Tantrums I’ve Known and Loved and Hated and Wanted

*Hello from Greece! Today’s post is written by one of my favorite people: Hillary! There’s a reason why I talk about her (and her awesome family) on my blog all the time, and it’s because….she and her family are just straight up magnificent! Hillary found my blog when her daughter wanted to make a corn necklace (which I just happen to have a DIY post on), and then she discovered that we live in the same town, and, happiness of all happinesses, she emailed me! It has been, hands down, one of the best things that has happened this year and even this decade. I’m always so inspired by her a in ton of different areas, and her parenting is definitely one of them. Today she is writing about one of the hard days, with grace, humor, and wisdom.*

To say I am happy to be guest-blogging for Cameron here on KTT is an understatement.  Before anything else is uttered, that must be said.  This happy spot in cyberspace has provided me with all kinds of goodness: laughter, admiration, inspiration, humility, hope, gratitude, and perspective.  I can’t believe I get to share a little something here on these hallowed pages!  Over on my fledgling blog humble pie mmm pie! I write about real life adventures with my twin daughters.  They’re four.  They like to help color maps with castles for squirrels.  You’ve heard of them? Oh good, because I am about to paint another picture of them.  And one of myself.  Not because I want to include myself, believe me, but because I’m part of the story.  Sigh.

Last week M & R started half-day kindergarten.  It was a transition for them, and it was also difficult for me to leave them with teachers I didn’t really know, in a classroom full of kids I didn’t know.  I struggled with that, knowing that their lives were now diverging more distinctly from mine.  Despite my goal that my girls grow up to be comfortably independent, I didn’t like how it felt to have them away doing I-knew-not-what.

R TantrumThis week the girls added to their schedule a half-day of preschool in the morning.  A preschool that they and I love.  One where we know the teachers and the kids and their parents, and it feels really good that way.  But adding that to our schedule meant we were suddenly up pretty early for a family of night-owls, and then R was screaming in the car when it was time to go in to class, and other parents’ eyes darted toward R, limp on the floor of the car, crying, as they ushered their smiling children onto campus.  And then soon after that it was time to take M & R from their pre-school class to their kindergarten class and we. had. to. hurry. to make it across town before the gate to kindergarten was locked, but suddenly every rail on the preschool campus HAD to be walked on, on the way to the car.  Every flower upon the way had to be explored, they had to hide themselves in every enclave in order to “SURPRISE” me. again. before we left.

But we made it!  We made it by eating the lunch (which I’d stayed up late packing the night before) in the car on the way to kindergarten.  Actually, I think they ate the watermelon and then cried because I’d packed them turkey sandwiches and string cheese.  I know.  I’m wicked.  I have no photo of this particular tantrum because I was driving and also opening and closing bento style lunch boxes (they’re adorable but not really driver-friendly) to humbly offer perfectly triangular crustless turkey sandwiches to the queens in my back seat.  People, I have become their lackey.  “Are you sure you don’t want your string cheese? I started opening the wrapper to make it easier for you.  It’s really good for you! It’s going to give you energy to play with your new friends!”  Maybe if I’d added “Your Highness” they would have eaten it.  Probably not.

It was going to be okay, though, because I knew they’d have their snack later.  The snacks I’d finished packing the night before,  fruit and a Z-bar.  They’d get some sustenance there, and they’d make it through the day.  Except they didn’t because shortly after arriving home from dropping them off, I got a call from the office.  MY FIRST CALL FROM THE OFFICE!!!!  It was a big mom moment.  It was a threshold crossed!  Anyway, it wasn’t good news, as you all knew as soon as I said, “I got a call from the office.”  M had slipped and hit her mouth on a step stool, and her lip was bleeding, and her tooth was sore.  Fast forward to the emergency visit to the dentist, because when I arrived to pick up M, she was curled up in a chair in the office holding a dinosaur book, and when she smiled at me, her front right tooth was in a slightly different position than it had been when I’d dropped her off.  Now, there’s no need to get incensed on my behalf here, though I do appreciate your concern.  A tooth in a new place is a pretty big deal.  The truth is, I see a difference with my mama-eyes, and I’m pretty sure my mom will see the difference with her grandma-eyes, but few others would notice a change.  They’d just notice that M can’t eat any hard foods for the next two-weeks, and that she’s on a first name basis with her dentist.  It was impressive that I saw no tears about this, though M did cry when I initially couldn’t get a hold of her regular dentist and suggested we try another.  She loves Dr. Natalie.

M at Dr. Natalie'sWhen we got home from the dentist, and the initial concern that my kid would lose her tooth, or that it would die, was laid to rest, and I’d helped clean the bubble gum out of R’s armpit and promised her we’d later put oil on it to keep her armpit from painfully sticking to itself (yeah, that happened), I told the girls they could watch Aladdin*, but after dinner.  And they cried.  A lot.  It had been a long day, they were ready to veg.  We were nearing tantrum-town and I was already late to their first Back-To-School night (not that I wanted to go back to the injury-inducing school right then, but whatever), so I relented.  Did you hear that???  Yes!!!  I CAVED to my children’s tears.  And they stopped crying.  I totally reinforced their response.  It’s like the top of the list of minor parenting offenses.  And I felt good about it.  I told you I’m wicked.

*Let’s talk about the fact that I let my girls watch Disney princesses even though I hate them another time.

Off I raced to the big Back-To-School Night event and arrived late enough to necessitate parking far far away and running up a steep hill to stand in the back of the classroom and realize I hadn’t eaten in a while, and I was really hungry.  And I was tired.  And overwhelmed.  And my forehead was probably shiny.  There were so many people and ideas and first impressions and please give to our annual fund… And then it was the part of the night where the teachers ask for parents to be volunteer coordinators for stuff, and I watched these super-composed, friendly-looking parents smile and volunteer for all sorts of things.  People, I stood in the back and raised my hand to coordinate for NOTHING.

Before you decide I’m a total slacker and the parent you love to hate because I just take, take, take, please know that I did volunteer to do all kinds of stuff.  Launder towels, for instance.  I will take home the towels your kid has wiped their grimy, muddy, gluey hands on, wash them and return them.    Cut shapes out of paper for class projects? I’d actually love to.  Read stories to the class? Yep, I signed up for that one.  Clean the classroom? I’ll do it twice!  Set up and clean up after class pot lucks? I sure will.  Glue broken classroom things back together?  I will select the and apply the specific super glue the occasion calls for!  I signed every volunteer sign-up sheet I could get my hands on.  A slacker, yes, I deserve that, but a total slacker, no.  That I am not.  Though somehow that did not keep me from leaving feeling like a total loser with a shiny T-zone.

Exhausted and feeling defeated, I drove home in the dark and thought about how much I wished I could cry.  I was full to the top in every way I could think of.  My body hurt, my head hurt, and I was starting to feel terrified by M’s accident that day, which echoed my fear of my girls being in a new space, even though it’s a school that we’re happy with and grateful for.  I don’t know these new families, and they don’t know me, and I hate having to talk in groups and show my school spirit and show up with a shiny T-zone.  I didn’t know how things would turn out with the girls’ pre-school or how long I should try to maintain this dot-to-dot schedule.  And I worried that all of this running around was to blame for M’s fall.  When do I say that we are spread too thin and we need to slow things down?  Because that’s exactly how I was feeling.

I wanted to go home and empty myself of it all.  If there’d been a way for me to tantrum it out, I would have been grateful to take it.  Later, in bed, I eked out a few tears as I lay next to sleeping M, my heart hurting because her smile is a little different now, though she’s ok.  I can’t protect my girls from everything, but I want to.  And not being able to…  Well, it makes me want to cry.  And in my head, it makes sense to throw myself on the floor, as my girls do daily, and sob, and kick, and flail, and take in those shivery gasps with a crinkly-sad face and bright tear-filled eyes, but my body doesn’t do it anymore, and I kind of wish it would.

The world feels big and open and unknown and a little extra scary right now.  Yesterday I saw a kid, maybe 16 years old, but then again maybe 13, on a street corner asking for water, and I had dreams about trying to get food for little boys who didn’t have any.  My life feels good and secure right now, and every day I’m grateful for my family and my close friends.  It’s hard to think of asking for more because I feel so fortunate.  But yesterday I felt like my pores were open to another world, one which is always there, one which needs attention, although I wished I could close myself off to it because it’s uncomfortable when the scary gets in.


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