Oh man oh man - we are in the throws of what I've affectionately dubbed the pre-two blues... With the girls, I found the even number years to be particularly enjoyable (0 - so sweet!, 2 - how adorably curious, 4 - we're just getting there, but the independence is inspiring to watch) - it was the second 1/2 of the odd number years that have you thanking natures ability to make children cute - because if they weren't you'd have sold them to the Gypsies long ago. The boys are following in the same footsteps as their sisters, mimicking this pattern, but as the boys are want to do, they've taken the pattern spun it around in circles, built a tower with it, smashed it to the ground and then dissolved into tears. They are the girls on speed and there's no break peddle on this bike.
The pre-two at the DiStefano house seems to be marked with kiddos whose language skills and body co-ordination haven't caught up with their cognitive abilities... this results in an adorably infuriating perplexing fascinating bi-polar child. And while there are some days that I can put on my zen cape and go all Montessori on their development, there are other days that it makes me want to throttle them and I feel as though their bi-polar qualities are contagious. It's like I'm in the throngs of a real life metal breakdown. I've never screamed so loud, smiled so big, scowled so menacingly, or laughed so hard. Even the girls are rocked off kilter with my antics (that resulted from the boys antics). "Are you happy or sad mommy? Your voice sounded a little cranky...do you need a nap? (The answer to which is a resounding YES!) OH NO! The boys made a mess will that make you mad or is this an okay mess?" The boys meanwhile are at once captivatingly cute and then on a dime they are so naughty I have to put my hands behind my back incase those fingers decide to take matters into their own - uh -hands...
Yesterday was a particularly amazing example of this with Jack (this is not to say that the AX man doesn't have his share of bipolar tantrums, just that the most recent example was with the brown haired boy). So he of the brown hair, like his big sis Emma (who Mimi rightfully dubbed Jack's spirit twin) feels everything to the extreme. It's like that old poem my Grandma Forrer used to say about the little boy with the curl: When he was good he was very very good, and when he was bad he was horrid. The same could be said for Jack's happiness and tears... His joy is so tangible and immense that you can't help but to be swallowed up by it. His sorrow so all encompassing that the entire family is effected by the fall out. As he grows I maintain faith and hope that his emotions will manifest themselves into a sensitive soul who is aware of other peoples feelings as much as his own. But yesterday he was still a pre-two and the only emotions he was concerned about were his own.
I do have to say that Daddy has been in South Dakota for the past 5 days and as such, I've lost my buffer - Tony and I naturally play off of each other, moving in and out of prime parenting roles just as the other is about to loose their shit on whatever child is nearest... Flying solo for a week (still got 3 more days to go) has been enlightening, liberating, enjoyable, exhausting, and terrifying all at the same time. (Now who's bipolar?!?) I am in awe of mothers and fathers that have to fly solo all the time - the amount of self control they must possess is simply inspiring and I tip my hat to all of you.
That said, I realize that I was at the end of my rope yesterday - after a week of collective incidents including broken umbrellas, lamps, drawers, dumped laundry, escaping the yard on more than one occasion, dumping dinner on the floor, juice spills, biting, hitting, not sharing, he's touching me why is he touching me, he's touching my unicorn he thinks it's his unicorn but it's my unicorn, fighting over the same Thomas train endlessly even though there are FIFTY OTHER FREAKING TRAINS, I don' t like this kind of juice, or cheese, or peanut butter, or fruit, or sidewalk chalk, I want the blue bubble wand not the pink one (and on and on...) it would be fair to say that I'm hanging on by a thread and mommies hanging by a thread have no place in-between two pre-twos - because someone's got to be level headed and if it's not you - well, I'll let you consider the other options for a moment...
Yesterday, for the love of me, I could not figure out what Jack wanted or needed. The tantrums ebbed and flowed like waves crashing on the shore. Each one was more intense than the next - and in-between it was sunshine, smiles and a gentle breeze... The first meltdown was when I gave him a cup of morning milk - wrong color cup? Then the second came when I traded cup colors - could it be that the milk was not the correct temperature? Of course the obligatory fight over trains that resulted in the entire bin going into exile. The next wave, diaper changes - I didn't particularly care about his reason for this, that diaper had to go. A huge crash after he announced that he was all done with what was his third helping of breakfast and I took his bowl away and cleaned up the table - but didn't you just say you were all done? Then we were leaving from the front door and not the back. Then we went out the back door, but he didn't want to come down the steps by himself. When he finally did the next wave crashed after he asked to get out of the swing - and then because he wanted a different color shovel. And then because I didn't let him eat the soggy oreo piece that he found in a neighbors yard. This one was like a tsunami actually. I've been trying to let the boys sort out the tantrums on their own for a bit now - trying not to buy into the madness in hopes that they become less frequent and less intense - and ultimately that they boys feel they have the power over their emotions and are able to control themselves. Great parental goal, right? Apparently I forgot to send the memo to my youngest two.
Remember the Oreo? That was too much, too far, I'd denied him one to many things and the ensuing fallout was so intense I was wondering if neighbors would end up calling CYS on me. I let him freakout on the grass, and then in the mulch where he rolled and kicked and pounded, and his little face grew red and blotchy and his hair was sweaty and matted to his head, eyes glazed with a fury that he didn't really understand. I let it go for nearly 10 minutes (do you know how long that is?!? - try listening to a full blast alarm clock for 10 minutes while attempting to punch a hole in a brick wall while watching someone attack a stuffed kitten to get and idea of what I was feeling like). When he started throwing the mulch I stepped in - clearly this wasn't going anywhere on its own. I straight-jacket held him (physically containing the emotions he couldn't hold onto himself) did the double bounce, rock, sway that I did when they were infants while beating a steady rhythm on his back and humming in his ear. (I think they do this in the asylums too... you should try it!)
Calmed down, we moved up to the deck to have snacks... I was finally able to acknowledge the other three children that I have - Nice to meet you, I'm your mother - bruises were kissed, drinks were provided, and when Alex dumped his snack bowl all over the deck and then grabbed Emma's bowl and then Jacks non soggy Oreo, I walked inside the house and closed the door to the tears and screams that were behind me... I counted to ten (fifty) while looking for my zen cape (couldn't find it) and walked back out and asked the girls what we could do to make this right, while prying the cookie out of Alex's hands and returning it to it's rightful owner. I then worked with a now crying Alex and coaxed him into picking up all of the pieces he'd spilled on the deck.
Near 11:00 (AM, though it totally felt like I'd been for 24 hours) Mimi and PopPop sent a message that they were home from the golf course and would like us to come over... Those Mimi's and PopPop's, it's like they have mental telepathy sometimes! The kiddos were packed into big red I did a quick run through the house while they were all strapped in and picked up the scattered toys, rinsed out the milk cups and making sure the house was locked up. As I closed the garage door and headed to the car I swear I felt the house sigh in relief... or maybe that was me.
The kids moods brightened noticeably as we pulled out of the driveway, we were heading to Mimi and PopPops! A place where garden angels leave notes in mailboxes, and rainbows dance on the kitchen floor, a place where we can get wet while helping water vegetables, a place to swing and feed the gold fish. A place where we can run, and dig, and dump, and there are extra arms to cuddle and console. A place where there is magic room spray before naps and there's always dessert after dinner. This isn't to say the magic of M&P's could preclude any tantrum - it's just that the tantrums seem more do-able, more manageable, and more normal when you have a witness and another pair of loving arms.
In just 25 days my "going on two" boys will be full fledged two year olds. And with that I know that the tantrums will slowly give way to more verbal requests, their emotions will be more easily understood by us, but more importantly by themselves. As they grow they'll understand their place in the family, in their home, and in the world and this understanding will lead to (please Lord) children who are kind, considerate, and and loving of themselves and others. In a few years, when the tantrums come they'll end as quickly as they start and the memories of these pre-two blues days will be one that makes me smile as much as it makes me shake my head. It's all part of the package. All part of the bigger picture of where they're going and who they'll become.
So have out with the tantrums, my loves... you've got 25 more days.