My daughter Julie is working this summer at an upscale kids' boutique in downtown Rehoboth Beach. When she comes home at night she regales us with tales of Kids Gone Wild, tiny darlings who break the toys and throw the clothes around and generally behave abysmally. Relaxed vacation rules aside, there are some corkers out there on the boardwalk and in town. It's tough to hold onto the reins in these circumstances. I know. I've been in the mommy trenches, and sometimes it wasn't pretty.
Firstborn Sheridan was an angel, eating what was put before him, sleeping on a more-or-less reasonable schedule, laughing and cooing on cue. I'd watch the poor parents wrestling their recalcitrant toddlers into their strollers and tsk-tsk to myself. Poor them! Why can't they be more like--well, more like me? I've read Spock and Leach and I could TEACH an effective parenting course, for Lord's sakes!
Then along came Evan. Evan was an explorer, always yearning to know: if I climb out the kitchen window, will it hurt? If I stick my head between the bannisters, will I be able to extricate myself without calling in reinforcements? Evan gave me a run for my money, and for the first time I sympathized with moms and dads who'd lost control.
Rosie introduced a different set of challenges. She was not a daredevil, but rather wreaked her havoc with her stubborn temperament. She was treated with nothing but great love and affection, but when she was in a mood none of that mattered. One day at the bank, I gently pulled her back into line next to me as she started to wander off. "Stop HITTING ME!" she shrieked. Smiling broadly as if to say, "Ha ha. What a trickster is this daughter of mine!" I was inwardly dying.
PJ at 2 decided to be afraid of my mother, his Nana. When she came for a visit, he wouldn't kiss her, he wouldn't let her read to him. He acted as if this benign and adorable older woman was the Antichrist. Mom, understandably, was a tad miffed. It took a couple of years for fences to be mended (they ended up the closest of buds), but it was a trial while it lasted.
Julie went tantrumless for 4 years. Then, one memorable night in a Lewes candy store (when we had company, I might add), she was refused a bag of peppermint bark and all Hell broke loose. As I literally carried a bundle of screaming, squirming indignation out to the car under my arm, I said at last, "OK OK so I DON'T have all the answers! My kids are no better than anyone else's! Sorry God--oh, and can you give me a hand getting Miss Meltdown into the carseat?"
Pride definitely goeth before a fall. Never again did I prejudge a fraught parent/child combo. We are all doing the best we can. And sometimes, the small people we love most in the whole world, are little stinkers.