Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Restraint Collapse

David went to the Cardinals game this evening. I thought I'd have a "girls night" at home with the girls, get them to bed nice and early (they've been dragging in the mornings), and then settle down in front of Queer Eye to grade a few writing assignments.

Things were moving right along. We made it to ballet on time and Zuzu went right into the class even though it was a teacher she's less familiar with. (Backstory: Zuzu and Coco's classes are offered in two rooms at the dance studio at the same time. The owner of the studio and her sister switch classes each week, taking turns teaching the 3-4 year olds and the 5-6 year olds. When David took Zuzu two weeks ago, they arrived a couple minutes late, the class had started, it was the teacher she doesn't know as well, and she refused to go in.)

I graded a few assignments in the ballet waiting room and then the girls finished up with class and we headed out. I needed to stop and get gas on the way home, but that should not have been a big deal.

Coco has been working on sounding out letters and reading really simple books (simple like: Mat sat. Sam sat. Mat sat on Sam. Sam sat on mat. Mat sat. Sam sat. The End.). She sounds out every single letter instead of just reading the word and she is VERY proud of herself. So she starts reading this book called Mat to me in the car and then Zuzu wanted to read it but Coco didn't want to share it and they were bickering and I wasn't really paying attention to what was going on because UGH the bickering let's just tune that out. Then Zuzu was rolling down the window and loosening her car seat harness which she KNOWS will get a huge reaction from me because it's unsafe (the carseat, not the window--the window is just annoying).

So I'm trying to sternly tell Zuzu no Harry Potter tonight unless she fixes her seatbelt immediately and I'm trying to get the bickering to settle down. I really have no idea why Zuzu was having this extreme angry reaction to not being able to read Mat. (And Coco did end up giving it to her because Coco always caves!).

Anyway, I'm putting gas in the car and Zuzu decides to screw Mat and get out of her carseat and JUMP OUT OF THE CAR AND RUN.

I was completely beside myself. This was a bustling gas station parking lot on the corner of a busy intersection. WHAT THE HELL. What do you do when your SIX YEAR OLD kid bolts at a gas station? Do you let them go? Do you scream at them in your scariest voice? Do you risk being the abusive-looking parent, chasing and grabbing your kid by the arm?

Spoiler: I did the chase and arm grab because it felt too dangerous to let her go, but she circled the gas pump a couple of times before I managed to grab her. I was furious.

I've been repeating this parenting mantra to myself: They never listen to what we say, but they always imitate how we act.

I was TRYING to keep this in mind as I got her back in the car by telling her that she was thisclose to not being able to go to a birthday party she was recently invited to. She did get back in the car, but she just sat on the floorboard and wouldn't get in her carseat. So we had a little standoff, which I won because I can sit in my car and scroll Instagram for longer than my kid wants to pout in the floorboard.

At any rate, we got home with everyone safely seatbelted and I naively assumed the evening was likely to improve from there.

Instead, after dinner, Zuzu and Coco decided to take their dot markers and dot on their faces. And MAYBE I overreacted to this, but seriously. A toddler draws on his or her face and it's cute. By first grade YOU KNOW BETTER. It was just so ridiculous and frustrating. So I told them NO, I took the markers and put them up, and I said we were going upstairs to wash their faces and get ready for bed.

And they ran from me.

This enrages me. It's the most obnoxious thing ever when they team up against me and try to turn it into a game of chase. It's so infuriating and I tend to get sucked into it so it gets a rise out of me, which is exactly what they want.

So tonight, I calmly told them that I was going to go upstairs and I wanted them to come upstairs and until they chose to do so, I'd be up there. THROWING AWAY THEIR TOYS. Except I said that part in a really calm voice, too.

Then I went up to Zuzu's room and started putting all the things they like in a laundry basket. Anna & Elsa dolls. Harry Potter book. Jeweled hairbrush. Bath toy mermaids. Knuffle Bunny book. ALL OF THE FAVORITES.

They came up and started freaking out. I carried the laundry basket to my room and put it on a dresser and calmly told them we needed to wash their faces and then maybe they could earn back these toys tomorrow by making better choices.

And did they say they were sorry and start cooperating?

No, my friends. Instead, Zuzu jumped up on my bed and Coco waited a split second and followed her. Then Coco followed Zuzu's lead again and copied her as they started THROWING PILLOWS AT ME.

Is this actually my life? Is this happening? Are my kids actually this horribly behaved?

I walked out of the bedroom because I thought I might lose my temper and I took some deep breaths in the hallway. Zuzu raced by me and inexplicably locked herself in her room.

This was my chance. Coco tried to open Zuzu's door, but it was locked, so when tried to avoid me by running into the bathroom, I managed to corner her there. Zuzu was blaring music in her room and I decided to ignore her. I got Coco stuck by the bathtub and used a wash cloth to wash the marker off her nose. But of course she was kind of fighting me, and as I knelt down to try to get all the marker off, she accidentally head-butted me. Hard.

And that was it. I actually started crying. It really hurt my cheekbone and I was SO FRUSTRATED and I didn't want to scream at my kids but I was at the end of my rope. So instead I cried. And Coco being Coco, when I started crying, she also burst into tears. I pulled it together quick and somehow, we got her teeth flossed and brushed and she apologized to me (still sniffling) and put her jammies and solidified Zuzu's role as Instigator and Coco's role as Faithful Follower.

Please note that while all of this was going down, Clementine ate a Cinderella doll, a fairy door (complete with ripping the 3M strip off the wall and damaging the paint), a plastic hanger, and another little doll that Coco said sadly was "Grammy's doll." WHO MAKES ME CRAZIER? THE DOG OR THE CHILDREN?

Coco lay down in bed and read me Mat again (I mean, how can you resist the lyrical prose?) and then mixed it up by reading Dot and Mit but that got a little too challenging so she asked me to finish it. (Spoiler: Mit is a cat.)

At this point, I heard Zuzu start crying, so I left Coco in her bed and went to check on Zuzu. She'd finally gotten tired of being in her room alone and agreed to let me wash her face. She brushed her teeth and settled down to read aloud another fascinating book of the non-fiction variety: Baby Birds. (Spoiler: Mother and father birds feed baby birds. Baby birds grow feathers on their bodies. Baby birds grow feathers on their wings.) I'll be honest: I LOVE that my children are starting to read, but these beginner reader books kind of hurt my soul.

At long last, both kids were asleep and they magically did that thing where they make me feel like I'm losing my mind and then I look at their sleeping faces and want to have like a dozen more babies.

I came downstairs to settle in and pick up with Hamlet writing assignments and queer eye, but the mess of magna tiles was driving me nuts, so I took a quick second to pick them up. I'm in the magna tile zone, stacking and clicking and putting them in the basket but then I saw something that didn't fit in the pile and the next thing I know, I'm HOLDING AN ACTUAL DOG TURD IN MY HAND.

I mean seriously. It's like I was being punked all freaking evening in my own house by my own family. A dog turd???

So here we are. Dog turd disposed of. Magna tiles put away. Horribly behaved children turned into sleeping beauties. Four more papers to grade. And tomorrow is another day.

And if tomorrow my children don't deliberately endanger their own lives in a busy parking lot, assault me with pillows, or head-butt me, and I don't end up holding a dog turd, then it will be a better day.

P.S. Restraint collapse refers to this phenomenon. We're feeling it hard right now.


  1. I'm so sorry that I laughed as much as I did, but I haven't laughed much in a long time and needed to read this <3 I totally relate to those days where the children conspire against me and I feel like I'm in a really cruel horror movie, but then they're asleep and it gets quiet and I see my future where they're grown and I'll actually miss the shit they put me through. Or so I tell myself.

  2. omg. that's a really rough night.

  3. Thank you so much for this post! And I thought we were the only family with these kinds of evening rituals. OK, so we do not have dog turd, but an invasion of fruit flies in the kitchen. And I just have one child, so I suppose it's 50% less strenous. But I too have a six year old in first grade and the restraint collapse is hitting hard. Is there also something similar for parents of first graders? My husband and I are really struggling with the new routines and are quite snappy as of late. I suppose we just have to give it some time... In all honesty, I will read your post to my husband this evening, because just yesterday we were having the does-this-happen-in-all-families?-chat, and I think he will be relieved to heard that we are not alone. :)

  4. I'm just deeply impressed with how hard you worked to keep your cool and remember that how you responded was important!! Nicely done!

  5. Ugh. I feel your pain. Kids can be such dicks sometimes :)

  6. Just wanted to say I laughed out loud so many times reading this that I thought I was going to wake up my family. I hope you have a better day tomorrow, Brooke. :-) (And thank you for reminding me that I am not alone in dealing with outrageous child antics. Zuzu is going to be a revolutionary someday, and I think my son may be her lieutenant...)

  7. Oh, we are feeling restraint collapse so, so, so hard right now, too. I appreciate the honesty of this post; parenting is HARD. Fist bump.

  8. That sounds really frustrating, Brooke. I hope the weekend is going better.

  9. You are a saint. I would have lost my shit and screamed my head off. And given away the dog.

  10. We have all been there. Mine also conspire against me and it drives me batty. Hopefully it means they will be best friends for life which is a good thing.