse with a shovel and bury him in the backyard.
(Heads up, Dad. You were about to be shanked.)
And she wanted to help me with The Beast. So for the past two and a half weeks I’ve spent every waking moment, working under my mom’s direction, to fix The Beast. She raised five daughters and helps with her dozen grandchildren and has watched a lot of The Supernanny over the years. I have never caught more than a few minutes of The Supernanny because I didn’t need her. The glimpses I did see of the show in the past would just cause me to wonder what lottery those parents lost to end up with terribly evil children.
Yes, I can hear Satan laughing. You can hear it too, can’t you?
Lately I’ve been the epitome of consistent parenting. I’ve been doing everything the Supernanny said to do to get my child to listen to me. I’ve been deepening my voice so that I sound more like an authority figure and less like a shrill she-demon.
I’ve been making The Beast sit in timeout for everything. If he says, “No!”; timeout. Throws toys; timeout. Disobeys; timeout. Throws food; timeout. Hits my apparently immortal dog; timeout.
We’ve spent a lot of time in timeout. A. Lot. Of. Time.
It turns out that The Beast hates timeouts, and he really seemed to be responding to just the threat of the timeout. He started listening better and was generally less temper-tantrumy.
I already told you about the soccer game I got to watch last week. This weekend we had a double-header, and I was able to watch both games. The Beast did not by any means sit on a blanket and just watch the game with me, but he played with toys and kicked a ball nearby and didn’t once try to run into the nearby woods or onto the street.
This morning we went to church. As I was dropping him off at his classroom, a woman who I had never seen before said, referring to The Beast, “Who is this? He is adorable!” and I felt like this was it. It was going to be a good day.
The church service was good. They didn’t make us greet one another with a handshake, and in light of my vehement opposition to publicly touching people I don’t know — and people I do know — that was great.
I should have known Satan was just laying the kindling.
After a lovely service with music I liked and didn’t mind mouthing the words to, I went to pick up The Beast from his classroom. I chatted briefly with another mom and when she commented that her son likes to stab his coloring sheet rather than color it, we chuckled in camaraderie.
I was happy. And Satan was lighting matches.
Then I approached the window to pick up The Beast. I was full of hope. I just knew that The Beast had been an angel today. The Beast’s teacher, Ms. Amy, smiled kindly and then punched me in the gut with her words.
“We had some problems with The Beast today. He opened the door and ran down the hall and I had to run after him and bring him back.”
Not a surprise to me. He has done this before and usually his teachers are smart enough to lock the door so that he doesn’t escape.
“The Beast tore some posters off of the wall and shredded them.”
Kind of surprised.
“And he just ran across the room and hit this little boy in the face with a toy car.”
Dear God, strike me with lightning right now. We are going to get kicked out of church.
I made The Beast apologize to the boy he hit. I gave him a lecture about not ripping up paper that isn’t ours and I made him apologize to his teacher, even though every nerve in my body was telling me to kick her teeth right out of her head.
Ms. Amy explained that she was the only teacher in the room today and she had to try to control 12 toddlers with only her own children, a boy about 7 and a girl about 4, as helpers.
Then Ms. Amy’s perfect little children decided to recount to me all of The Beast’s offenses and shared in great detail how utterly disobedient and destructive he is.
“He was ripping things off the wall and we kept telling him to stop and he wouldn’t listen. And he took the yellow tacky stuff off the the posters and we don’t know what he did with it because we can’t find it. And we tried to get him to listen but we just couldn’t make him mind us.”
I apologized to the obviously perfect children and suppressed the urge to make them as edentulous as I wanted to make their mother.
As I left the room, I also had the joy of apologizing to the mom of the boy that The Beast encouraged to help him in his destruction of the classroom posters.
At this point Ms. Amy was still comforting the child that The Beast hit, even though he was no longer crying and was completely fine. I honestly felt like she was making a big show of how bad his injury was so that she could make me feel even worse than I already did.
“Here, honey, let me see if you’re okay. Do you have a mark? It’ll be okay. Mommy will be here to pick you up soon.”
I felt like she was hoping the other mother would show up while she was comforting this completely fine child so that I would have the joy of groveling to his mother too.
Okay, Ms. Amy. I get it. I suck. This sweet, innocent boy got hurt by my horribly behaved child. He’s disobedient and wild. I must be a terrible, ungodly parent to have a child who is so disobedient. I’m so happy for you that your son and daughter are perfect and have never disobeyed you. And I’m so glad that you taught them to be so dismayed and shocked by disobedience that they have the nerve to approach an adult that they don’t know and make her feel like utter and complete crap. And I’m so glad that they pointed out my horrible parenting in front of you and you did not once tell them that it wasn’t their place to tell me how much my kid and I suck. Good work, Ms. Amy. You no longer need to comfort a completely fine child for me to get the point. I really do get it.
We finally left church and made our way to the restaurant. As we were waiting in the booth for our food to arrive, The Beast was jumping up and down on the seat, hitting his brother and trying to do somersaults on the bench.
I took him outside for a timeout and told him that if he didn’t sit on his bottom and behave, he and I were leaving the restaurant and were going to sit in the car until everyone else finished their lunch.
I asked him if he understood me, and he said, “Yes, ma’am,” which I’m pretty sure he thinks means “F— you.”
We went back into the restaurant and I calmly sat back down and began eating my salad. Just as I put my second bite of food in my mouth, The Beast started trying to do flips on the seat again.
I started to stand up to take The Beast outside to the van. My mom said, “Let Virginia Slims Man handle this. You’re on edge right now. Let him take this one.” I sat back down and scooted away from The Beast so that I wasn’t close enough to reach over and slam his face into his hot pizza.
Unfortunately, by this point it was too late. I could feel myself losing control. I made Virginia Slims Man move so I could get out of the booth, and I ran, crying, out of the restaurant to the car.
So here I sit.
I think what I’m most afraid of is that The Beast is going to be that kid that nobody likes. That child that no one wants to invite to birthday parties because of the dread they feel when they see him coming. That child that one teacher will warn another about because of how ill-behaved he is.
And it bothers me that I feel like I’m being judged by people that have no idea what it’s like to battle daily, hourly, with a child whose stubbornness and temper outlast your resolve. It’s entirely possible that Ms. Amy was genuinely concerned about the other child and it’s entirely possible that she wasn’t judging me at all, but I felt like I was being judged by her and her children.
I feel like people assume that a strong-willed, rambunctious child obviously has crappy, uninvolved parents.
I swear, I’m trying. I struggle every damn day to help The Beast to make better choices, and I honestly thought I was making progress in my parenting and he was making progress in his self-control. But if I were really doing better, I wouldn’t be sitting in my van in the parking lot of a restaurant writing a blog post on tear-soaked paper, would I?
P.S. I’m home now, obviously, and I feel much better. I’m typing this with a belly full of cookie dough and tequila. I’ll probably throw up later.
My husband, God bless the fool, came to me a while back and said, “Are you still mad at me?” I said, “Why would you think I was mad at you?” He said, “Because when you were in the restroom at the restaurant and I ordered your salad, I forgot to order it with the dressing on the side.”
Dear God, I must be a total hag if my husband thinks his failure to order my dressing on the side would send me into a full-blown psychotic breakdown.