I'll pat myself on the back for being very self-aware and recognizing that I am the one who sets the tone (thank you, Positive Parenting Challenge, for the reminders) and I am always in control of how a situation is going to go, because I am armed with knowledge and foresight and planning capability.
AFTER I give myself a stern talking-to for completely ignoring my instincts and knowledge and foresight. When a parent ignores that instinct, things can frequently go wrong.
Here's how it all went down. The new member blessing and congregational picnic at our synagogue was this evening, and we were excited to go. Particularly once we got there and learned that the menu included both hot dogs and Rita's ice. Thinking about it, though, since the service took place before the meal, we decided that just The Boy and I would attend, and Daddy would take Meatball out somewhere else special. And Grandma and Grandpa could actually have a quiet house for an evening.
I should mention that Musical Daddy and I worked today. It was nice--we got to work together. We arrived home from work around 4:15 and found the boys playing in the living room with Grandma. Everything had gone relatively well at home that day with the help of Aunt J. Mom said that it was a pretty active day for her with the kids. Did Meatball nap, I asked? Well, he did, but The Boy did not.
And that, right there, was the problem.
The Boy is at that awkward stage where he thinks that he can get by without a nap. I can barely get by without a nap. Some days I don't know how I function after 1PM. So when it was time to leave for services and the picnic, he turned on his usual "I don't want to go!" hysterics. A little worse than normal but I figured he'd be happy once he got there. He was pretty excited to be going to school again that day (as it was also where he goes to preschool). And he was happy that they had a name tag printed out just for him! We got in to the service and they were just starting. I picked a seat in front of a family where the mother was a friend I had gone to school with a long time ago and the older daughter was in The Boy's class. He FREAKED the heck out, so we had to walk right back out. First we were in the hallway trying to calm down and some older ladies were shushing us. Thanks, like I didn't know that the kid was loud, that's why we left the service. We moved to a bench further up, and we saw more of The Boy's school friends walking by on their way in with their families.
Did The Boy want to go in and sit and sing songs and have fun with friends? No. Not even if, when we were done singing songs, we could have hot dogs and fruit ice? No. Do we need to wait? No, we just want to go home. Well, Boy, we're not going home. I realized that sitting there was a waste of time, so we just left and got in touch with Daddy and Meatball to meet them for dinner instead.
As we were waiting at the light near the building, The Boy decided that he wanted to go back. Well, too late. We didn't. And he screamed. And he cried. And he said "Nobody loves me!" which I am certain is a line from the old "Cat in the Hat" movie. Just like there are things that he'll now say "I do not like it!" for, which he got directly from the "Green Eggs and Ham" book. Who knew that Dr. Seuss could be held responsible for ornery behavior?
A good 15 minutes was spent on the "nobody loves me" issue. I of course told him that everybody loves him, and I named people who love him, and he said that they didn't. Of course. I then asked him some leading questions to perhaps get him to be able to verbalize his feelings a little better. We talked about how hard it is sometimes when you want to just keep doing what you're doing and someone else wants you to go somewhere, or do something else. Even though it might end up being more fun to do the new thing, you want to do what you are already doing and not change it. Transitions can be an issue, in other words. I let him know that we wanted him to do other things with us because we love him and want him to have fun, not because nobody loves him.
He fell asleep and stayed that way for about 10 minutes, maybe less, before we arrived at the restaurant.
Which, thankfully, had outdoor seating.
The Boy was somewhat happy to see Daddy and sat with him for awhile. Didn't really want to eat for awhile, even though I brought him strawberries. Meatball was, of course, thrilled as anything to get melon and other assorted goodies from the salad bar. Meatball was really quite good the entire evening, which was very helpful and made me feel better.
Also, The Boy REALLY didn't want to go to the bathroom, despite having leaked a little bit, both upon our arrival at the synagogue and our arrival at the restaurant. He was whining and complaining and dancing around, and still refused to let us take him. Finally he did, after the food had arrived. And thank goodness, because he did feel quite a bit better after that. This wasn't residual from the potty drama of a few days ago, though. We could tell that this was more about control, because he still felt so out of control this evening.
After we ate, we played around a little bit at the walking path and up and down the hill. We looked at the river and talked to the doggies as people walked by with them.
We went to the bookstore, as was the plan for Meatball and Daddy. They didn't have the books we wanted (have to go order them once I'm done blogging), but we did have gift cards which we spent on some fun books for boys--The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, Hop on Pop, and a really cute train book. Also, we bought presents for a birthday party that The Boy will be attending on Sunday. The kids roamed around in the children's section with us for awhile, looking at books, reading a few, looking at some things. Meatball also asked for "new pants" (diaper change) completely unprompted.
So we did end up having an okay time, but things definitely didn't go as we had wanted.
Obviously I made a poor decision in trying to anywhere in the evening with The Boy without him having napped. Particularly on a day when we were both at work, because I think that he gets off-balance when he is away from us. But on the other hand, at some point kids do stop throwing tantrums of that sort, and at some point they are able to understand that if we sit in the service and sing songs and have fun with friends, then after that we can have a nice dinner which includes hot dogs and fruit ice. And they will actually listen to that and understand it instead of being defiant just for the sake of being able to tell Mom no. It was exceptionally embarrassing to see The Boy's friends going in to attend the service, and sitting with their parents and singing songs and all that, and just wondering, why in the world can't my kid do that? I know that he does at least an okay job of sitting with his friends at school to sing songs or listen to stories. Why is it that, particularly when we try and go to services, he just refuses? And more to the point, why is my kid such a baby when the other kids are acting like real people?
Unfortunately, even though it's been awhile, I have to pull out the old cancer card. Frustrating, because it isn't as if people can look at my typical-appearing 3 year old boy and see what he used to look like and what his health situation used to be. Some might get a glimpse of the hearing aids and wonder, but the real reason that The Boy really is still different from many kids his age has to do with the scars on his belly and the scars to his psyche. We don't know what fighting off medicine has done to him. We don't know if the fact that I gave him shots for over a year of his life has contributed to his frequent desire to push me away. We aren't sure if he has an unconscious issue with us because we willingly brought him to the hospital when he was feeling well so that he could be given medicine to make him feel awful. And, more simply, he didn't really get to be 2. He didn't really get to be 1 either. Most of the time he spent at those ages was hardly what you'd call a childhood.
My mother brought up the point that that area of development, in the social and emotional spheres, The Boy is not at the same level as he is with his intellectual capabilities. Yes, he can read a little bit at his age, but can he play in a group? He can write letters and numbers, but is he able to do an activity with other people, when that activity is supposed to take place? I don't have any desire to downplay my boy's strengths or dismiss them in favor of what I might think is important. However, certain areas of weakness in him are bound to cause some issues.
Ultimately, a rough evening out is still better than, say, a visit to the ER in the fast lane. But I'm disappointed that I didn't do more to prevent The Boy's hysterics. And I don't think that there needed to be any additional retribution here. The fact that he didn't get hot dogs and fruit ice finally seemed to stick with him. It was a natural consequence, I thought--he didn't want to stay, so he didn't get the food after. Similar with last event--they were crazy and wild, and The Boy was upset by not getting ice cream, but we were done chasing them and couldn't deal with it anymore; had to go home. Missing ice cream was unfortunate, but it happened.
It's been very exhausting. I'm falling asleep in my chair and it's only about 10PM.