So, today. Today was crappy. I'm really glad it's over. We put the kids down early, which normally we are not able to do. I expected to put my young kids to bed at 8:00, maybe 8:30. Hee hee. During the summer we struggled to get them to bed by eleven freaking o'clock. ELEVEN! School and less daylight helped us make a shift, but I find that no matter what time I start the bedtime routine, they are climbing into bed between 9:05 and 9:15. This means Linden is asleep between 9:06 and 9:16, and Oak is asleep between 9:30 and 10:00. It may not help that I am an Over-Optimistic Time Estimator (say that in your head like it's a super hero's name being announced), so each night when I decide how many books we're going to read together, I give them too high of a number. And once the books are chosen, man, there's no going back. The order of reading has already been set, and it's a complicated algorithm of which stories are more peaceful and should go last, splitting up the multiple Olivia books, wrangling over who's books are ALWAYS first, so now it's YOUR turn to go first...
But I digress. Tonight Linden was asleep by 8:30 (well, the shrieking may have woken her, but she was in her bed with her eyes closed), and even Oak, who was the shrieker, and is always the master staller, was finally horizontal at 9:00. This tells me that they were as ready for today to be over as we were. And/or that exhaustion was playing into their behavior.
It started a half hour after they left the house with a phone call from school. The phone call itself started, "Now, she's okay, but..." This is not a good start. Nobody is going to say, "Now, she's okay, but we've decided to give her an attendance award," or even "Now, she's okay, but someone stole her coat." That "she's okay" means the opposite--it means she's NOT okay, but she's still alive. The "but" was that she had a contusion on the side of her face, a blue bruise, swelling before their very eyes, and while they were not comfortable telling me to come get her and take her to the doctor, that's the subtext they were hoping I was getting.
Oh, and the injury? Came when her brother slammed her into the gym floor. That's what they said, not "tripped" or "pushed" but "slammed."
The injury was obvious from across the room. In the midst of all of it, I treasured the way Linden leaned into me and took comfort from me. The assistant principal was politely horrified by the whole thing. She said they would follow my lead in how to respond to the incident. I asked if he would normally be suspended, and she said yes, but...with it being his sister...she knows how siblings fight...and she wasn't sure it would be good for me to have him home if Linden needed my attention.
I was afraid that if I saw him, I would hurt him, and I don't mean with my words. So I agreed that my priority was to take Linden to a doctor, and I'd deal with Oak when he got home. For the four day weekend. Lots of time for...thinking things over.
I called our doctor, and got an appointment two hours out. I needed to drop the Winemaker's paycheck off at the bank so we can pay our house taxes, so we swung by the drive-through ATM on our way home. I rolled down the window, and my phone rang--the Winemaker checking in. I rolled up the window, because it was cold, and updated him. Linden wanted to talk to Papa, so I handed her my phone and rolled the window down again to make the deposit. The ATM spit the check back out and told me to talk to my financial institution. I sighed and went to pull forward so I could go park.
The car wouldn't start.
All that window-rolling had drained the battery. Yes, our car borders on being a piece of crap, but it's also a Honda, so it has it's awesome side as well, like getting 34 MPG and being reliable. Or not. Whatever. We're not getting a new car, okay? It was lowered when we bought it and we had it raised. We're committed to this car.
I put it in neutral and let it roll forward. This let another person pull in behind me, but I didn't have enough oomph to actually get out of her way and let her leave. Two more cars pulled up behind her. I was trying to explain to Linden what was going on, trying to ask the Winemaker for advice, trying to decide if it was worth putting things in the trunk before going into the bank to ask for help. The lady in the car behind us, who was 55 if she was a day, said something about needing to push it further forward. Then suddenly she was leaning on the back of my car. "Take the hand brake off!" she hollered at me, so I did, and she rolled me far enough that her car could now get by. Teach ME to judge the AARP crowd.
Moving right along...I went into the bank and two guys came out to help me move it to a better location. But then it started, so we all cheered, (one guy actually said, "What?!" like the young folk do), and I went back in and deposited the damn check. When I let the Winemaker know, he said he'd already gotten the day off, so he would still come home and see how Linden was. According to the doctor, she was fine. Well, yeah, swollen and bruised, but not concussed or otherwise brain damaged. I bought her a princess ice pack, and a princess purse for good measure, then I took her to See's Chocolates, because we were having a bad day, dammit, and Mama needed some chocolate.
So that was the morning. Things were going okay. We came up with a plan, which is essentially that Oak does all his own chores and all of Linden's for the next three days. When he gets home from school and sees her face, he apologizes, and when we tell him the plan, he quietly agrees. He offers to give her some of his Halloween candy, and we say that will not be necessary. He does a VERY typical, "But what do I get?" when he sees her new purse, but quickly swallows it. The Winemaker takes him on an errand, and I sit down to put together a plan for the evening, focusing on the restorative justice of chores.
At first it seems to be going okay. We watch several pieces of a video our therapist gave us, "Model Me Kids," which offers scenarios of normal social interaction. We learn that you should turn your body towards someone when you apologize to them, and that we shouldn't push or hit on the playground. I sit with Oak and write up an "incident report," asking him about the before, during, and after, then talking both about what his other options were when he got mad at her, and how he'd respond if someone else did that to her, as well as how other parents would feel if he did that to their kid. We do a little roleplaying of responding to your sibling when they annoy you. The Winemaker had them draw some picture cooperatively. I started making dinner.
Linden had a melt-down. I don't really blame her--even with the stress of the car fake-dying, her day was worse than mine, because she was in pain all day long. But it was loud, and long, and annoying. She was still whimpering a little when we sat down to eat. Food seemed to cure her woes. When dinner conversation got a little cranky, The Winemaker had us go around the table saying things we appreciated about someone. First we went to the left. Then to the right. Then across the table, which forced them to say nice things about each other. Oak said he likes playing tag and hide-and-seek with his sister. Linden wanted to say the same thing, but eventually came up with the fact that her brother usually shares with her. Things felt good there for a few minutes.
Oak, who'd been a bit amped up throughout certain parts of our before dinner activities, started veering out of control. When he threw a wet washrag at me, the Winemaker took him out for a walk. I did the dishes we were supposed to have done together, so when he came back, I assigned him a new job.
Blah blah blah. He kept being a jerk, I took him on another walk, he seemed to calm down and be rational, we tried again. Here's where it ended: after the traditional five minute's agonizing, he'd chosen the piece of Halloween candy he wanted for dessert--in this case a small bag of mini gobstoppers. I was showing him how to clean the spots off the kitchen floor. He said, "You want to see, Mama?" grabbed the rag out of my hand, turned himself bottom into my face and...let er rip. And in case you're wondering, it was not unfortunate timing. Trust me on this.
I sighed and said, "10 pushups," then as he started, said, "You know what? Never mind." He'd been given pushups in increments of five and ten all evening, and these would put him at maybe 50 or 60, or possibly 6,000. CLEARLY pushups were not improving anything. "Let's just go to bed," I said, taking the bag of candy and putting it up.
And that's when he went beserk.
You would have thought I'd taken his puppy to the pound. Seriously. Tears. Copious. Sobbing. Wailing. I know he has some food issues, but I did not see this one coming. He pulled out all the stops to get me to either give him his candy back or freak out and lose my temper. He got closer to B than to A, but I did okay. Better than I would have a few months ago, or even a few weeks ago.
I think we need to do a few days with no dessert, because sugar should not trigger that much rage and grief.
I also think I'm a horrible human being who should have just let the poor kid eat his stupid candy. No, I really don't, because one of my struggles is with consistency, and once I said, "Not tonight, but it's still yours and you can have it tomorrow," I absolutely should not have backed down. But maybe the no dessert idea is more about punishing than teaching. I'll have to discuss with the Winemaker.
In retrospect, although it was so, so very crappy, I think he went from rage and misery to bargaining (Can I have some Goldfish? Can I sleep in your bed?) to typical avoiding bedtime behaviors (I'm thirsty!) to settling down to sleep in about 40 minutes. And that's about how long it usually takes us to get him to bed anyway. Of course, today we skipped stories and brushing teeth (oops). But considering how freaking worked up he was, it sure could have been worse.