Chris was out of town last week. I can now manage the the kids and the house while he's away without hyperventilating or leaving teeth marks on my tongue from biting it with frustration. Toddler Child sleeps through most nights and we deal with a nightmare, an accident, or a blood sugar issue only occasionally. I don't think a child has vomited once in 2009. [I know. I shouldn't tempt fate by sharing that fact.]
The week went fairly well. Except for one day. It was T-minus 24 hours until Chris was to be home. I hate coming undone when I'm so close to the end of something that requires a little more from me. I don't know if I create a self-fulfilling or a self-defeating prophecy in these situations. But I do it almost every time.
I was singing dorkily in the car while taking Middle Boy to his guitar lesson. His disapproving, yet ironically not disrespectful, glances told me he was embarrassed by my grooves. I asked him lightheartedly, "Do I ever do anything that annoys you?"
"Well... I can't think of the word... but sometimes... you're... ... ..."
I knew what he was thinking. I instantly felt it. He truly didn't know the word, but he was thinking bitchy. I waited. He was innocent and thoughtful as he searched for the word to answer my question.
"... sometimes you're... grumpy."
I asked him to explain and give me some examples. The look on my face and the tone of my voice told Middle Boy this wasn't going the direction either of us thought it would. He nervously described how he dropped a perfectly clean, plastic fork on the floor and I got REALLY mad. I don't remember this, and I told him so. I wanted more examples. I was aware of my subtle but palpable shift to defensiveness partnered with antagonism. My son was aware too, and chose his words carefully as he answered the assault of questions I threw at him.
When we got home from the guitar lesson I told Oldest Boy about my question to Middle Boy and the answer I received. He could tell I was irritated and politely and diplomatically supported his brother. He said some days I'm very patient but other days I get frustrated with them a little quicker than usual.
What did I do with this honest and valuable information from my sons? I chastised them. All night. I peppered what should have been a pleasant evening with, "And ANOTHER thing..." I reminded the boys of everything I do around the house. I reminded them how good they have it compared to other kids. I reminded them that the "other mothers" who are sooo wonderful have GRUMPY days too. I reminded them that some kids don't even HAVE a mother. They were pink-eyed and trembly-lipped a couple of times.
Toddler Child was lying low. Happy for once that he wasn't the boy on the receiving end of one of my manic lectures.
Dinner, showers, bedtime reading routines, all were accomplished successfully. Toddler Child had been sleeping with something to protect himself and the rest of the family while Chris was out of town. He requested it for one more night, in case he needed to battack someone.
NOTE: We're not a gun family. Chris nor I were raised by parents who hunt, target shoot or have a need for a gun, so we're raising our kids the same. Our arguments are just passionate enough that if we had a gun in the house, it's possible that one of us would eventually be referred to as "Stumpy". Or "inmate number 35704-019".
It was after 10:00 PM and all three boys were asleep. In a span of seconds, I was painfully aware of how heavy I'd been earlier. Selfishly, I entered Oldest Boy's room, hugged him and apologized for my rant. He hugged me back and said, "I forgive you." I repeated the scene in Middle Boy's room. He's a sound sleeper and didn't respond. I hoped somehow my words and heart penetrated his dreams. I would talk to him in the morning.
Toddler Child hadn't been on the receiving end of my behavior directly, so I chose to let him sleep. I also didn't want to invoke a battack by a plunger.
One weapon had been drawn too long. It was time to put them all down.