It happens though. It really happens.
Yesterday was day two of waking up to a pleasant, fully rested Cole. It's life altering to have him sleep a full night. It changes everything about the way our family functions and it is so lovely.
After a breakfast of yogurt and muffins, (made from scratch by me with whole wheat flour because I may fail at checking my emotions, but I excel at feeding my kids,) we skipped to the playroom to play blocks and color.
(Fine, we didn't skip, it's dangerous to do indoors. I actually wanted to be with Cole and Stella though instead of feeling a sense of dread about the drama Cole would bring to our play. Did I mention sleep changes everything?)
After we colored and built a tower we all got dressed, tear-free and happily. There was even an actual dance break involved. Honestly, I don't know how I could have been a more fun, loving, and wonderful Mom. Dancing to Joe Cocker and Black Eyed Peas after serving whole wheat pumpkin-banana-nutella muffins? Parenting success.
Oh yeah, until I freaked out when Cole refused to go to the bathroom so we could get in the car to go to preschool and I could make my oil change appointment on time. Yeah, I totally screwed up there.
I was feeling so optimistic and secure in our morning's momentum that I waited until five minutes before we had to leave to ask Cole to pee and get his shoes on and get in the car. This was such a rookie mistake, something my husband would do. It could take five minutes to find his shoes some days.
(Hell, it could take hours to find his shoes some days if Stella is in one of her particularly intense shoe hiding phases.)
Once I asked and he fell to floor, telling me, "I can't! I lost all my energy. I'm just not going to school." I knew it was going to go badly.
I lost my shit people.
I know Cole. I know him well. I know that once this line of talking starts with him there is no going back. There are going to be tears and screams and at least 15 minutes of full blown tantrum before something clicks and he decides that he's over it, he'll just go pee and get his shoes, something that in my head I will never understand as a challenging, tantrum worthy task.
I wasn't in the mood for that. I was still delighting in the wonder of my parenting glory. Remember when I fed them whole wheat muffins and weird things like almond milk and they loved it? Remember when I was such a good Mom that my children actually wanted to dance with me to ridiculous hip hop songs, as well as classic rock/blues? It was supposed to be an easy morning, but I was betrayed.
I yelled. I might have threatened to never let him play with anyone, ever again, or something equally ridiculous. My voice went to that weird place where I actually feel a burning in my chest and it tickles my throat when I shout. I can only assume this is because actual particles of rage are rising up and attempting to hurl themselves at my poor child.
I initially walked away like I almost always try to do. I initially went to my go-to method of dealing with any tantrum, ignore then speak when they are ready to turn back in to a functioning human.
I also do this for every one's protection because I have a tendency to want to scream at my kids when something like this happens, but I am intelligent enough to know that screaming is probably not the best method of eliciting long-term, positive behavior.
Unfortunately I'm apparently not intelligent enough to ignore and restrain my shouts when there is an oil change appointment on top of my crushed expectations on the line. It only took a few moments and a slight increase in Cole's volume to push me to the edge and the rage rose right out of my mouth.
Eventually he got up, he peed, he found shoes, and we left 20 minutes after it all began, officially LATE. I was shaking with my frustration with Cole, and with myself, for the entire ride. It was a silent car ride to preschool, unfortunately things weren't the same inside my head.
I felt washed in guilt for how I handled the situation, countered with my complete exasperation with Cole's repeated outbursts over having to dress, SLEEP, pee, pick-up, or wash his hands. It is excruciating to maneuver through the days, especially with two other children, and deal with one that is freaking out because he has an itch on the bottom of his foot...but refuses to articulate that, preferring to scream and shut down.
(I can only assume Cole believes I am so intelligent and all knowing that I can figure out any ailment or irritation without the assistance of actual words or gestures. Sadly, I can not. It sure would be handy though.)
Why did I feel betrayed by a four year old because he was throwing a tantrum? Why did I feel like my child would be thinking about how great his Mom is because she dances around the living room and therefore decide he'll cooperate immediately with my every instruction? Why oh why didn't that whole wheat change everything?
It's convenient that I know the answers to these questions.
I felt betrayed because I still think things should be, or simply are, about me even when most of the time that's just not true.
Cole wasn't thinking about how great I was because he's four and I'm all he knows, he won't realize I'm spectacular for another thirty years. (OH NO!)
And no one really gets excited about whole wheat and there is probably something wrong if they do, especially at four.
I selfishly think that my children's behavior is my behavior, and while that may be sort of true in that I am responsible for teaching them and helping them learn appropriate ways to handle situations and behave, I will never be them. I will never be able to control their every action or reaction.
(Dammit! They could be such fantastic individuals!)
I have to keep helping them and keep my emotions in check.
Yeah, that's probably not always going to happen. I will freak out again.
Once we pulled in to the parking lot, I took Cole out of his seat, leaving Stella in hers for a moment alone. I sat on a curb in the parking lot and pulled Cole on to my lap and hugged him close to me.
There is a good chance this was scary for him....and all I could think about was that I failed him....again. Instead of staying calm, I shouted and probably made a difficult situation worse. Ugh.
After 15 minutes of silence in the car he looked sullen and very much aware that Mommy was mad. I wrapped my arms around him and apologized for my yelling. I told him we are a team that needs to talk to one another when we are having a rough time or we won't be able to help each other. I told him I expect him to cooperate though and there isn't any negotiation on that.
I explained that Mommy used to put on pretty clothes and get paid to go somewhere every day where she used her brain and now she is unhinged in her sweatpants and hair that hasn't been washed in four days or cut in four months because a small person doesn't want to pee.
Fine, I didn't say that, but it's possible that thought did cross my mind.
He apologized and said, "I'm so sorry Mommy. I'm never, ever going to do that again."
I thanked him though and hugged him closer. We said a quick prayer for both of us and then skipped in to school.
Fine, we still didn't skip. It would be really challenging to skip while holding a four year old's hand and carrying a 25 pound one year old, it's not my fault. We'll skip when it makes sense and not before.
I bet you are thinking that he cooperated the rest of the day. I bet you are thinking we were both better people after our challenge together. I bet you are thinking he and I both learned a lesson.
His teacher called me later that afternoon because he refused to cooperate there. Again.
The good news though is that I was able to wash my hair last night and we still have plenty of whole wheat muffins to fix this problem right up. Turns out I am a wonderful Mother.