a surprisingly good day (galactic tantrums included)

Motherhood has not been easy for me. There’s a long list of things I feel guilty about, and he’s only almost 3.

I am particularly aghast at his twice-a-day “syrup milk” habit – milk mixed with maple syrup. He calls it his “morning beverage” as in, we all have our morning beverages, daddy = coffee with stevia and half-and-half, mommy = tea with honey and half and half, and Jonah has his sweet drink. It also features in the bedtime routine during the preliminary phase entitled “bottle and books” although we are past the actual bottle. It was during his weaning period that syrup milk was introduced. I felt guilty that cow’s milk wasn’t as sweet as breastmilk and… thus we see how effective guilt is for me.

At least I can say that we’ve cut down on how much juice he’s drinking in a day, and that we’ve cut the midday syrup milks (and this somewhat figures into the story I’m trying to write about today).

But the other thing I have to say about Motherhood aside from the guilt and fear that I am not doing this perfectly (i.e.: attachment style, hippie, no sugar, no licensed characters, no computer, tons of vegetables, no refined carbs) – it’s surprisingly boring. Not always, of course. It’s a freaking up-side-down roller coaster ride overall. But there are these pockets of absolute, extreme boredom.

Those days when I pick him up from preschool, and the afternoon stretches ahead of us. I need to keep him occupied. Sometimes we go to a park, but most often, these exquisite boredom moments happen in a toy store, while he is bustling around a train table. (I know, a few posts ago I reported that we had a good day that involved train table bustle-age. I was skipping over talking about how mutha-effing BORING that is.)

Recently I was chatting with someone – both of us lamenting in a rather judgmental manner – about how NOT PRESENT all the moms and nannies with iPhones are. (Let’s be clear, I’m jealous of them/you, but until I buy one myself, and while I’m trying to live up to this impossible attachment parent ideal – impossible for me anyway – then with this one tiny thing, I thought I could feel like I was doing it “right”: How great am I that I’m not currently an owner of such a distracting device.)

But here’s the thing. I can be at the toy store train table with the boy for that 90 minute stretch and totally NOT BE PRESENT. No phone. Nothing. I just stare into space, barely there at all, but close enough to intervene if a train is grabbed from one child or another.

I suppose it counts as meditation.

Lately I’ve been promising myself (AGAIN) to not let these at-odds afternoons happen. To plan activities and playdates. To KNOW where we are going when I pick him up. I have shouted this resolution at the sky and shaken my fist.

Today was only semi-planned and then those plans didn’t go as they normally would have. And yet, it was a nice day. Even with the galactic tantrums.


Tantrum = mine. Trying to get ready for the gym and swim class always makes me nearly hysterical. Slicing, sorting, and packing the snacks needed, finding and putting the bathing suits on both of us, gathering several outfits for him in case of pee accidents, two outfits for me, one to work out in, one to change into for after, toiletries, sippy of plain (a.k.a “regleeyar” – how he still says “regular” – milk).

But Scott remains calm, Jonah, also fairly calm, and mother and son make it out the door and get to the gym mostly on time.

But our best friend mom-son team is not at swim class this morning. So our usual routine of “Child Watch,” Kindergym, Farmer’s Market, is now still possible, but without our usual pals. Not to mention that I’m going to have to face the treadmill ALONE.

We persevered. And it went kinda great.

I dropped him off at Child Watch and he was so immediately absorbed in playing it took several tries to get him to actually look up and wave goodbye to me.

I did a 15-minute abs class (GO ME!) and 20 minutes on the treadmill while reading an old New Yorker from April 2009 that I’d totally read before but it took me all day to remember that.

We skipped Kindergym (not my favorite part – about as fun as train tables but noisier and more crowded) and went straight to Farmers’ Market where he had his weekly “scoop” (it’s HUGE) of organic vanilla ice cream and we sat and watched a “jug band” that didn’t have its jug that day, but did have a uke-sized banjo, stand-up base, accordion, etc. I begged for bites like a baby bird but he declined to share.

He fell asleep in the car on the way home (MIRACULOUS, RARE!). And I decided to let him sleep.

He woke up somewhat foul. He tends to do that these days. When he does take the rare nap, he is a real pill when he wakes up.

We wobble through the post-nap phase as he tries to play with his new play doh toy (part of my resolution fist-shaking involved buying new toys to keep ME entertained) though he’s fussy and pissy and basically can’t explain why. We persevere through that and eventually he and I are making little play doh roses together with chewing-gum shaped flaps of doh that he pushed through the extruder.

And then he asked me for a cup of juice, to which I said no, you can have some water. He tried to parry with a request for regleeyar milk. And I said “No. Water.”


Why not let him have the milk? It wasn’t like he was asking for syrup. But I had this feeling – he’d had milk that morning, and a huge ice cream at lunch. I just knew I needed to press the water idea, along with offering a snack. Sometimes he’s asking for one thing (milk, sweet treats) when really what he is, is just plain hungry.

When I say galactic, I mean full body, and shrieking, and kicking the door of his room while we hold it shut and demand that he go to his time-out chair. And then me offering to sit with him in Time Out because it’s not about abandoning him, it’s just about taking some time (two minutes) to calm down. In a contained manner, that the adults set the parameters of.

After the two minutes, he agreed that a snack sounded nice and soon he tucked in to a plate of turkey, brie, crackers, and figs.

And drank water.

A little bit later, after he’d left the table, he came up to me and showed me a cup and said “I’m drinking this!”

I thought it was the cup of water from snack time, so I said “Good.”

But it was the dregs of his milk in the sippy we’d taken to the gym this morning.


I took it away.

Cue Tantrum, Part Deux.

It is entirely possible that what he really needed was THAT CUP. Even with water in it. He seemed to be insisting that it was THAT CUP, which is only marginally different from the other since both are sippys with Thomas and Friends on them.

He survived, but barely a moment later, the neighbor’s cat snuck into our house and was on the table, licking the remains of the brie and turkey.

Cue Horrified, Angry Screams.

We recovered quickly. Lightening-speed, I made a new plate of food – and we put Saran over it to protect it (he’d been saving the other remnant bits for later).

“Later” came quickly and he soon polished that all off, plus a peach. And more water.

And then we decided to go for a walk. Because it was 4:30, and a boy who naps does not at 6:30 or 7 p.m. fall asleep (our usual bedtime).

Fearlessly, we set off down the street – WITHOUT A STROLLER! – heading for the neighborhood library. It’s about a mile walk. And the library closes at 5:30 on Saturdays.

(I knew if we got stranded we could call Scott for pickup. Still, it was a bold move for me and my less-than-athletic kid.)

We walked, we ran, we pretended we were trains, we crunched dry oak leaves under our “wheels.”

We arrived at the library just as the woman was turning the sign around from Open to Closed in the window. Fortunately she took pity and let us in. We returned our overdue train book and grabbed the lone Thomas book from the shelf, checked it out and then sat on a bench in the park and read it.

Next we dropped by the neighborhood toy store (no train table) and gazed at the wall of Thomas characters in packages, followed by a trip to Trader Joe’s for samples (Jonah LOVES the samples), a potty stop, and to stock up on our favorite TJ’s organic cheese sandwich crackers. Then we took stock of all the various types of pumpkins (Red! White! Pink!) in the giant boxes by the front door until Daddy came to pick us up.

During bottle-and-books with daddy tonight, rather than the usual on-lap-in-glider, Jonah put together an elaborate set-up, including tucking one of his favorite Thomas’s into a blanket in the chair next to him. And then he demanded that I take a picture.

So, here you go:

Wait, you can’t quite see how Thomas is tucked in…

We turned the lights off at 8:15 p.m. And then began our game. You know how the sleep books tell you to check on the kid in certain increments of time when you’re teaching them to fall asleep? This isn’t that. But it’s sort of like that.

Jonah tells us how many minutes he’d like us to wait before we come back in and check on him.

Four minutes.

Five minutes.

Fourteen minutes.

Whatever he selects, I set the timer and go back in when it goes off. After a few rounds of this, more or less depending on the night, he falls asleep.

Tonight it took an hour. Fortunately most of his increments were rather large. He’s started adding numbers together.

“Mommy! Fourteen plus four minutes!”

“Okay, Jonah. Fourteen plus four minutes.”

“What does Fourteen plus four mean?”


“What does eighteen mean?”

“Fourteen plus four.”

“Okay. Which train is number 14?”

“I don’t know, Jonah. We’ll have to look that up in the morning.”



7 comments for “a surprisingly good day (galactic tantrums included)

  1. October 3, 2010 at 5:11 am

    Aw, it’s easy to feel guilty, The trick is geting the right balance between letting him have what he wants, and avoiding spoiling him. You don’t want to be raising a little brat! I am by no means saying this is what you are doing by the way.

  2. Nana
    October 3, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    Boredom….Sitting through gymnastics classes, swimming classes, driving 50 miles a day back and forth to nursery school, Hebrew School, schlepping to Brownies, sitting through dance school recitals, sitting through sweltering graduation ceremonies. Thank g-d I can’t remember all of it but I do remember wanting to sometimes do a cleansing primal scream. Sorry to say it is just beginning.

  3. Nana
    October 3, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    P.S. It is just one giant “waiting” for them to grow up.

  4. Leanne
    October 4, 2010 at 7:51 am

    Oh, Julie *as I nod my head*

    The guilt… here’s what I’ve decided… if at the end of the day, and despite all the rules and the things I’ve denied them and the discipline due to the testing of boundaries, if my children still want to hug and kiss and snuggle, I must be doing okay. I’m sure it’s far worse for us than it is for them.

    And I think boredom is normal. And I don’t believe you have to be PRESENT all the time. I think it’s rather impossible really (iPhone or no). Also, kids need some time and practice to learn independence. That’s a good thing, too.

    Basically, ditto what Dales MTB wrote above about balance :)

  5. Nana
    October 5, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Did I want to buy you the red bike or the blue bike?

    Just pick your battles carefully and do your best. You’ll be fine.

  6. Talia
    October 5, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Today Zach melted down because I didn’t make him a grilled cheese sandwich (make that “sangwich”) for dinner as well as lunch. And I was second guessing myself – should I make him another sandwich? Is it that big a deal? But then, if I do, am I rewarding him for his tantrum? Is this the right place to draw the line and stick to it?

    Also I sat in complete boredom while he moved trains around, but wouldn’t let me move any, but screamed if I tried to get up off the floor to do something else. Sigh. I hope I’m not scarring him for life by sneaking peeks at a book or playing sudoku on my phone instead of paying attention to him.

    I knew being a mom would be hard. I just didn’t know that it would be hard in these particular ways. Like being bored to tears.

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