I commented, like an idiot, on someone’s blog the other day (can’t remember whose, now) about her son’s turning 3, and the sudden slip into monsterdom.
Our little angel has always been a little challenging, I said, so we’re not expecting much of a life change. I was almost smug about it, self assured that our child wouldn’t, couldn’t behave any worse than she already has.
Then the weekend happened.
We drove three hours to the beach and spent Saturday afternoon in the NC Aquarium, because it was raining. That’s where Ella had her first urinary accident, sitting on Trish’s lap in the dark room with the big tank, during the feeding exhibition, because she had refused to go to the bathroom earlier. We left the aquarium and drove maybe 15 minutes to a restaurant for dinner, but Ella had, somehow, held onto about a pint of pee and let it all go in her carseat just as we were parking.
But the peeing wasn’t so bad. Neither was being on the beach on Sunday, where she would play in the sand, then I’d wash her off in the surf to eat, and she’d immediately roll in the sand and turn all our food gritty. Then she played in the sand some more, I washed her off in the surf in preparation to leave, and she immediately roll in the sand. Nah, not so bad.
But Sunday night, Sunday night was rough.
The restaurant where we ate Saturday was a disappointment, so I wanted to salvage the trip with a fine meal in a fine place. The setting was beautiful. The food promised to be delicious (mahi mahi with shrimp, stuffed squash blossoms and portobellos in demi-glace). We counseled Ella before we stepped inside — we gave her the “nice restaurant” talk and begged her not to break any glassware.
She behaved very well. For five minutes. Then with the screaming. And the kicking off of the shoes. And ripping and throwing of bread (very good bread), and licking the butter dish.
I picked her up, as I had told her I would, and carried her outside.
Then she started pushing the button, the laugh-in-the-old-man’s-face-at-his-pathetic-pleas-for-discipline buttons. I could have wrung her neck. She went limp in my arms, like a 60s peace demonstrator. I had gone out to discipline her but was forced into saving her, trying to catch her, dripping from my hands, before she hit the floor, which would have been my fault. At one point she looked at me and laughed, then tossed her head back, closed her eyes and just smiled.
Wow. I was truly impressed. I was pissed, but I was also impressed. This kid has chutzpah.
Finally, back inside the fancy place she did well … for 20 more minutes. After she started spitting in the napkins and making peacock sounds, it was Trish’s turn to take her outside.
She wiggles and wriggles writhes and fights and contorts her body in unearthly positions, all the while refusing to listen or, god forbid, obey!
In the hotel she ran and screamed and refused anything we asked. How dare we! What are we, her parents?
We put her into bed and she jumps up and run around. Put her in again, jump up and down on the bed. Once again, and she laughs and giggles and twists off the bed and squeals.
How do you discipline a kid, 32 months old, while on vacation? Time out? Sure, she screamed bloody murder until we were afraid the other guests were going to call 911, or show up outside our room with clubs to beat the evil parents.
I got her to stay in her bed by threatening to take away her trip to the beach the next day, while fully knowing we weren’t going to enforce that. But at 9 o’clock, she wasn’t asleep, nor at 9:30. At 9:35 I turned off the light. “Mommy! Where are you, Mommy! I can’t see you! I can’t see you, Mommy!” Over and over and over and over. So I turned on the light. “Turn off the light, Daddy! Turn it off! Turn it off!” You’d think we were practicing Chinese water torture. WE, her dear sweet mother and I, were the ones being tortured.
We were at wits ends. We were fighting with 24 pounds of pure sinewy muscle and pig-headedness and straight blonde hair that was tossed and swished like around like a mace.
Finally, I picked her up, tucked her under my arm and left the room, she kicking and screaming bloody murder. Fortunately, our room was near an exit, and our car was nearby. I plopped her into her car seat, screaming and arching the back, and drove. It was almost 10 p.m., it was dark, quiet, and she had been unwinding like a spring for an hour, and still it took 20 more minutes for her to fall asleep. I was half afraid a cop would pull me over, tipped off by a fellow hoteller, and accuse me of kidnapping. “Take my daughter!” I’d say. “Please!”
The next day, in Taco Bell, she pulled the same kind of thing. Put me in the high chair. I want out of the high chair. Don’t take the high chair away. Crying, screaming, flailing and wailing. Again, I picked her up like a watermelon and marched her outside. She saw two puppies and instantly became a different child, quiet and focused … on the dogs.
Ella slept the full three-hour trip home. Every bit of it. She was so peaceful. So angelic. And today, except for peeing on the floor, two minutes after refusing to use the toilet, she was perfect. Well, as perfect as a 32-month-old kid can be.
But how long will this last? What will she be like tomorrow? Ah, tomorrow is another day.
And 3 is destined to be harder than 2.