No, I’m not talking about a night back in ’63. I’m talking about a night with two three-year olds. Everything started well enough. We picked up two happy boys from day care and had a quiet ride home. As we neared the house Zach started talking about his man’s helmet being behind the toy bin in the back seat. “Ok,” I say, “we’ll look for it when we get home.” Zach has been into Lego men lately and enjoys taking them apart. He brought one into the car a few days ago and lost his black helmet almost immediately. The helmet hasn’t been found, but I figured he’d taken the head off and was referring to that.
Sure enough there was a little yellow head on the floor when we got home. I gave it to him thinking everything would be great.. and then it happened. He still wanted to look behind the bin. No helmet. I reminded him that we’d lost the helmet and that we could find another Lego man when we came inside. No dice. He wanted to look. So I left him in the car (with the door open) and went inside. He burst into a complete meltdown, screaming about this helmet that he hadn’t talked about in three days. Sally tried to help him by looking in the car. No luck. GiGi tried to help him. Nada.
Eventually he calmed down and came inside and all was well. I was busy making the boys eggs and toast for dinner and didn’t really notice. Once dinner was ready I brought it to the dining room table and summoned the boys. I started cooking my fish while they ate their dinner. Or so I thought. Instead of eating their dinner, they were playing with the decorative fruit basket on the table. They were in and out of their chairs. In the dining room. In the kitchen. In the dining room. In the kitchen. No eating was happening. We reminded them that they had to eat soon or we would take the food away. Adam burnt his mouth on a sausage link (I think) and went into a fit of tears, gulps, and hyperventilation. Zach continued to play around and not eat.
After about 25 minutes of non-dinner, I took Zach’s plate away. Tantrum. He screamed at the top of his lungs that he wanted his dinner back. Up to his room for a chat with Mom. Adam ate a bit more and Zach eventually returned. We asked him one more time about dinner and he said he was done. Great. Let’s move on. Outside we go. Everyone got ready just fine and we went out. They boys wanted to wear their superhero capes; Zach wore his Superman mask and Adam wore his ski goggles. They grabbed an umbrella and walked through the yard with it while Sally leveled loam and I planted grass seed and watered the sod around our new patio.
Things were good again. We were feeling OK. Then Adam pushed Zach in the Jeep and Zach started pushing the Jeep while Adam was trying to drive it and Adam squawked about this and Zach squawked about that. Finally they split up and all was fine again. A few minutes went by and Adam decided to push his lawn mower over the sod that I had told him to stay off of four times already. Time for an outdoor time out on the stoop. That didn’t go over well. He turned hysterical, screaming that he was ready to talk. I told him that he’d be free to go if he quieted down for one minute.
After five minutes of screaming, outside time was over. Zach went in and Adam stayed on the stoop whining. I reminded him that he would have had more time to play if he’d calmed down but he didn’t want to hear it. I asked him to come in and he refused, still telling me that he wanted to be out of time out. Then he stood up and pretended that he couldn’t walk as he typically does during a tantrum. I picked him up and quietly brought him upstairs to his bedroom for a cool down session. I closed the door as he screamed hysterically.
By that time Zach was in the bathtub and needed some water so I filled the tub and made lots of bubbles for him to play in. I went back upstairs to gather Adam, who was still screaming, whining, coughing, and going nuts. I decided to change my strategy a bit and try to reason with him. I told him he could come downstairs and take a bath. He said he couldn’t get out of his bed. I reasoned with him some more until he awkwardly crawled to the edge of the bed and put one foot on the floor, and then another… and another. Eventually I got him into the hallway and went downstairs. He was angry that I wouldn’t carry him so he sat on the second stair from the top and squawked for five minutes.
After twenty minutes of trying different things – picking him up off the stairs, playing music, asking what he wanted to do with his stuffed animals, talking about a bath – he finally calmed down enough to take his next dose of Advil. He has a terrible ear infection by the way so that made things even better. By this time Zach was out of the bathtub and there were 10 minutes to go before bed. Now, after 40 minutes of fighting, Adam finally wanted a bath. Let’s just say he wasn’t too happy when he found out that he wouldn’t be getting one. Tantrum. Upstairs.
The rest of the night is a blur. Zach had another tantrum with Sally that resulted in him being upstairs screaming his head off. Adam ended up downstairs again and Sally tried to give him a quick bath but he freaked out when he found out that she wasn’t going to do bubbles. Tantrum. Back upstairs. Zach calmed down again and brushed his teeth while Adam was still screaming. Adam tried the same but couldn’t keep it together so we went back into the room. There were some books and some reading and finally bed.
The last hour and a half of the evening was so absolutely tiring. It was just fight after fight after fight. We handled it the best we could – we didn’t yell and we stayed firm. The phase they are going through is tough. We don’t accept rude behavior in our household, regardless of whether you are healthy or sick. Adam may have had more of an issue because of his ear, but that is no excuse to be a jerk to everyone. Zach has been having explosions lately and the only way to control them and teach him boundaries is to be firm.
The boys do some adorable and amazing things. They also do some crappy stuff. Some nights are fantastic and there are no issues. Some nights we don’t fight as hard and give in a bit. Other nights we put our feet down and it’s long and painful. It can be frustrating and sometimes you just want to give up, but you won’t because they are your children. A few hours will pass, you’ll cool down, and you won’t care any more. You’ll think of all of the amazing things they do and it won’t matter. It’s all part of growing up. This parenting stuff ain’t easy.