One Step Forward, Infinity Bazillion Steps Back

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.

20 thoughts on “One Step Forward, Infinity Bazillion Steps Back

  1. Aw, I’m sorry that the beast is being so beastly, and that ms. amy and her kids are total assholes (they so are). VSM’s comment about the dressing cracked me up. Maybe he just thought you were crazy hormonal.

  2. Oh, Sweet Friend, (I hope it’s OK to call you friend, I kind of feel like you are). It’s so easy to say “don’t get discouraged” and so hard to do. You are not a failure, you do not suck, you are doing everything right. God has placed a huge helping of “hard” on your plate and you are doing a great job with it. You are the perfect parent for The Beast – you DIDN’T smash his face in the hot pizza – that is surely a plus. The progress you have made with his is still there, this was just a new test. He seems to be doing much better with the “consistent parenting” – so don’t give up. Stick with the time outs, follow through with the consequences (maybe not the skilleting or the pizza-face, but the others seem like good ideas). Also, just try gluten free, for a couple weeks, what can it hurt? bite the bullet and do it.
    You are in my prayers.

  3. The title of your blog should have been “3 Steps Forward, One Step Backwards”. So here’s my advice in 3 words: Stay the course!

  4. I’m a middle school teacher and I love parents like you. I don’t care if the child is going to present many difficulties; it’s the parental involvement that counts. There are far too many tough kids out there whose parents don’t respond to messages and provide no support. We appreciate it when parents take the time to give us insight and assistance when handling unruly students. I’d gladly teach The Beast knowing you’ve (hopefully) got my back.

  5. Hey, knock it the F••• off! Don’t beat yourself for one bad day. You’ve done great! Sanctimonious assholes at church (where they seem to swarm, like children to candy) don’t get to judge you.

    Hey, what I tell my kids (we’re obvs not really religious) is:
    “come on… Jesus was supposedly perfect, and they STILL killed him. We don’t stand a chance(in hell).”.

    Okay so the hell bit is said in my head, but the rest of it is word for word, I swear.

    You’re doing great.

    And if the Jesus bit doesn’t help you feel better, try singing Flogging Molly’s “Kiss my Irish Ass.”

    Its our family theme song. Makes you feel better (even if you’re not Irish.)

  6. Boy, you must have had a lot of paper in the van.

    Try not to worry about what other people may or may not think of you. Just do your best and don’t let the bastards get you down. And one day, long down the road, you may get to be a tremendous burden to The Beast, just to return the favor.

  7. Just becuase you have a really bad day with your son, doesn’t mean that they will stay bad. From the sound of it, while today was a really bad day, he’s been much better. You’ve got to look at the whole, not just one day.
    The analogy that pops into my head is when I start a diet. I usually start well, and for a couple of weeks, I follow the diet stringently. Then about 3 weeks in, I have a day where I completely snap… Pizza, hot italian sausage sandwich, pie, cake, mac and cheese, chocolate milk… and that’s just for breakfast. I always feel bad at that point, and think how horrid I am for eating that way, that I’m never going to loose weight. But for 3 weeks, I ate well. If I remember that, and go back to eating the way I should, this one day of slipping back into old habits isn’t going to really matter at all. I will continue to loose the weight.
    Same with your son. Keep up with what you are doing and the bad days, while you will still have them, will get fewer and fewer.

  8. I LOVE your writing style. You already know that, but I can’t say it enough. It’s things like the reference to the Bronte sisters. Or the comment about the shrill she-demon, or Satan laying the kindling… You are WAY more talented than Emily or Charlotte for that matter.
    And you are so real… in between the metaphors and the sarcasm…. which makes reading this blog one of the things I really look forward to.
    Your fear that your sweet, adorable boy is going to be the one that nobody likes is one I can truly relate to. …. oh, you know how old mine is… and I STILL struggle with that feeling all the time. I’ve lost count of the times I felt like he was “the one” none of the moms liked… and the time, I dropped him off at a school pizza night and one little boy screams across the room….. “what are YOU doing here? I’m not allowed to play with you!”…. and I burst into hysterical tears in front of everyone. I had to be “comforted” by a teacher’s aid down the hall…. but there is no comfort to be had. Every little thing that happens… I convince myself it’s because the moms don’t like him and it KILLS me. the last minute cancellation of a sleep over…. or the last minute changing of partners for an event. I’m convinced the moms are behind all this in a desperate attempt to keep their children away. I don’t KNOW it to be true, and I’m only glad that my child does not notice. The one thing that does bring me “comfort”, is the sound of my grandmother’s voice telling me the crazy stories of my dad as a child and the torment he brought to her (and everyone)… and how the nuns would reassure her… he will bring you your greatest joy one day… and my grandmother telling me…. he did bring me my greatest joy, he brought me you. sniff, sniff.

  9. I’m so sorry you are having a rough time right now. I went through a lot of the same things when my 8 year old was younger. We have different types of problems now, but still soul crushing. Hang in there. He’ll get there. Most importantly, don’t give up.

  10. You are doing well with The Beast. He chose one day to take advantage of the fact that you weren’t there and the adult in charge was woefully outnumbered and unprepared. Hang in there — or as another commenter said, stay the course. I think the harder thing is the worry about what other people think of you and/or your parenting. In my opinion, that’s the shit you gotta try to let go of. It doesn’t matter what other people think — it’s something I’ve struggled with too (have a mentioned my 5yo daughter yet?), and it’s something I have worked hard on. Consistent parenting will win the day, and what other people think of you, your parenting, or your son doesn’t matter right now. Really. YOU know you are doing what is right for your son and you are an engaged parent (and so do we who read your blog). And if you gotta cry, then go cry. Parenthood is damn hard work.

  11. I enjoy reading your blog b/c I see myself in your shoes…My little monster is almost 2. I do take heart in knowing that my husband was a horrible little child (his mother wanted 6 children before he was born. He is the 4th and last.). I think that I laughed a bit too hard at some of the stories that she told because I am feeling Karma slap me in the face.
    My husband’s great aunt (who practically raised him during his hellion years) told my MIL that he would be her best. She recently said that Annie was right. So take heart. MIL put hubby on the deck when he was a toddler. In the cold. With a skunk. Because he would. not. stop. crying. He climbed out of every enclosure that they tried to put him in (his playpen had 8 foot paneling sides). The list goes on. When he was older, he spent days in the principal’s office, cracked a lunch tray over his knee, etc. etc. etc.
    Basically, take heart. The Beast my end up being a “Good One” too. At least that’s what I tell myself every time my little monster drives me closer to the edge of insanity.

  12. It sounds to me like you are doing everything in your power to ensure he is not that kid in junior high. Cut him, and yourself, some slack. I’m not saying to stop your “get the Beast in line” plan, but just know that Rome wasn’t built in a day… or even two weeks. Keep it up. It will work.

    And if Ms. Amy, or anyone else, judges you, screw her. No one’s opinion matters anyway.

  13. Reading your most recent post, my heart ached for you as I read it. I could hear the defeat in your voice. As others have said – look at the overall progress. He’s bound to digress now and then – all part of testing you to see if you are really serious. And what better place than church in front of strangers. Places he probably thought he could get away with this.

    My oldest was a lot like The Beast. He’s now 17 and a caring young man. I’m very proud of him. I’ll relate a day-care story about how smart he was in his evil play. One day I went to pick him up from day-care, thinking they would have great reports about all that he accomplished. When I arrived, they told me he had to be discipined because he and his little best friend locked themselves in the bathroom with several small cartons of chocolate milk. One by one, his friend, Justin (at my son’s request!) jumped on each one until it exploded all over the room. It caused quite a mess and when they emerged from the bathroom, my son stated very calmly, “it’s not my fault, I didn’t jump on them – only Justin did.” Of course, after some discussion, it became very clear that my beast was the puppet master – telling Justin exactly what to do while thinking he was in the clear. They both had to clean up the entire bathroom and my son couldn’t understand why he was being disciplined. One smart, evil young boy.

    It will get better – make sure he has an outlet for all his energy. My son still has to stand and walk around the classroom while everyone else is sitting, but he’s very productive now!

  14. Speaking from experience, it is so so so so hard to try not to worry about what other people think. I grew up in a house where what other people think was very important. But then I had a child with some challenges, and I had to start learning to let it roll off my back. So hard. I still suck at it sometimes. 😦

    But I just wanted to chime in with others who have said “take the long view” and “stay the course”. Our journey with our son has been two steps forward, one step back, a lot of the way, but if we look back over the long haul, his progress is amazing. It’s hard to see it in the day-to-day, but it’s undeniably there.

    The Beast is very lucky to have you as his mom. You’re going to be the reason he’s NOT one of those kids.

  15. This blog is like a flashback for me – The Beast sounds almost exactly like my Boy. You are not a bad parent, but I really do think you’re right about the judgement. In the last 12 years I’ve had at least one idiot a year tell me that I need to discipline Boy at home – I was want to look up in surprise and say, “OMG! That NEVER occurred to me! Thank you for solving ALL of my problems with that piece of wisdom!”
    Just keep on keeping on.

  16. I have been here with Cinderella before. You end up in a room crying and you just can’t get your stuff together. It is a horrible feeling. If anything, maybe you are helping others out there so they know they aren’t alone. Parenting is hard and you are providing support whether you mean to or not. (in a very entertaining way, I might add)

  17. I love this post like I love Cheetos. I will now read every single thing you’ve ever written, ever, and I will follow you religiously ~ checking four times a day for new posts. My daughter’s nickname is Piece of Work (POW for short). She is… “spirited.” The bright side of having challenging children is they have personality, they have spunk, they are opinionated, and they will take life by the horns and live it 🙂 And by God, they’ll do great things, of this I am convinced! It takes strong parents to raise strong-willed children ~ congrats on a job well done 🙂

  18. Pingback: Church. It’s kind of weird. | My Toddler is a Supervillain

  19. I just found your blog and love it. I have an 18 year old daughter who was a beast as a toddler and I truly thought God had given her to me to punish me. I spent many days and nights crying and praying and thinking, “I just can’t be her mom. I don’t know how to be what she needs.” When she was in 3 year old preschool she spent more time in timeout that in the classroom. All I can tell you is to hang in there and keep doing what you are doing. It will make a difference and it will make you appreciate this wonderful little boy all the more. He is not behaving this way to make your life miserable, no matter how much it seems like it. He just needs to know you will always love him no matter what, and of course you do. Hang tough and take your timeouts when you need them. As for the husband, not much we can do about them:)

  20. I have a 9 year old ( the angel) and a 2 year old ( the devil) and reading your blog is like reading about MY life. It serves me right really cause I always thought the angel boy was down to parenting!!!!!!!!!! Oh how wrong was I . Karma sure came back and bit me on the ass !!!!! I’ll keep reading as your 6 months ahead on MIT life (lol ) please tell me it gets better !!.

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