I haven’t blogged in about a week. I promise I’ve tried. I’ve written entire blog posts and reread them and thought, “No one will want to read these.” Then I thought to myself, “If I didn’t post a blog every time I thought it was not entertaining or interesting, I guess I’d never post.” So here goes.
I met a mom at the YMCA before I had a job in Hotlanta and described to her my situation. She said, “Do you babysit?” And ever since then I’ve had a steady “clientele,” if you will, of families for whom I babysit once a month or so. They are all pretty upper- to upper-middle-class families, with super large houses, Ikea kitchens, cleaning ladies, and interior decorations done by professionals. They’re like those families you see on TV.
Anyway, I was babysitting the other night for a family. The mom works at a furniture/interior design store. The dad is a chef and owns his own restaurant. They have a son who is 8 and a daughter who is 3. The son takes fencing classes and the daughter is a ballerina princess. At least that’s what she thinks she is.
The dad works nights because… well that’s when people visit his restaurant. The mom works days. So, when she wants to get a break or hang out with her friends, it’s usually on a Friday night. This particular Friday, the 8 year old son was staying at a friend’s house, so it was just me and the 3 year old. As soon as I realized this, I figured this night would be a piece of cake. It’s always the 3 year old that demands the most attention anyway.
I brought some craft stuff over so we could make Valentines. I made dinner, which for her is usually macaroni and cheese, a cheese and re-fried bean quesadilla, (I could not imagine myself eating re-fried beans at 3, or even now for that matter, yuck, if they didn’t fry them right the first time, why eat re-fried?), or Spanish rice. Apparently, feeding a 3 year old is hard because they’re so picky…
Then mom leaves, and she’s fine. No crying. We eat dinner and play a game with hula hoops that she makes up. Then I decide to start with the Valentine’s. I show her how we make them, and we get started. I am talking to her the whole time about how she can make one for mommy, and one for daddy, and one for her brother. Then, out of nowhere, the staggered breathing starts. Then comes the little whine, “I want my mommy and daddy.” Then the full on crying.
Now, I realize that she’s not had a nap that day, and that her bedtime is getting fairly close. I figure I’ll get her to finish her Valentine and then it’s off to bed. As soon as this thought runs through my head, the screaming starts.
This little 3 year old is screaming so loudly and so painfully, I am certain the neighbors are going to call the police because they think I’m torturing her. I do what I figure is best. I mean, you can’t rationalize with a tired toddler. So I ignore her, in true Carolyn fashion. I figure she can’t go on like this for an extended period of time. She’ll wear herself out, and then it’ll be a matter of carrying her upstairs and putting her to bed.
I wait it out… for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, she’s totally forgotten that I’m there and is just listening to herself scream. She’s yelling, “I want mommy and daddy” all the different ways she can, in all kinds of different tones, “I WANT mommy and DADDY!” “i want MOMMY AND daddy.” “I WANT MOMMY and DADDY!” You get the picture.
Then she remembered I was there. She waddled over to me, eyes red and swollen from crying, snot running down her face, and screaming right in my ear. “I WANT mommy and DADDDDDY!”
I consider myself a fairly patient person. That’s a lie, but I was really trying with this one. And that made me snap out of ignore mode. I said calmly but sternly, making sure not to yell back, “Hey! I do not yell at you, and you do not yell at me.”
So I took her to her room and made her sit in time out by herself. After about 5 minutes, I made her change into her pajamas and get in bed. I usually have to lay with her until she falls asleep which can range from 30 minutes to an hour. Tonight though, she was gone in 5 minutes.
When her mom got home later that night, I said, “I don’t negotiate with terrorists and toddlers.” And then she informed me that I should change my mind about having kids because I’d be such a good mom.
Being a parent must be the most thankless job on earth. All that ungratefulness and anger that kids get from various sources gets piled up on you because you’re the only one they know who can take it all.
I read an article yesterday about why toddlers have tantrums. Something about their prefrontal cortexes are still just mush which is great for language development, but bad for emotional stability.
Lots of people commented that kids just needed more structure, fewer options, more naps, a “woodshed” (kinda antiquated, no?), etc.
I’m just glad I get paid to be a mini-mom on certain nights, and I get to give it up when the night’s over. I cannot imagine what moms and dads go through to make tiny irrational human beings into functioning adults.