Take one step back

Oh, my word, Interwebs. To say this day sucked rocks would be like saying a deluge can be a bit damp.

Wake up at midnight to screaming baby. Comfort measures don’t work. Endure *hours* of baby flopping all over bed trying to get comfortable, a feat he seems to think can be achieved by pulling my hair, head butting me, and slapping me. Any attempts at comfort get a screamed “nah nah nah!” and a push in the face.

By morning I’m a wreck but he screams that he wants to get down. When I take off his diaper he rages that he wants it back on. I offer comfort which he refuses. He pees all over the floor then rages when I take off his wet pants. I offer comfort. He refuses. I offer new jammie bottoms. He refuses. I offer pants. He refuses. All refusals offered loudly.

The morning proceeds like this. Offer food, he screams at me. Offer dancing, he screams at me. Offer to help when something doesn’t work and he throws himself on the floor, more mad at my suggestion than at the rat bastard toy. Which he then throws across the room to express frustration. Then throws himself down again to express longing for the toy.

He screams the whole way to school, trying to leap out of the backpack carrier. My back does not appreciate 0.8 miles of sideways baby lurching around, but I try to figure out the problem. Want your hood on? NAH! Want your hood off? NAH! Do you like the rain? Dah. (beat) *scream*

He wants no playground, no home, no cafe, no music, no anything. He nurses as though it’s his 3-week growth spurt. And screams as though he’s auditioning for something very, very sad and angry.

He won’t nap. He won’t get in the stroller or the car or the sling or the mei tai or hiking backpack. At one point I leave him in the living room, crying, to go scream my head off in the kitchen. I scream so hard and loud that I actually wet myself. I’m not the only one, though. As with yesterday, the kid refuses to go in the bathroom. He pees his pants so much I almost run out of pants.

And he stays awake the whole walk to school, two hours past his naptime.

And when a friend greets him sweetly I tell her he doesn’t get any niceness today. He’s a b-a-d b-a-b-y, I say, so don’t talk to him. I’m only slightly kidding.

Brief discussion ensues. She mentions an asymptomatic UTI her toddler had around the same age. the treatment for which turned him back into a normal child. It’s Friday. I’m not going to put up with this all weekend or I will be homicidal.

Two hours later the doc finds two raging ear infections.

[brief note on second-time parents and gross stupidity: if the first one had been acting out of the ordinary, I would have assumed illness. It is evidence of the shell shock born of a really tough time with Peanut that made me jump right past “maybe he is in pain” to assume Butter had just turned the corner into his semi-long-term asshole phase. I plead exhaustion and end-of-my-rope-d-ness to excuse not seeing the signs. I also submit that he was clingy while sick and the refusing to be touch thing smacked of jerk rather than illness. Further, I offer that I used to be good at problem solving and am now good only at barely making it through the day.]

While the pharmacy mixes up some goo (don’t judge our easy use of antibiotics on this one; we’re a wait-and-see family and we’ve gone through nine ear infections with no antibiotics including one ruptured ear drum but this kid is not effing human today and I can’t let him or me go through another day of this) I take both boys to CheeseBoard for a treat. The eldest wants Peet’s instead. Fine. It was a long hour in the doctor’s office and you’re a tired, hungry kid. Muffin it is. Surely I can carry a miserable toddler and a pizza the one extra block.

Peanut gets a bran muffin, finds a table, and willingly shares with his baby brother without being asked. Things are looking up. All the little monster wants is a chair so he can sit next to the big guy. I ask a woman sitting alone at a two-person table if she needs the second chair.

She rolls her eyes and says, as sarcastically as she can muster, “Well, I guess not any more.”

I blink, unable to conjure all the replies she deserves, then walk away as she starts to point out a chair across the restaurant. Lady, I have two small children, one of whom is a Tasmanian Devil toddler who can open the door unassisted and who is currently roaming loose without supervision around strangers’ hot coffee. I’m not going to travel farther from him to get a chair.

“That’s okay. We’ll make do.”

I squat and offer the toddler my knee on which to perch. He throws himself on the floor screaming. I whisper, “Honey, sweet, I know it’s frustrating, but there’s only one chair.”

The condescending, poisonous, passive aggressive asshat says from three tables over, “Oh, geez. Just take the chair.”

Given one iota of energy and the guarantee that my children would be safe while I stepped away for a moment, I would have walked over and punched her square in the face, so help me Aphrodite.

Instead I lovingly scoop up the demonic presence inhabiting my youngest’s body and walk outside with him. I gently ask the beleaguered older brother to come with us. The wee one squirms out of my arms and almost knocks himself unconscious on the concrete. I help him stand and offer comfort and options. He pees all over the sidewalk. In his only pants. In the rain on a 45 degree Fall evening four blocks from the pharmacy.

And I actually don’t cry. Or bang on the window and curse at the fathermucking selfish c-word who couldn’t even admit that she needed the empty chair.

I put the screaming sadsack in the carrier and sing to him as we walk to the pharmacy. I pick up the goo while he screams. I pay while he screams. I walk him to the car while he screams. And sit down in the car with the five year old who willingly reads a book and eats his muffin. I want to cry but don’t. I nurse the baby, text Spouse a warning about my mood, and tell myself that if I can make it 10 hours into this day, I can do two more.

Look, I know sometimes you have a long day and want to sit alone in a cafe. I know sometimes you’re waiting for someone and need a second chair. I know sometimes the love of your life just occupied the chair across from you and you want to keep the essence of your bond alive by leaving the chair vacant. In that case, just say you need the other chair.

I’m not entitled to the chair. I am, however, entitled to some fracking human compassion. There are only two answers: Yes or No. Sarcasm and confusing condescension and weirdass nastiness should not be part of the equation.

I’ve been asked if I can spare a chair. I answer either, “Nope, it’s all yours,” or, “Actually I’m expecting someone, sorry.”

Isn’t that in the social contract somewhere?

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22 thoughts on “Take one step back

  1. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. It sometimes seems (up here in fum-buck Anchorage, anyway) that “rude” is the new “polite.” And “mean” is king. It makes me sad. Especially for the kids. I hope you’re getting an opportunity for a Calgon moment, and that your little one is already on the mend.

  2. Stephane, thanks. We seem to go weeks and weeks of just nice and polite and “no, you first; no, *you* first” around here. And then when I really really need decency one person either is so kind they make me cry or they shatter what’s left of my hanging-in-there facade.
    He was pretty awful today and I finally handed him off to Spouse. Separation anxiety plus pain plus sleeplessness plus constant nursing equal I’m teetering on the brink. But it’s the weekend and that’s a good time to teeter around here.

  3. holy motherload. did witch’s owl shit blow your way?

    is it wrong to carry your kid around in a trash bag or metal pot? i would have been crying thru the pee storm cleanups. does pee freeze when it hits the cold air in Alaska? easier cleanup?

    i can only hope you are drunk off your ass right now and won’t remember one minute of this hell. biggggg hugs.

    • Thanks, unicorn. Poor little nekid street peer. At least nobody looked at me funny for having a half naked kid on a rainy night. Sometimes I love Berkeley. Most times. Except one lady, I guess.

      Too tired and sad to drink. This shit is just harder than I have gumption for.

  4. LetMeStart: you and me both. I really am shocked I didn’t say something to her, but the sentences I’ve composed in my mind honestly take too long to say when a toddler is screaming and flopping around on the floor. I just get all consumed with helping him not hurt himself, understanding what he needs, and diffusing the situation before everyone loses their mind.
    But I really want to do something violent to her.
    Nice role models, aren’t we? Actually, yes. I had a talk with Peanut on the way to the pharmacy about nastiness and how it affects other people, and courtesy and how it affects other people. Still, punching would have been better, I think.

  5. Oh man – I hate to say it, but I have had the same lack of insight with my second kid when it comes to illness. He is usually just a doll and doesn’t do anything wrong. But then, when he gets an ear infection, which is a lot these days unfortunately, I think he’s just being an asshole. Finally, last week, it occurred to me that he wasn’t trying to keep me awake all night out of spite and that he might need to see a doc. But it took more than 24 hours for me to get to that conclusion.

    Now the woman who wouldn’t give up the chair? That’s ridiculous and unreasonable and mean. I hate her for you. I think I might have said, “Oh, you’re willing to let my kiddo sit with you, then? How nice of you.” Maybe that would have changed her tune. Bitch. Bah.

  6. Fuuuuuuck.

    I mean, seriously. That is bad news. And then the badly behaved wench as a topping to the shit souffle? Just wrong, on all levels.

    Come to Colorado, duckie. Everyone is nice here…oh, except my neighbors. Never mind.

  7. Fie, at least it’s not just me. I really and truly thought we were just welcoming another asshole into our family. “Oh. Almost Two. Yup, it’s asshole time.” I feel a little guilty I didn’t help him sooner and REALLY mad at the first one for making me understand that asshole is part of the territory.
    I hate her, too. Really, really hate her.

    Kitchy, you’re not kidding. Shit souffle is exactly how it felt. Meticulous, careful, just so baked messy shitstorm. And that woman. Bitch even ruined my ability to have a short-ish post. Effwad.
    I’d come there in a minute if the warm goodness of neighborly and family kindness would envelop me in hearthy love. But Colorado gets a bit chilly, darling. The last thing I need is to walk to school with a toddler pitching himself out of the carrier into the snow.

    Thanks ever so much for the offer, though. ;-)

  8. Aw, you poor thing. That seriously sounds like the worst day ever. I hope your kid gets better soon. Maybe Santa will bring him lots of pants for christmas.

  9. Kristin, thank you. I never feel that they’re lucky or that I’m patient. I feel intense guilt at being so angry at the toddler, still. He has a good reason to be in a foul mood, and all I can think is “there must be a way to get child care a few hours a week.” Maybe I’ll become shriveled and horrible like that nasty creature at the cafe.

    mw, funny you mention it: he got three new pair of pants this week so I wouldn’t need to worry about the bottom of the drawer. They were in the laundry, though, preparing for their first wear. I’m sure he’ll get better. The tantrums have dwindled this weekend to one every ten minutes instead of one every two minutes. Hopefully they’ll get back to a respectable one every half hour soon.

  10. NW, forgive me if I’m overstepping but really, you are much too hard on yourself. It’s not unreasonable for you to feel angry and upset about your last few days’ experiences. Add to that, you’re short on sleep and still nursing–your body and mind are both getting a battering. Honey, you are human, not a machine. That you worry what effect your less-than-perfect mothering might have on your kiddos is proof you’re an excellent mother. I’d be willing to bet my last dollar *both* your kids feel very loved. (It’s funny that I can see this so clearly about you and yet I am utterly! blindly! miserable! when it comes to evaluating my own efforts at mothering.) Also, your description of how you dealt with the witch at the coffee shop is an example of truly superlative mothering and humanity. While a withering retort would have temporarily left you feeling victorious, I think the absence of tit-for-tat is more likely to leave a lasting impression on her. Instead of being able to cast aside your rebuke as further justification for her bad behavior, your lady-like reaction might have gotten her to later evaluate her behavior, perhaps leading her to feeling regretful. Whether or not you had a positive effect on her, both your children got to see you *live* your values–a real victory.

    @Unicorn, although we do get below 0°F here in Anchorage, typically, we don’t experience long periods of sub-zero temperatures. (The coldest it’s ever been during my 22 years of living here is -35°F. Most of the time during the winter, it teeters back and forth between 5° and 38°.) However, if you were to pee outside during a spell of subzero temperatures, you might experience a surprising result. Check out the pictures on Jen Yu’s blog showing boiling water being tossed into the air. : )

    http://userealbutter.com/2011/02/03/chinese-taro-tapioca-soup-recipe/

  11. What an f’ing bitch. Jeezus. I gotta say though, when you started this story, especially after you said he nursed like crazy was either ear infection or teeth coming in. Sorry that the day was so shitty but super impressed about how you “sang to him on the way to the pharmacy.” I remember those days and singing would’ve been the last thing I could muster. You are a better woman than I.

  12. I hope the goo worked and you had a good weekend. At least #1 seems like he was good? I’m sad to say that I wouldn’t have guessed sick right away either even though he’s my first. At 2, bad days seem to be just part of the expected.

  13. Cathy, there’s something to singing that makes me feel like I’m trying and makes him know between screams that I hear him without repeating the frustrating “I know you’re angry. I hear that you’re angry. I’m trying to help. I’m not magic. I can’t beam us to the car but I wish I could. There are lots of things I wish I could do, and right after helping you would be disabling your scream mechanism…” because the intoning always goes downhill. The songs have lyrics. I cleave to predictable scripts. ;-)

    And yes, I should have figured the nursing was a clue, but he’s been sick for a week and ears have been clear, so I forgot to be vigilant. Last year he had two-point-four billion ear infections. But they didn’t do this to him.

    ABDMama Boy, do I know about that. I kind of knew it was more than just the age when even bubbles failed to make him happy. [Don’t think I’m minimizing, but I have made it my mission in life to warn parents: Two is nothing compared with Three. Holy Moly will Three blindside you. Maybe. Probably not for your wonderful child, but most of the others.]

  14. @Unicorn, I imagine peeing your pants outside during the winter would be uncomfortable but mostly, it’s not so cold that it would freeze quickly. It does get below 0°F in Anchorage but it usually doesn’t stay there for very long. In 22 years of living here, the coldest I’ve ever seen it is -35°F but temperatures usually teeter back and forth between >5°F and 38°F–plenty warm to allow you time to get inside and change your pants before they freeze. ; ) However: take a look at the pictures on Jennifer Yu’s blog showing boiling water being tossed into the air in sub-zero temperatures. Oh, and Fairbanks is an entirely different story. :P

    http://userealbutter.com/2011/02/03/chinese-taro-tapioca-soup-recipe/

  15. Would I be overstepping to say I think the absence of tit-for-tat in your encounter with the witch in the coffee shop is proof that you are an excellent mother–and an excellent human being? I also think your lady-like behavior is more likely to leave a lasting impression on her. Instead of being able to take a withering retort from you and use it as further justification for her bad behavior, your restraint might have caused her to reevaluate the exchange, maybe even left her feeling regretful. But whether or not you taking the high road has/had any effect on her, both your children got to see you *living* your values (a feat I seldom have the self-control to manage).

    P.S. I tried to put a link to a URB blog post out there so Unicorn could see how boiling water behaves in sub-zero temperatures but it doesn’t seem to take.

  16. That is the worst day I have ever heard of. You poor thing. That is a day to drive someone to drink. I’m so sorry. (And you’re not a bad mother for not guessing illness first. I never can tell when the boys were/are teething. Two days into craziness, someone mentions teething and moments after pain medicine is given, normalcy descends.)

  17. Pingback: It could be worse « Naptime Writing

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