Thursday, August 21, 2008

Psycho Kiddies, qu' es-ce que c'est?

Nobody tells you when you have a child that children are psycho.

I don't mean all the time.

But I do mean when they're hungry, tired, or anywhere in the vicinity of bedtime.

Last night, Thing 2 went into her nightly nuts routine. It happened pretty much on cue, right around the time it was politely suggested to her that it was time to get into pajamas. This was the signal she was waiting for. Suddenly she was on the floor, kicking and flailing, making contradictory and nonsensical demands ("Button my buttons" on the dress she was already wearing and needing to take off, "I wanna do it myself," "I want mommy to do it," "I want daddy," etc.). Any attempt by mommy or daddy to touch her or comply with one of her requests was met with a "Noooooo!" and more thrashing about. Forcible attempts to remove clothing didn't work; gently coaxed efforts finally succeeded in getting her naked. But then there was the issue of taking off the underwear and putting on the pull-ups, which mommy and daddy still require Thing 2 (and Thing 1 for that matter) to wear at night, to avoid a wet bed. Said pull-ups are "too squishy" and were unacceptable unless flat from the package. When a pull-up deemed worthy was located and donned, the next power struggle began, over the mandatory tooth-brushing. At this point, mommy and daddy pretty much gave up.

Oddly enough, the storm passed of its own accord a mere moment or two later. Perhaps the tipping point occurred when Thing 2 noticed the calm, ready-for-bed Thing 1 contentedly doing a puzzle with mommy. Perhaps it was simply that the fit had run its course. But no sooner than Thing 2 began to horn in on the puzzle activity than Thing 1 went from content to crazy in mere seconds. The tantrum's trigger? Natch, it was Thing 2's desire to share in the puzzle fun. Thing 1 wanted the puzzle to his own little self.

There was more sturm and drang, but finally mommy was able to mediate a sharing solution that seemed to pacify all parties. The kids then played as sweetly and politely as a couple of proper English children at a white glove tea party.


Even after 3-plus years into this parenting thing, I do not understand how children can be adorable, kind, gentle, huggy, kissable, squeezable munchkins saying "I wuv you" in that soft, quiet, tender way that makes you melt ... and seconds later, turn into Israeli commandos who'll stop at nothing to defend the Holy Land, even if that Holy Land is a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse 24-piece puzzle of a pastoral picnic scene featuring Mickey, Donald, Minnie, Goofy and Pluto.

What goes on in those developing brains, anyway?

I once saw an interview with the creators of SOUTH PARK, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, in which they explained that, contrary to the prevailing opinion that kids are born innocent and sweet, they're actually born selfish and mean. I don't subscribe to that view, but there are moments when I can see a little of Eric Cartman in each of my kids ... and while I enjoy the antics of Eric Cartman, I prefer them on screen. Parenting Eric Cartman would be hell.

I'm continually amazed at how suddenly the psycho behavior takes hold; how intense it is; and how it can end just as suddenly as it began. Sure I try to avoid the obvious triggers -- the aforementioned "too hungry" and "too tired" symptoms that are often the precursors of a full-on psycho episode. But let's face it, you can't avoid bedtime. Sometime soon, Thing 2 is gonna have to learn to get ready for bed without the pj request prompting an attack of the crazies.

I find myself repeating my new mantra: Ignore and Endure. That is, when I'm not succumbing to the temptation to scream at the kids, and have the self-control to temporarily leave the room. (One mom friend manages by breathing into a paper bag.)

I know I must've had my psycho moments, and now I imagine that somewhere, my late mom is probably keeping score, tabulating my own kids' fits and cheering them on, knowing they've still got far to go to equal what I put her through.

Payback's a bitch, mom. But really: was I this bad?

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