Today was not a good day.
There is a phenomenon that occurs in families with multiple children when one of those children has behavioral issues. Mine is not the first where this has happened and it will not be the last. It should be of some comfort to me, this. But it’s not. Mostly I want to fling myself spread-eagle to the ground and scream “NOT FAIR NOT FAIR NOT FAIR!!” until I’m worn out from beating my fists and kicking my feet.
Here is what happens: One child starts to have problems, and you are (naturally) gripped with anxiety and worry. The struggle begins to get these problems figured out, under control; managed. There are ups and there are downs, but after a while, you–the parent–feel that you’re getting the hang of things. And then, of course, the other shoe drops: the other child, the child who used to be your saving grace in his easygoing happiness, realizes that his sibling is getting an awful lot of attention what with the head spinning around 360 degrees and vomiting pea soup and such.
Welcome to my personal circle of hell. I’ve subtitled it “The Place Where You Slowly Simmer In The Juices Of Your Own Maternal Guilt And Have Absolutely Nothing To Show For It.”
It is not new to me that Monkey is now giving a little backlash. And by “backlash,” of course I mean, “screaming like a banshee and throwing things whenever life doesn’t go his way.” I get it. As things have worsened with Chickadee…
[“Hey Mir, you haven’t been blogging about that much.” Why no, I haven’t! You are correct! That’s because I am trying very hard to live in denial, and also there is not a whole lot that’s funny about a kid in crisis. Also? I am close enough to the edge on this particular issue that I’m not needing any assvice. So, lalalala, I can’t hear you, and also please avert your eyes from the child foaming at the mouth and twirling around the curtain rod. Mmmkay? Thanks.]
… I cannot imagine what life looks like through Monkey’s eyes. I’d probably start being a screaming terror, too.
Wait, I’m ALREADY a screaming terror. Well, see? Toldja.
Anyway, this is not new. What is new is that up until fairly recently, Chickadee saved her most spectacular displays of… ummm… well, unbelievable behavior, for the comfort of home. She is, for the most part, what her therapist calls a “people pleaser.” (Apparently I’m not people.) Lately, she is losing her ability to keep her demons in check. This results in “acting up” (I love calling it that… reminds me of the Monty Python skit where he keeps saying “it’s just a flesh wound!”) in inopportune places.
So today, I issued my standard lecture about behaving in Junior Church and watched Chickadee guide her brother downstairs at the appropriate time. We were mid-sermon when I was asked to come get them.
Here is what I was able to piece together: Monkey had two popsicle sticks, and Chickadee didn’t have any. So she flipped his chair over.
While he was sitting in it.
Monkey then commenced El Grande Freak Out, complete with hurling toys. My two children were stage center, hysterical, screaming at each other, and the rest of the class was ducking for cover. But the teachers apologized to me for pulling me from the service.
Which just goes to show you that my church is full of true Christians. That was a very comforting thought as I prayed for the floor to open up and swallow me.
I had a long list of errands to run after church. We came straight home, because I doubted the kids’ ability to behave and my ability to refrain from strangling them both. I fed them lunch, then sent everyone to their rooms for an hour of quiet time (me included). Monkey and I both napped. Chickadee read a book and drew a large pentagram on the floor of her room with the help of the incubus that lives under her bed.
Did I mention it wasn’t a good day?
Here’s the thing. It’s hard work, finding the things that keep you going, sometimes. There are days when I am doing nothing more than putting one foot in front of the other, and I cannot see the forest for the trees. I put myself on Mama Autopilot and I do what I must. I provide for the kids, yes. But I don’t give of myself to them, because I feel like I have nothing left to give. And nevermind cherishing them; I am enduring, and haven’t the energy for more.
So it was that evening came and I was sorting laundry while the chaos whirled around me and I counted the minutes until bedtime. Monkey walked past me with a tissue, and I snapped. Because that’s the fabulous sort of mother I am. Also because he has lately taken to playing with tissues–multiple tissues–and it drives. me. crazy.
“MONKEY!” He froze, and immediately tried to hide the tissue in his armpit. “Do you need to blow your nose?” He shook his head. “Is your nose RUNNY?” Another shake. “Are you BLEEDING?” Another shake. “Then WHAT do you need a TISSUE for?”
“It’s my little tissue friend!” He pulled it out from under his arm and stroked it with his fingers as if it were a pet. Maybe this was cute. I was not in a place to regard it as such.
“You know that I DO NOT LIKE IT when you waste tissues. Please do not take a tissue unless you NEED one. If you want to PLAY with one, then REMEMBER WHERE YOU PUT IT instead of taking and wasting ANOTHER one to play with LATER. Tissues cost MONEY.” I have become the tissue police. Dear God in heaven.
“But…” his lip wavered. “I love tissues!”
“FINE!” I bellowed. “If you LOVE tissues, then you give me a dollar and I will give you YOUR VERY OWN BOX of tissues to waste!” Did I… just… offer to SELL my child PAPER PRODUCTS? Hey, kid… I’ve also got some Tampax under the sink, if you’re feeling really rich.
He disappeared, and I continued pairing socks.
He came back with a dollar.
36 minutes until bedtime.
I am nothing if not a woman of my word. I pocketed my son’s dollar and headed down to the basement to get him his very! own! box! of! tissues! I trudged back up two flights of stairs and handed him his purchase. “There ya go,” I said. “All yours. Enjoy.” I went back to pairing socks.
Monkey reverently drew a tissue from the fresh box and placed it on his head. He glanced at me. I became very interested in the dryer sheet I’d just found. He danced around the room a bit, tissue-hat fluttering, and he was so full of joy, he composed a song right there on the spot:
I got lotsa tissues!
All these tissues are mine!
Tissues in the box and on my head!
I bought this box of tissues for a dollar!
I expect it’ll go platinum as soon as he releases it.
Anyway, if you can ignore this sort of jubilation, you are dead inside. Not only was I finding myself amused, Chickadee came into the room to see what was going on. It could go either way: she might find it funny, or she might somehow perceive injustice (not that I wouldn’t sell her a box for a dollar, too; heck, anyone need tissues? Come on over and bring your dollar) and pitch a fit. Lucky for us, Monkey’s glee was pretty infectious.
“I need a tissue hat, too!” said Chickadee, and started towards the box.
“NOOOOOO!” he snatched up the box. “These are MINE. I bought them!”
“Okay, buddy,” answered Chickadee with uncharacteristic mildness, “I don’t really need one. Hey Mama, maybe Monkey will share his tissues, later.”
“Yeah, like, if there’s a tissue emergency or something,” she continued.
“Uhhhh… could you please define what would constitute a ’tissue emergency,’ Chickadee?”
“Well, you know. Like maybe if a gigantic booger fell out of the sky, or something.”
I tried not to laugh. Didn’t matter too much; they laughed so hard they collapsed together in the middle of the room, giggling and gasping and shrieking “BOOGER!” any time the other one started tapering off.
Today wasn’t such a bad day.