We had a normal-to-rough-ish day. Threat level: Yellow/Bert.
It started out mostly sweet. Jonah had his morning beverage and I had mine. We squished into the glider chair together and read about dinosaurs.
Getting him out the door to preschool (well, summer care, but same difference really) was a bit of a challenge as at the moment of exeunt he had just decided that it would be a perfect time to have a tea party with me, with pretend tea in his tiny porcelain ladybug tea set.
So that was denied.
And then there was the ear-splitting whine-grunt of protest while I was putting on his socks.
“I hate when you make that noise,” I said, with more virulence than I would like to admit.
“Hate is a very strong word,” Jonah reminded me.
I’d only recently had a talk with him about his tendency to say “I hate you,” and had used that very phrase to explain why I was banishing the word from the house.
(Another parenting strategy that has come back to bite us in the ass is the talk about your feelings one. So now, whenever he doesn’t like something, a rule, my tone of voice, he says, “That makes me sad!” As if the fact of his sadness will make us all stop and reverse direction immediately upon receipt of said information.)
At one point after the socks and shoes were on and the tea party was still not happening, he slammed a door in fury. I very much dislike the door slamming. And even less like the perfunctory apology after I point out that something is unacceptable, wrong, hurtful, etc.
But we recovered with a hug and out the door he finally went.
School/care was apparently delightful, so I’m told by the teacher. He was happy as a pig in mud. So much so that she had put his muddy pants in the wash and dressed him in a spare pair. I brought him home with a playmate for a playdate. A boy who’d come over yesterday afternoon and the two had happily entertained each other with little help from me for HOURS.
I should have realized when I saw the post-preschool exhausted/shell-shocked looks on their faces — my boy squirmy and devilish, the other boy pink-cheeked and fragile — that I was not going to get a repeat of yesterday.
And in fact, Jonah was a complete PITA and the other boy was dear and often in tears. After more door slamming and much bossy proclaiming of rules for his friend to have to obey and turning off of lights when his friend wanted neither darkness nor irrelevant regulations, I plunked my son in front of a video while I built a Marble Run with his friend until his mom came to pick him up.
And then we still had hours to kill until bedtime. There were more videos employed — Sharks! on Discovery Channel, Berenstain Bears! He almost threw a fit at the end of videos. But a threat of no more for the next four days if he did so motivated some self control.
I tried to play with him for a little bit in his room. Made a competitive game out of picking up the scraps of paper off the floor — I bet I can collect more of these faster than you can. I have 2, 3, 5!
And then I needed to meditate or my head was going to explode.
Scott recently decided that we should be able to meditate together. That for the 20 scant minutes it takes us to recharge our batteries, our almost-4-year-old could freaking entertain himself. Jonah is not a fan of this concept.
“You could go in the yard and dig for dinosaur bones or shark teeth,” I suggested.
He put his boots on and then cajoled, “Mommy, you can come meditate outside with me.”
I declined, “I can see you from right here, the door is wide open.”
He responded, “I will be digging alone and that will make me SAD.”
We meditated anyway. There was much stomping around and whining and groaning. But after a minute or two, he gave up nudging us and dug outside for a bit, then returned and joined us on the bed and played with the clock until we were done. It’s a curious thing we are inflicting on him, this practice. Then again, I hear there are other children that can play entirely by themselves for at least 20 minutes a day, maybe longer.
Even after meditation I wouldn’t come outside to dig because I wanted to start cooking dinner. Jonah was enraged. Scott came to the rescue and then, during the 5 minutes of cooking time that nothing in pot or pan needed my ministrations, I joined them.
Miraculously, Jonah cleaned his plate at dinner. Baked chicken breast tenders, colorful curly pasta, sauteed grated zucchini, lots of salt and pepper and butter and Parmesan cheese. Jonah proclaimed the chicken “fish,” the pasta, “plankton,” and the zucchini, “seaweed.”
(The advent of the shark obsession has certainly helped with his eating habits. Last night he happily chowed down on salmon. During the T-Rex phase all he would eat was meat. Some people raise their kids vegan, I am raising mine meatan. The phases are overlapping though. This morning he had a leftover hamburger for breakfast. I have failed to blog frequently enough to update you on the addition of shark to our world. It merits its own post but suffice to say for now that a combination of a fish-and-shark movie—A Fish Tale—at a friends house, plus a Dinosaur Train episode about prehistoric sharks, and a subsequent visit to the shark exhibit at the Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco, is responsible.)
Toward the end of dinner, Scott reaches across the table to hold my hand. A “we’re in this together, babe,” gesture. An “it’s the end of a long day and I’m about to head out the door will you be able to handle bedtime without me?” gesture.
I grip his hand in return.
Jonah puts his hand out to me, too.
I put my hand in his.
Then Jonah offers his other hand to Scott.
Then he gives instructions: “Put the glass in the circle. Put the napkin in the circle. Put the tape and the pepper inside the circle! Put EVERYTHING on the table in the circle!”
He was giggling. I drew the line at “everything,” as there is a fair amount of junk on our dining table.
We sat, smiling, encircling our empty plates, various dining and craft items.
Jonah turned to me and said, “Mama, I want to marry you.”
(Cue heart melting.)
Jonah was beaming.
He asked again, “Mama, will you marry me?”
“Will you marry me in the morning?”
“Okay, let’s do that.”
He looks at Scott, considers, “How about daddy can marry me and I will marry you and you will marry me, okay?”
We are all in this together.
For the record, bedtime wasn’t entirely smooth. Scott left while we were reading books. I forgot toothbrushing. Songs went fine—we sang the oldies: “Angels Watching over Me,” “Loverly,” “Don’t Fence Me in,” except that Jonah didn’t pass out during them, his preferred mode of transportation. He pitched for a fourth song, “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.”
I said no. The rule is we do three songs.
He started to wind himself up for a cry.
I stood in the doorway, took a breath.
Jonah doesn’t act up like this when Scott does bedtime. But he does it for me. IN SPADES.
I was away the last few nights and bedtime went totally smooth, like butter. So smooth it pissed me off. How can it be so hard for me when Scott leaves town (as he has on several occasions since the advent of Jonah) and the first time I finally tear myself away—also warrants its own blog post—nada.
I steady myself, speak: “Jonah, you are not going to do this. Stop making yourself cry. I know that when you do bedtime with daddy, you do not act like this.”
He continues to wind himself up. I can see the storm clouds amassing over his big round head.
“Okay. Let’s try this. You lay down and close your eyes for five minutes, and when I come back, if you are still awake, I will sing another song.”
He’s still huffing and grunting, pulling the tantrum up into his body.
I add, “But you have to stop crying. Five minutes of no crying with your eyes closed and then I will come back and sing Railroad.”
He surrenders, quiets himself. “Okay, I will,” he says with a trailing whine.
Less than five minutes later, he is fast asleep.