As he gets older, Jack's harder to control in public. I'm told this is the normal progression of things. As the toddler learns more about his world, the more he strives to control it. We had our first meltdown in a restaurant a few weeks ago. We now expect to take him out of church halfway through the service.
So far, the moms' group has been a safe place for experimental toddler behavior, but yesterday I lost it. Yesterday I threw his things in the diaper bag, jammed a pacifier in his mouth and marched him out to the car because I couldn't deal anymore.
He was whiny and ornery and clingy. He wanted to throw rocks. He wanted to ride the tricycle that was clearly too big for him. He wanted to eat lunch, but when I set him down with his food, he didn't want HIS lunch he wanted everyone ELSE'S lunch. After a while I couldn't even figure out what he was pointing and fussing at anymore. We could barely hear ourselves above the whining – MY kid's whining. When I offered him his sippy cup and he threw it on the ground, that was it. We were out.
I wasn't attempting to calm him down and I wasn't gentle. I didn't care if he wanted the teddy bear on the floor of the car. I strapped him into the car seat while muttering to myself about how much I deserved an extra long nap. And then? He was asleep, his pudgy little chin tucked into his chest. The anger and exasperation I was feeling began to mix with a sudden wave of shame. I remembered something one of the other moms said not minutes before I'd swept out of her house: "Oh, he's probably just getting tired."
Well, DUH. A quick glance at the dashboard clock told me it was 45 minutes past nap time. What did I expect?
The last week or so has been a rough one with Jack. He's been decidedly less than cheerful and extra clingy. Phillip and I go back and forth over how to handle him in these moments. Phillip's preferred mode of baby management is Laying Down The Law. Since I'm the one who gets stuck enforcing the laws 80% of the time, I tend to opt for Many Excuses. We've had family in town, family functions to attend, plus it's been scorching hot. (Don't roll your eyes! I'm a Pacific Northwesterner! We melt when the temperature hits 70! We don't have A/C!) None of us are exactly functioning at the top of our game, why should I expect my fifteen-month-old to act normally? Not only had I dragged him through a weekend littered with far-from-home family get-togethers, he'd woken up with a funny looking rash. I'd kept him up too long, even though it's obvious how much he needs to sleep these days, and here I was at the moms' group, losing my patience and reacting poorly in front of my friends. I felt so embarrassed.
This morning the rash was still there, and we'll be seeing the doctor in a few hours. He fussed and hollered all morning until I dumped him in his bed, turned on the CD player and went to take a shower. This is our normal routine. When I'm done I usually go get him out of bed for his own bath, but today he'd fallen asleep to the tune of "Elmo's Song." My poor baby. I can't remember the last time he took a morning nap.
I hate not knowing what's up with my kid. What's worse is knowing something is up with my kid and making the wrong assessment. I'd be asking the Parenting Gods for wisdom and patience and grace right now, except I'm just sort of hoping the doctor gives me a bottle of Happy Baby Potion and I can be done with the whole thing.