My kindergartener is either the snuggliest love bug or as mean as an angry drunk. Nothing in between and no warning when the switch flips. Take swimming lessons, for instance. He loves them. Cannonballs into the pool, splashing, kicking, grinning. Doesn’t even mind the showering and toweling off after, fond as he is of any excuse to frolic naked.
But then, the car ride home. Silly mom forgot to pack a snack. Silly mom thought he could survive a 15-min. ride home where dinner was waiting. Silly mom was WRONG. Thus commenced the longest 15-min. car ride of my LIFE. Here are the strategies I tried to keep calm and drive on:
Strategy #1: A take-no-guff stance. (“Guff” is a weird word, huh?) I once wrote a — humorous, tongue-in-cheek — blog post for another site about how I did whatever my then-toddler demanded, because dealing with his endless tantrums just wasn’t worth it. Yes, I WILL switch the green cup for the blue cup sometimes JUST to avoid a meltdown, and I don’t think that makes me a bad parent. Many commenters vehemently disagreed. Ah, the interwebs – where every anony-mom has got your back and oozes empathy and support! Feelin’ the love… But I digress.
Back to me in the car: “You may NOT talk to me like that. Stop kicking my seat. I KNOW you are hungry and we will be home in 15 min. so CALM DOWN.”
Effect: Only angered the beast more. “I’m STARVING!!! I want something to eat RIGHT THIS SECOND!!!” Kicking and flailing ensue. I could’ve pulled the car over, but really. Why prolong the agony?
Strategy #2: Sympathetic mom. “You poor thing! You sure worked up a big appetite in the pool, didn’t you? I know you must be so hungry and I’m sorry I don’t have a snack to give you. We’ll be home soon and a yummy dinner is waiting for you. Oh, look – pretty lights!”
Effect: Pure, unfettered rage. “MOMMEEE!!! Get me a snack RIGHT THIS SECOND!!! I KNOW you have one!” I dug through my purse, the glove compartment, my older son’s backpack, looking for any crumb or stale fruit snack I could throw his way to shut him up before I crashed the car into someone’s holiday light display.
Strategy #3: Ignoring him. Despite his screeches, pleas, and kicks, I didn’t make a peep. Kept my eyes on the road and my hands white-knuckling the wheel, sweating bullets. Just watch me get pulled over for a burnt-out tail light or something. God help that cop.
Effect: More of the same. Observation: It’s hard to concentrate on driving when your nerves are SHOT TO HELL.
In a shocking twist, we made it home without a single red light, speeding ticket, or run-off-the-road pedestrian. My poor starving child went inside, scarfed down some meatballs and peas, and minutes later was climbing into my lap and wrapping his arms around my neck. “Mommy, did you see me floating on my back? Swimming lessons were so fun!”
And the angry drunk – er, hungry swimmer – has switched back to Mr. Snuggles once again. And I have 5 more gray hairs to show for it. Not for the weak, this gig.