Am I the only mom who wants to push pause and walk away from my kids sometimes?
What I don’t know about parenting is astounding. The challenges are constant. Lately, Shea and I have been praying, begging, discussing, strategizing, and endlessly pleading for ways to deal with a particular recurring behavior in our home: tantruming. That is not even the exact word for what happens. I don’t want to name names, because Damon (7) would feel bad in twenty years when I read this at his wedding, but one of our children is driving us crazy.
I have mentioned before that Damon is shy, thoughtful, smart, witty, and sensitive. But take that last adjective and multiply to the nth degree, and that is where the meltdowns occur.
When he gets upset, offended, discouraged, or contradicted he can dissolve into tears faster than Julia Child on an onion rampage. And for some reason, when his eyes are dripping, his ears disconnect and you can neither reason nor comfort the man child. He can pout for lengths of time that would impress Guinness Book editors and sometimes the crying is accompanied by flailing and grunting. It is seriously intense and unnervingly frequent.
It can happy instantly–anytime, anywhere. You have to be so careful not to trigger a meltdown. You even have to watch how you structure your sentences. For example, if Damon asks for ice cream and you intend to say, “No, you can’t have ice cream right now, but after dinner you can have a 6 scoop extravaganza on a sprinkled waffle cone with cherries and sparklers on top” he will be on the floor in tears before you reach the comma in your sentence and his brain just locks down so that finishing the good news would be futile.
I am sure some of you reading this are abounding with sound, proven parenting strategies to help us. We have tried so many approaches, and to be honest, we usually try one or two techniques before reverting to yelling at him in our own parental version of a tantrum. As you can guess, not too effective. It is so hard to be patient the billionth time a behavior occurs!
So the other day, I was fixing dinner and Shea had just arrived home; the cycle of meltdown had already begun. I can’t even remember what set him off, but Damon was being obstinate and pouting in a corner of the family room, huddled and grunting his whiny “uhhhh” anytime we tried to coax him out. The stage was set for a scene rehearsed hundreds of times, one that always ended in frustration and resentment. But this time something else happened. Be it inspiration or temporary insanity, what burst from my mouth was not a reprimand but an off-key musical querie:
Hey Damon…Why do birds suddenly appear…every time….you are near? Just like me, they long to be CLOSE TO YOOOoooooouuuuuu. (close to you).
To my surprise, Shea didn’t miss a beat but jumped right in with the appropriate echoes and asynchronous harmonies to go with my over-dramatized, off key melody. By the time we hit the “Waaaaa aa aa aa aaaaahhhh close to you’s” we were full out broadway quality, or at least enthusiasm. The volume could have carried halfway down the block. Passing neighbors probably stared at our house and quickened their step.
Damon at first reacted with shock. Then his firm downward scowl began to twitch at the edges. His expression changed. His eyes always start smiling before his face catches up. Then he crumbled. Laughter replaced protests and all the other kids were dancing around. Shea and I looked at each other and just laughed. We both sing pretty horribly (shea is far less tragic than I), but that only made the scene more entertaining. Instead of a yelling match followed by a chaotic dinner, we had a light hearted family meal with cheerful banter. Thank you Karen Carpenter.
Where did that come from? I don’t know. I can’t remember the last time I even heard that song. But I think shouting matches might be replaced with cheesy serenades more often. Hey, we are desperate enough to try anything. My favorite is when my little Becca (5) asked if I wrote that song. “Why yes, yes I did. Your dad and I just came up with that” and I left her there standing in awe. It is fun to be me sometimes.
On a more positive note (do you get anymore positive than a Carpenter’s song?), I have to show you Damon’s Halloween costume. It was instant crackup to anyone he approached. It was all his idea, which makes it funnier. Here you go:
The best part is, we shaved him Saturday night for a neighborhood Trunk or Treat, but he had to keep the ‘do until Monday for the actual holiday. So yeah, he wore that to church. I told Shea he should have taken him to high priests (the class for, um, more mature men in the ward) but Damon proudly wore it to primary. Love that kid. When he is not an impenetrable, illogical ball of tears and tantrum, he is pretty charming.