This is how it went down:
Friday before present day: went to dinner with husband’s clients. 5 year old was the worst version of his busy, fabulous self I have ever seen. I imagine you can imagine what this might look like since you have children of your own. But I will say it included climbing over restaurant furniture, under restaurant furniture, shakers being shook all about, stuffed animals being thrown, kicking, whining and looks of “mom, this will be the hardest night to date, but I still love you.” I know why there is a CPS. There are moments we all need rules to follow when we are thinking we might want to pull out our kids’ nose hairs one by one and feed them the hairs for dinner, that’s all and no more… just little bitty tickly buggar hairs. And maybe leave the misbehaving child at the restaurant afterwards.
Wed after Friday but before present day: second or third email this week from my 8 year old’s teacher citing behavioral infractions such as my son laying across a chair during tutoring so that the teacher offered up detention as an option before my son decided to sit up and do handwriting. This AFTER a day of not finishing anything in the classroom and having to stay in from recess every day that week.
Personal Intervention Day, present day: the day I brought both my boys home from school, asked them to play in the backyard, so I wouldn’t have to worry about the front yard issues of abduction, cars crashing, etc. They would be safe and contained so I could watch an episode of Supernanny, which I had previously scoffed at as a show for “dysfunctional, crazy mofo families”, not us. I felt it was time for a personal intervention as my parenting had become outdated, ineffective and the cause of my recent desire to give up parenting for something like song-writing or horse stall cleaner at a farm or really anything but what I was doing.
Beginning of Culmination: I am in the family room, literally fifteen feet from the open back door, which opens out to our yard. I can hear everything.
Less than an hour later: I go out to tell my kids to come in, the show’s over. It was time to start homework. And I realize it is too late for an intervention. I cannot even muster a yell. I well up with emotion, my fists clench, and then I let my body go. My voice sounded like that of an angel’s, but it was more realistically like a woman who had given up, who was so profoundly lost and so completely overwhelmed that she could do nothing but whisper.
“What are YOU doing???”
Both boys looked at me, truly unsure at this moment what I might be upset about. I will never know if they didn’t realize they should be in trouble or if they weren’t sure which infraction I might be bringing up first. I sensed no real urgency from them, and I asked again. This is usually the point my oldest starts talking very quickly about what he is doing to rectify the current situation, so as to avoid my long-winded rebuke.
“WHAT are YOU doing???” Usually I might start raving about all the dangerous things I saw. But I was so weighted by the fact that I was literally fifteen feet away from them, listening the whole time, watching them in the glass of the back doors, trying to glean—parenting advice. I had seen them climbing the terraces, but it looked mildly harmless. How had they done SO many dangerous and irritating things while I was RIGHT there!!! And how were any of us going to make it!!! And how could there be no time for parenting interventions!
There was a 20 foot extension cord going from the house to underneath the trampoline, with 4 plugs, plugged into it, all electrical pieces in the moist grass. They had a remote helicopter, a lamp, and a couple other things that I may have forgotten because it was too traumatic. And my 5 year old is inside the pool gate. My 8 year old is trying to find something high enough to get him out before I see. At this point, need I mention that every cereal box in the entire house was in the back yard and half emptied on the grass. I am pinching myself.
Electricity in the grass X 4 items (where did they find a cord and how did they get it by me?) On a scale of 1-10, how bad is electricity in the wet grass outside?
Why are they playing UNDER the trampoline? (an important rule of mine)
Why is my 5 year old in the pool area??? (biggest problem I see!)
Why is there a cereal buffet in my back yard, none of which is in the boxes they were brought out in?
Why was I not called to assist in any way?
We were worse than the family I just watched on Supernanny. We were the family that gets picked for Supernanny because they have no idea why their lives are so chaotic, and they have no idea how to fix it. I quietly told my children that all I saw was danger all around me. And if I ever saw this again, they would be without playtime for the next ten years. I am not sure if I can enforce that, but Supernanny says not to offer up a punishment if you are not willing to follow through on it. So I think I will.
Bottom line: It is nothing short of a miracle that little boys make it through childhood. It is no accident that mothers of little boys have strange tics and twitches and shaking hands. And it is no wonder that Supernanny is in business still. Those of us who once felt a slight bit powerful in this world, who felt hard work or strength of character, intelligence or flexibility would get them through life’s challenges—now feel as though the dish of humility and weakness has been served cold. Tastes bad, smells bad, and requires further skill sets. I have put some new forms of discipline into place in our house, none of which is more yelling or threatening. I am learning to simplify, talk less and expect the most of them. I am learning that I will never be out of the woods on danger, and I will never understand how I ended up being the worst parent some days. But I am also grateful for each day we have together. And I hope to one day be able to go out to eat again, although it won’t be for a long, long time. And I am happy to share my nose hair appetizer with anyone who needs it. (wink, wink)