Saturday, January 22, 2005

Shock & Awe in the School Parking Lot

I wonder someday when I look back on this period of our lives, if I will be able to calculate the actual Tantrum to Angel ratio for our 3-year-old. Because it seems like we are having a major meltdown every other day, but in actual point of fact it is probably more on the order of once a week. Otherwise I don’t think I would survive with my sanity intact. Well I have been following my mother’s advice, giving the 3-year-old specific instructions before exiting the van to pick up the 5-year-old: he is not to run in the parking lot, he is not to kick up dirt into giant dust clouds that send parents into coughing fits, he is not to sit on the fire ant hills. So we had a pretty good non-tantrum week until today. I should note, though, that the 3-year-old gives ME instructions before we leave the van, also, now that he has caught on to that fact. Yesterday he told me, “We have rules. You must NOT climb on trees and NO climbing on roofs. These are my rules, Mama.” I say okay. I have not been on any trees or roofs lately, so I’m in good shape. Today I got a parking spot closer to the pickup point, thus greatly reducing the length of our walk and the possibility of associated tantrums. On top of that, the 5-year-old was one of the first ones out the door, thus also avoiding Unacceptable Activities and Impatience by the 3-year-old. So we couldn’t have been positioned any better for a good day. We headed toward the van, only 15 feet away. Not 50. FIFTEEN. A couple of Umbrella Steps if you’ve ever played “Mother May I.” This will be a piece of cake, I thought. Little did I know it would be Pineapple Upside Down Cake. The 5-year-old is in the parking lot with me, moving in the correct direction, but not close enough for me to be comfortable. I am issuing instructions for him to come nearer and watch out for cars. He is pretty good about looking both ways, but there are so many cars backing up, trying to park, turning around and doing eighteen point turns that you just don’t have enough eyes to see them all. Plus he’s five, so seeing them all is my responsibility, not his. Meanwhile I am nudging the 3-year-old along, one hand on his shoulder because you must ALWAYS keep in contact with him. The moment you lose contact…WHOOPS. There he goes! We’re off to the races. He is competing in some kind of Olympic Trial, I am shouting at the 5-year-old to pay attention, and then suddenly I am running after the 3-year-old to keep him from dashing in front of cars. I reach the 3-year-old and grab one arm, stopping the forward progress. I am telling him he cannot run in the parking lot. He is going from zero to meltdown in six seconds instead of the usual twenty. He is flailing all four limbs, trying his best to flop on the cinders. The 5-year-old is nearby, I can see him but not reach him. A car behind him has its backup lights on. It is an SUV with eight tires and a plow. No, kidding, just a regular SUV, but I have no idea if they can see him or not. I am shouting his name while I have the 3-year-old half lifted up so he cannot roll on the pavement. At this point I have to thank the alert mothers in the parking lot who saw “a situation” developing and acted quickly to avert big problems. (It was a big enough problem as it was, but could have gotten bigger believe me.) One mother who I had never even seen before grabbed the 5-year-old’s hand and said, “I’ve got your boy. Don’t worry about him.” Because she could see the struggle with the 3-year-old was not going well. Meanwhile the 3-year-old, who had his claws out and was trying to scratch me, managed to hook my glasses, which went flying in some direction. Once they’re off, I have no idea. Mother # 2, Katie (God Bless her) said, “I’ve got the glasses!” She handed them back once I got the 3-year-old into the Mostly Upside Down Position so he could not blind me again. He was however still trying to hurl himself at my feet while ANOTHER giant SUV was trying to pull into the space next to where my car door was. Yes I know it looks like a great empty space. Just wait until he dents your door. Anyway Mother # 1 was helping herd the 5-year-old along, while I needed actual physical help getting the 3-year-old into the van. The 3-year-old was shrieking, “You’re RUINING it. You’re RUINING the race!” See I told you he intended this as an Olympic Event. For him it is running. For me wrestling. This is where Mother # 3 came in (Katrena, a personal friend who lives on the street) and helped me drag him to the van and confine him in vehicular safety. She has a 5-year-old and 4-year-old (who is her own personal handful) and is pregnant right now. Shaking her head at the prospect when we have one of our Uber-Meltdowns. My point is, even under the best of circumstances (which we really had today) the 3-year-old can have a tantrum. They are not preventable, although they must be reasonably predictable because my helpers today have seen them before. They did not hesitate to spring into action because they knew I could end up with a tire tread on my forehead or at least crushed glasses. Today the tantrum ended almost as soon as it started. Once he was on the seat he seemed like he was going to cry forever, but I asked him about “the dead frog.” This launched into a conversation between me, the 3-year-old and the 5-year-old about whether or not Frogs Go to Heaven, and he forgot all about the tantrum. If you are wondering about whether there are frogs in heaven the answer to that is obvious. If there are little boys, then there must be frogs.

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