A few mornings ago, my usually laid-back third child woke up on the proverbial "wrong" side of the bed, and his incessant whining throughout the day reached epic levels.
"I don't want this cereal!"
"I wanna play outside...why can't weeeeeee?!?!?"
"Why can't we go to the pool, Mooooommmm?!?!"
"My brothers are annoying me!!!"
"I wanna eat again!!!"
"I hate this rain!!!"
"Pleeeeeaaasssse can I have some ice cream!!! I don't care if it's almost dinnnnnnneeeerrrr!!!"
I understand that they are plenty of things for my 5-year old boy to complain about. He has a limited number of chores to do. His daily itinerary is: eat, play, go to the bathroom, play, eat, bathroom, play, eat, sleep. Three meals and several delicious snacks are prepared for him each day when he is hungry. Someone is available at his polite request when he needs his shoes tied. Or assistance putting on his bicycle helmet. Or to play Pokemon cards with him. (Even though the word, "Pokemon" should really stand for, "Poke-my-eyeballs-out-because-it's-so-hellaciously-boring".) Or as of 2:30 p.m. on August 5, 2010, when he needs his butt wiped. (Although we're working on that. Kindergarten starts in a few weeks.)
It's a rough life, I tell you.
Sorry. My eyeballs just rolled so far back in my head that I needed a moment to readjust them to the screen.
We all need to complain now and again. We are human. We get grumpy. As far as whining children go, I am no stranger to that rodeo. If I had a meltdown every time one of my children whined, then I would have lost it years ago.
9-1/2 years ago, to be exact.
In other words, I can deal. And by "deal", I mean "ignore". In fact, if there was an Olympics for ignoring the incessant whines of my children, I would be all, "EAT MY DUST, MICHAEL PHELPS."
My standard line is, "I'll talk to you when you're not whining about it, and when you can ask nicely." Then I repeat. And repeat again.
You've been there.
Yesterday I put up with my boy's whining from the moment he woke up until the moment his head hit the pillow. I cut him slack because he was tired. But by 8:30 p.m., as I was giving him a bath, he started whining about the new shampoo I just purchased.
"Whyyyyy didn't you buyyyy the other flavor of shampooooooo?!?!? I don't like the way this one smellllllllls!!!"
I should have ignored his whines and kept scrubbing his little head. After all, his bedtime was mere moments away. I could see it on the horizon.
I was almost to the finish line.
Don't feed the monster, Clare. Just don't do it.
Instead, I extended my right index finger, placed it under his chin and turned it upwards, facing me. I stared him straight in the face and screamed, (yes, I said, "screamed", and not "yelled") "LISTEN! I AM SICK, SICK, SICK OF YOUR WHINING TODAY! SICK! OF! IT! I HAVE HAD ENOUGH! ENOUGH OF ALL YOUR WHINING!!!"
My son waited a beat and then his small body started heaving with sobs. Embarrassingly, My first thought was, "Good. That'll teach him not to whine ALL. THE. LIVE. LONG. FREAKIN'. DAY."
But mere seconds later, I felt like complete and total crap.
Like I said. It's not my proudest moment.
I am not a quiet mother. I am not some wilting flower that pleads in a soft voice, "Please kids. Listen to mommy. Please do what I say."
I am better than that. I can do better than that.
Two wrongs don't make a right. They just make for one crying boy, and one mom who feels like an ass.
He was still crying as I dried him off with a towel. I was too angry and fed up to speak coherently, so I sent him off to his room to put on his pajamas. As I was pulling the drain out of the tub to empty the soapy water, I overheard his older brother in the hallway asking him, "Hey. What's wrong with you?"
My 5-year old's reply was curt. "I hate Mommy. She's mean and she scared me."
Again. I'm no stranger to the, "I hate Mommy" rodeo. It happens in this job. I am perfectly willing to be temporarily hated if I have to dole out a punishment that is going to make my child a better person in the end. I have been hated for taking away Nintendo DS', Wiis, TV time, outside play time, and play dates.
But this? Now I'm being hated for scaring my boy, and for obvious reasons, that feels beyond awful.
As I tucked him into his bed that night, he was still crying. I kissed him and I told him I loved him. I told him I was sorry for screaming at him, but I qualified it by telling him he shouldn't whine so much either. He wouldn't look at me, and I left it at that.
This mama doesn't grovel. I apologize, resolve to do better and move on.
And of course, true to form, I felt guilty about it my head for all night. Lucky for Bill, he gets to hear all about it.
Yet another perk of being married to me.
When my son woke the next morning, I expected the cold shoulder. Instead, he came bounding in my room as usual with a hug and a cheerful, "Mornin', Mommy. Can we watch a show together?"
All was forgotten.
I kissed his cheek and replied simply, "Sure. What do you want to watch?"
If only adults could be as resilient as kids.
I let myself off the hook.