Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Summertime Blues

My blog was off to a really good start - but I haven't been writing a lot lately. Wanna know why? It's hotter than shit outside. Yeah, you heard me right. Unbearable. I've been watching myself and my family closely, and clearly, it's affecting us.

I grew up in northeast Oklahoma. I remember sitting in my windowseat as a moody teenager, looking out at a sky that could be gray with rain for days. I'd feel as depressed as you can feel at 15, 16, 17...and I always felt like the weather had so much to do with it. If only it was sunny all the time, I wouldn't feel so down.

Well let me tell you, 360 days of sun a year isn't necessarily the answer. It is nasty hot right now, and there is just no positive spin you can put on it. I don't care how healthy you are, the heat saps you dry.

This evening was especially tough. I had been at work all day, then shuttled Olivia back and forth from camp to dance class in this wicked heat, all in heels and my dress clothes. Came home, cleaned up the messy house that my two boys who sit at home all day and do nothing but play video games did not bother to clean up when they left to play at a friends' house, then cooked dinner over a hot stove. Now, I know that we all need to have quality time with our kids at the end of the day. But I needed to SIT. I needed to put my ass in front of an air conditioning vent and sit, just for a few minutes. I knew that if I didn't, I would completely blow my stack at the smallest thing.

It all started when Olivia asked me for some ice cream. I told her no...we don't automatically do dessert every night in our house. It's a special treat. Plus it would require me getting my butt off of the couch, and I felt that it (my butt) so richly deserved to be right where it was. But she knew there was ice cream in the freezer, and she thought she was going to stand her ground until she got some.

Now Larry and I are trying really hard not to negotiate with her any more - to make our decision, stand by it, and not allow her to keep bugging us about it. She doesn't need complicated, multiple explanations - the answer is simply "no", and she needs to learn to accept it.

So the new tactic is that, once she has figured out we aren't going to budge or argue about it, she will either pick something else that she wants that she knows she has a better shot at, or go into a full blown meltdown as a last ditch effort. Tonight, it was meltdown.

I stayed remarkably calm, however, ignoring the continued pleas for ice cream and telling her that she needs to go upstairs and put on her pajamas. Crying and whining continues. I resort to 1-2-3 Magic.

"Olivia," I say with as much patience as I can muster, "You need to go upstairs and put on your pajamas. If you don't, I'm going to start counting. And if I get to three, you are going to have a time out in your room with the door closed." She hates - and I mean hates - to be alone in her room with the door closed. I freely admit that I use it to my full advantage.

She is sobbing, the fake annoying forced sobs, and saying something about wanting to go to Sunsplash. She's clearly figured out she's not getting the ice cream and is grasping at straws, suffering from heat stroke, tired, I don't know what. I just know it was worse than usual. She is a stubborn control freak (hmm, I know, no idea where that comes from), and when she's this wound up, she refuses to do what I want her to do, no matter what. Time to count.

"One." I hold up one finger. Continued sobs, some "noooo"s, "I don't want to"s, as she stubbornly sits still on the couch.

"Two." I hold up two fingers. "You need to follow your daddy upstairs and put on your jammies, now."

90% of the time, number two is the limit. Oh, she'll stomp off with a horrible mad face, but she will go do what she's been told to do. Not tonight. She got louder. I looked her in the eye. I know that I can't back down now, and my mommy sense is telling me that if I get to three, this is going to get ugly. I wait a little longer than I should, willing her to go, giving her every last opportunity to make the right choice.

"Three. Daddy, take her upstairs."

You'd think she was headed to San Quentin. Daddy scoops her up as she wails at the top of her lungs, her two brothers looking on in awe at a spectacle that they never dreamed was possible. I often wonder what they are thinking...should I have tried that once or twice? I wonder what it's like to go balls to the wall crazy? They never, ever threw tantrums like this, and they must be feeling a little bit like they missed out on something, despite the fact that Mom and Dad are ready to explode.

I won't give you the blow-by-blow, but that girl screamed in her room for a good 20 to 30 minutes. She was calmly told that as soon as she put on her pajamas, she could come back downstairs. But she flatly refused. Between sobs, I heard everything from "I won't put on my pajamas" to "I'm scared" to "Mommy, you don't love me anymore" to "I've been crying for 30 minutes!" to "I'm going to be up here forever" to "I'm going to DIE in here!". Honestly, it got to the point where Larry and I were cracking up downstairs. But we stood our ground.

Eventually she put on the pajamas, and just like good 1-2-3 Magic-ers, we didn't say anything else about it. Please, god, tell me this was all worth it and that we won't go through it again. You give her a kiss goodnight and see genuine remorse in her eyes and wonder, could I have done something differently to avoid all this? Being a parent is, by far, the hardest job on the planet.

And my point remains. This heat puts us all on edge. We all have to sit and fester in the house together while the plants turn to sandpaper outside. We find outlets now and then, but in reality, at the end of a long work day that is at the tail end of the pay period when there isn't extra cash for a movie or a trip to the mall, you just gotta go to your own corners and co-exist as best you can.


Larry said...

Honey We did the right thing... and if you need to decompress try a float in the pool. It worked for me last night.


Jennie Leeeeeeeeeee said...

Again, I relate so well. That's why I love your blog...life with Olivia appears to have a lot of similarities with life with Eliza and Bonnie. We will go to five and we so rarely get to five...but when we do...oh man, tears and tantrums. Within an hour things are usually back to as if nothing ever happened.