Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Pat on the Back and a Lump in My Throat

Today was one of those days.  I didn't sleep well last night (read:  I didn't sleep at all last night) and was awakened by Lizzie having an in-depth discussion with her stuffed elephant, and W ringing his bike bell and marching around the house.  Eight a.m. came way too early; it may as well have been the middle of the night.

Within minutes of rousing myself and getting the kids fed and bathed, W and L were in an all-out brawl over L's new cowboy boots.  W tried in vain to squeeze his foot comfortably in the well of the boot.  L proudly snatched the boots away and slid them on with ease.  W was devastated those boots -- those cowboy "partner" boots! -- couldn't be his.  And the meltdown began.

Wailing.  Crying.  Stomping.  Pushing sister.  Slamming doors.  The whole nine yards.  I held him like a little baby and he cried his eyes out; nothing could solve this monumental problem.  No amount of soothing, distraction, or plans of finding a pair of his own boots someday could pull W off this cowboy ledge.  And then, like that, he was over it.  Well, about 10 minutes later he was over it.  But it was fine.  He was fine.  Life would go on.  Crisis averted.

I lazily pulled myself together for the day.  I had to make a quick trip to the store, then head to the car repair shop to wait with my two children in the (smoky) customer lounge for about an hour for my windshield wiper to be fixed.  This situation could be a total disaster, but I figured we could do it.  I bypassed a morning shower, figuring I wouldn't see anyone at the store or said repair shop, and loaded the kids in the car with some treats, the iPad and a pep talk.

A phone call on the way to the store divulged some sad, sad news about one of my young women at church.  Total downer of the day.  I tried to wrap up the phone call in the car, but the children were growing restless in the backseat, so we ventured inside, one kid in the cart, one hanging off the side, and my phone sandwiched between my shoulder and my ear.

We had only rounded the corner into the store when we spotted W's best friend from school.  What a nice surprise, right?  But alas, soon my bed-head pony tail became the least of my worries.  W spotted his buddy's special "Jake and the Neverland Pirates" prize in his buddy's cart, at which point our quick trip exploded.  Of course W wanted the toy just like his friend did.  But it wasn't a toy we were going to get today.  It was a big toy.  Something to be rewarded with.  Not a matchbox car or dollar bin find.  A big toy, and W wanted it.  And just like those cowboy boots, it couldn't be his.

For the proceeding 15 minutes while we were in the store, W screamed, kicked, threatened, cried, blocked the cart with his body, punched, blubbered, screamed some more, "asked nicely," and then screamed some more.  No doubt, he could be heard through the entire store.  I considered leaving, but I was there!  I had to get just a few things.  I was not going to be defeated by this almost-four-old little boy (read: little $#!+).  Just like this morning, no amount of soothing, distraction, or plans for a future toy for his birthday or completed chart could talk this boy down.  And he was letting me have it.

We waited our turn in the checkout line (why are there 20 lanes and only two or three open at a time?!) and W's fire was still going.  He hung on me, rolled between the cart and the chair, hit me and hung on me some more as he continued his screaming rant.

Somehow -- somehow! -- I was as cool as a cucumber through the whole thing.  Not insensitive or even ignorant of what was happening.  Just calm.  Anytime he addressed me as Mom, I responded as usual with a "Yes?," which was unfortunately always followed by more screaming.  But by some miracle, I never lost it.  I was keenly aware of all of the people we passed through the store (including another friend of mine -- that's two people when I never see any) who were likely thinking, "Just give the boy a toy."  Yet I never noticed anyone sternly staring at me or throwing quick judgement.  On the contrary.

As we were (finally!) checking out, the woman behind me sympathetically smiled.  "You're doing the right thing," she assured. "We've all been there.  Stay strong."  I was kind of taken aback; I didn't really  know what to say.  I sheepishly smiled and said thanks as I detached W from my mid-section and tried to put him back in cart.  I pulled away from the checkout and W took off in the opposite direction.  I gently told him it was time to go, which brought him screaming back to me, dodging people in the crowded checkout area.  As I turned ahead to go out, another woman, pushing her own cart with a small child in it, pat me on the shoulder and said, "Can I just tell you you're doing a good job?"  Her eyes were sincere.  There was no judgement or pity, just camaraderie and support.  The lump in my throat swelled and I couldn't say anything back.  I mouthed a thank-you and headed for those big, red automatic doors.

We proceeded through the parking lot just as we did the store:  screaming and kicking child, stoic-faced mother, and confused little girl who just wanted her graham crackers.  The woman in the checkout line took my cart back to the cart coral after after I unloaded the contents in my car.  And sad little W kept on screaming.  Again, I don't think this woman felt bad for me; I think she just felt empathy.

I got in the car and heaved a big sigh, blinked hard and wiped away the tears that had escaped.  I told Winston I was so glad that I loved him as much as I do.  Then I thanked God for those women who gave me the pep talk I really needed today.  I'm certainly not perfect, but I can do this and I can do a good job at it.

I have no idea who these women are, and it doesn't matter.  They've been there.  They've done this.  They've felt the same way a mother feels when her feelings of love are conflicted between limits and acquiescence.  I am so glad I don't have to do this alone.  I am so lucky to have a good mom, mother-in-law, sisters, friends and kind strangers in the store to learn from and do this with me.

About 20 minutes after pulling away from the store, we arrived at that gritty repair shop and prepared to wait.  Maybe it was seeing the look-alike Mater as we pulled into the parking lot, but Winston was back to his kind, happy, funny self.  We waited -- happily -- in the customer lounge without even a complaint.  He was fine.  I was fine.  Life was going on.  And we were happy.


Libby said...

Woof! Good job gal.

This mom-job of ours is kind of a deuce sometimes. Keep on truckin'!

Christie said...

You. Are. Such. A. Good. Mom.

Way to go, friend. Lesser women have crumbled under such days.

Anonymous said...

Loved reading this. Such good writing and such a good story. You rock, Katie. ~ Ben M (posting as anonymous bc I'm too lazy to sign in.)

*Elizabeth* said...

This made ME tear up! You are such a great writer. Man tough days happen. Way to handle it with style and grace (even in your bed-head pony tail!) haha. I haven't looked at blogs in AGES, but I am glad I saw this one =)

Lizbeth said...

seriously, you are such an amazing writer katie! I could read your words all day long. oh and you're a pretty dang good mom, too, btw.

Nancy said...

Oh, the jjoys and challenges of being a Mom.
You are a wonderful Mom and a great daughter.
Thanks for sharing!
Love, Mom