It’s been a hard day.
It’s only noon, but I’m calling it early.
My daughter is cutting her 2 year molars and has been very grumpy all morning. After lunch I tried to cuddle her for a while and put her down for a nap. That lasted for about 10 minutes before there was an explosive dirty diaper and she needed to be changed, so we started the cuddle and sing routine all over again & she finally settled down.
Then I felt bad because Nicholas, although I had almost always been in the same room with him, hadn’t had a lot of attention all morning, so I went into the living room to ask if he wanted to read a book with me.
He didn’t answer, all I got from him was a deer-in-headlights look.
I’d caught him red-handed.
Permanent marker. (Again!)
And in my mind I screamed, “Are you *#@!ing kidding me?! You just did this like two weeks ago, you little $#@%!” but not in real life. In real life I said nothing as I realized that this time it was not just on the flatscreen tv like the last time. Nope, this time in addition to being on the tv, it was on the hardwood floors, the microfiber couch, the coffee table, his hands, his clothes, the entertainment center, two sippy cups and the doll carriage Abby got for Christmas.
He had only been alone for about 5 minutes.
Luckily, the last time this happened my Aunt Carol told us to try using toothpaste to get it out and it had worked.
The toothpaste trick worked on the hardwood floors, the tv, and kind of worked on his hands. I haven’t even tried to get it out of the fabrics yet and I don’t really care about the Craigslist coffee table. The special cleaner they gave us at Bon Ton got about 85% of it out of the couch.
I actually found myself grateful that at least this time it wasn’t poop. Come to think of it, there hasn’t been any fecal smearing around here for a few months. Progress.
He watched as I cleaned everything and he cried and told me he was sorry. He was terrified his daddy would be mad. “Will he still give me a kiss when he comes home?” was yelled over and over again by the almost-4-year-old with the tear streaked face, blue hands, and ruined pajamas. “Nicholas, I don’t know. He will probably be mad and he might not give you a kiss, but he will still love you.” I was curt and cool, and I did spank him. (If you want to call one half-hearted swat on top of a pull-up and pajamas a “spanking.” Personally, I’m still completely torn about the spanking issue, but if a child was to ever get a spanking, this seemed to be the appropriate time.) Then I made him tell me he was sorry, we said a prayer & I told him that even though I was mad I still loved him, and he has been in his room ever since. At first he was crying, then I think he slept a little. Now he is just humming to himself.
It’s not about the punishment. It’s about my stamina and being able to prove over and over again that no matter what you do, Little One, you cannot break my love for you. I know you have been left before and you are broken. You are scared. You may be strong, but I am stronger. I’ve got my heels dug in now and I’m staying. Forever.
Jenny McCarthy would call me a Warrior Mom.
Amy Chua would say that I am not a Tiger Mother.
but I’m just a mom.
Nick’s third mom.
I could be angry about the stuff, but today I’m not.
I could have yelled and said hurtful things and scarred a tiny soul, already bruised, but today I didn’t.
Instead, I’m just tired. I thought about my Mommom and the time my sister accidentally broke a family heirloom. The time I expected her to be angry, but instead she said, “It’s just a candy dish, your sister is a child.”
It was an important life lesson. One that most children would only need to learn once.
My son is not most children.
Before I became a mother I sat, numerous times, with social workers who asked what we would do in hypothetical situations such as these. Could we handle it? Once we were asked what we would do if our child purposefully threw a baseball through our tv. Our generic answer was that we would get a new tv.
It feels different in real life, when that child has been yours for several years now and you know that they know better. It feels different when he only does it when he is alone with you, so you are left to deal with the consequences all by yourself.
It is the hardest thing I will ever do and sometimes I make mistakes. With Abby there is more room for error, we are all she has ever known. With Nicholas I need to be more calculated.
I have decided this is the hierarchy of needs for our family.
It is true that discipline comes last in my house.
You might think that’s the wrong way to fight this battle.
That’s probably why God and a team of social workers chose me instead.