About me: I'm 40 and just added a gherkin to our pickle party of a family. My husband Chuck, our 7-year-old Junior, our 4-year-old Everett and I live in a town in Connecticut I affectionately call Mulletville Lite (aka my childhood hometown). My friends call me Nutjob, and they're right. In my husband's spare time he dresses up as a Viking and chases ghosts (and I'm the nutjob?). When I'm not busy working as a graphic designer, I lie in a ball in the corner.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
It's kind of cute how Junior told Chuck, "I had a meltdown at Chili's." Kind of
Tonight I called my good friend D&W (aka Lisa) and asked if she and her two kids (ages three and oneish) wanted to meet me and Junior for dinner.
“Where should we go?” we wondered. We agreed on Chili’s. “They’re so kid friendly!” we giggled. “We’re such moms!” we laughed.
God, we were so naïve. Rather, I was so naïve. Junior had been a little off all day. He’d slept late and wanted to curl up in front of Curious George instead of play. The babysitter said he did fine during the day, but after she left Junior was still off. He was having meltdowns over small things. I know that in toddlerdome—where the winds are bipolar and rational behavior is scarce—that doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong, but I should have known.
Dinner was ok, except for a toothy waitress who tried to push the chocolate milk even though Lisa said, “WHITE milk, please. WHITE.” We laughed about Hal the talking pickle, or whatever the hell he was, on the kid’s menu. We said, “Please sit down the right way” to our children ten thousand times. We actually managed five minutes of adult conversation.
We made it.
Then, the bathroom. If I could go back in time, I would run to the car with Junior instead of heading into The Bowels of Chaos.
Junior started to unravel at the bathroom entrances. He didn’t want to go into the women’s room; he wanted to go into the men’s. He wanted to go the bathroom before me. He didn’t want to go at all. He had to go. He didn’t.
After three Sprites, I did have to go. I really fricken did.
Now, while Junior and I were in the stall debating the line-up for emptying our bladders, another mom walked in with her two toddlers. She took the stall between Lisa and me. She was not a happy mom.
“Hands off the seat! Hands out of your mouth! Sit down! Stand up! You lousy kid! Get down! You’re crap!”
When I emerged from the stall with Junior, Lisa clapped her hand over her mouth and said, “Jesus, I knew that wasn’t you in there, but for a minute I was about to say, ‘Mrs. Mullet, take it easy’.”
Then the woman came out.
“Bathroom time sucks!” she growled.
And then we all saw it: the toddler stool.
Waiting for little feet to climb aboard so little hands could wash their own, well, hands. Lisa’s daughter climbed up. Junior was next. The woman told her kids they were after Junior. Grunting noises like those of restless, herded cattle came from behind me. We were three women watching Lisa’s daughter push the soap dispenser. Slooooowly. Carefully. Tick, tock, tick, tock. Everyone wanted the stool.
Dear God, why was there only one stool?
Then it was Junior’s turn. He climbed up. And then…
…He wanted to wash his hands. He didn’t. He did. He didn’t. He did HE DID HE DID WANT TO WASH HIS HANDS! No he didn’t! He DID NOT WANT TO WASH HIS HANDS.
The woman pushed her kids closer.
“Junior,” I said calmly, “if you’re not going to wash your hands, it’s time for someone else’s turn.”
He wanted to wash his hands. He didn’t. He did. He didn’t. He did HE DID HE DID WANT TO WASH HIS HANDS! No he didn’t! He DID NOT WANT TO WASH HIS HANDS.
More grunting and stampeding.
I picked him up. “We have to go, sweetie.”
That’s when it all went to shit. As I carried Junior out of Chili’s, he screamed, “I want to wash my hands! I want to wash my hands! I want to wash my hands!”
I kept my eyes on Lisa, my guiding light. People turned and stared. Pointed and whispered. I smiled so tightly my lips cracked.
We made it to the car, but it only got worse. Junior did want to say goodbye to Lisa’s kids; then he didn’t. I tried to hug him and calm him down but he was inconsolable. He was screaming, crying and flailing. I was actually scared.
“I want to wash my hands!" he cried. "I want to wash my hands! I want to wash my hands!”
Of course the young, childless couple in the car next to me chose to leave then as well. As they pulled out they shook their heads in that Aren’t you glad we haven’t procreated like these stupid assholes? kind of way.
Funny thing is, I used to think that way too when I saw kids having meltdowns. I used to think, Kids? Never! Now I love it so much I’m having another.
Junior and I finally made it home, and he finally calmed down. I gave him a bath and obsessively texted Lisa: “Is this normal? Have your kids done this? Are you sure this is normal?”
See, until today, Junior hasn’t really had a terrible meltdown. He’s almost three; I thought I was out of the woods. I thought I was a fabulous mother who could smugly—and privately—say, “My kid doesn’t do that.” Even better, I thought that if Junior ever did have a meltdown in public I’d look around and laugh and say, “Ha! You’ve all been where I’ve been. Now it’s my turn! You actually owe me!”
Ha is right. This mother thing? Humbling. In that bring-you-to-your-knees kind of way.
I'm so grateful for Lisa, probably more than she realizes. I'm grateful that Junior is sleeping peacefully. I'm also grateful because tomorrow is a new day, and I have one more parenting experience under my belt.
I'm going to need it. In a household full of boys.