I sat in Girl's bed tonight, putting on her PJs, when I was caught suddenly and viscerally by the extreme frustration I feel for such large chunks of the day. I slumped, eyes misty, right hand forming a brim over my brow line to shield my face while I composed myself. Girl noticed right away. She place her hand--her two-year-old hand!--on my shoulder, rubbed it a little and asked with noticeable concern, "What's wrong, Mommy?" Her compassion is impressive, and I was too caught of guard to answer anything but truthfully. "I feel like a bad mommy," I said, probably unfairly to her. This isn't her row to hoe.
She asked me if I was angry. I said I was, sometimes, but mostly I was really really frustrated. She said, "With Boy?"
Holy smokes. Is this just who she is, or has living with me done this to her?
Our day wasn't so bad, taken as a whole. Boy started it at 5:15, but was chipper about it, until about 8:00 when I was trying to bundle them out the door so I could make it to the gym in time to humiliate myself in Zumba. Then he was too tired to move, too tired to be good at the gym, too tired to put on his shoes. I muttered through clenched teeth my usual schtick about how unfair that was and that he didn't get to take the rest of us hostage. I added that it was ridiculous to insist on waking up so early and then play the victim. There was lots of clenched-teeth muttering. I trust he ignored most of it, as he is wont to do.
He actually did well at the gym, earning 15 minutes of iPad time for the three positive checks on his behavior chart. We made it through lunch and nap (yes! a rare and pleasant occurrence). He played outside nicely with Girl while I mowed the lawn (super quiet, eco-friendly reel mower FTW). The two boys from across the street came over, and stayed with us while their dad got some yard work done. They were fine, my kids were fine, but I found that my ability to stay positive and energetic through the whole impromptu playdate waned quickly. When they went home and we started to get ready for our traditional Friday evening bike ride for burgers, it fell apart. I fell apart. Boy gleefully and repeatedly ran out of the house (once while I was in the shower, it turns out). Boy gleefully refused to let his sister in his room to retrieve her shoes. There were some fisticuffs on the way there (I wish bike trailers had a wall between the two seats). There were significant fisticuffs on the way back (Girl's face was red from blows, but I must note she was not entirely innocent in the throwdown and in fact is much more vicious than her brother when it comes to it).
What put me over the edge, of all things, was Boy continuing to shout to the boys across the street that they were poop, as I repeatedly told him to stop calling people that. It was an entirely unimportant fight to pick at that time, but it was also an entirely straightforward instruction to follow. It was nothing short of defiant, just as running out of the house had been, just as holding his door shut as I stood 6 inches away telling him to open it was. It was a Screw you, Mom. It sucked. I sucked.
When asked to describe Boy's problems, I sometimes struggle to find a good example. In the end it's not often an isolated outburst. It's wiping toothpaste on the wall and running out of the house. It's turning on the TV immediately after I said no more cartoons or bolting off in a store. When he was in school it was chucking trains across the room compulsively, not so much acknowledging the adult next to him until she picked up him, and then he would turn into a writhing screaming mess. It's a steady stream of defiance. Defiance almost as a knee-jerk reaction. Defiance for no obvious reason.
It's an endless power struggle and it is exhausting.