I wish I could lie and say that everything's been peachy since we had our family-wide meltdown. It's been better, but it's also been kind of trippy. Like we hit rock bottom and everyone decided to change their costume for the ride back up, and when we got out of the elevator we didn't really recognize one another.
Except Chuck. He's still bald. And me. I'm still fighting the grays and wishing I got that nose ring 30 years ago.
We've been working on creative ways for the older boys to handle Cam's tantrums. I asked them if they could try to make it game when Cam runs into the room and takes their toys. I reminded them that he's just trying to play with them.
HE JUST WANTS YOUR ATTENTION, I always yell. JUST LET HIM PLAY FOR GOD'S SAKE.
I never thought they'd actually listen, but low and behold the other day Cam grabbed Junior's Lego jet and when Junior raced after him he yelled, "Hey Cam! I have a cooler, faster jet I want to give you!"
Cam stopped in his tracks and handed Junior the jet. He even accepted the "cooler" replacement jet — which was clearly 10,000,000 times inferior.
It doesn't work every time (the next time it happened, Cam dropped the jet and it broke into a million pieces and Junior raced to his bedroom in tears, muttering, "He ruins everything!" but hey, it's progress).
It was enough progress that I was feeling pretty damn good about my parenting skills — for like, oh, three minutes. Then Junior got invited to a friend's house, and Everett decided to immediately fill the vacant spot in the tantrum department.
How are children so adept at that?
It was yesterday. I had walked Junior out to the driveway so we could wait for his friend and his friend's father to pick him up. Everett came racing outside and demanded to know where Junior was going.
"To a friend's!" Junior said in a haughty voice.
"Don't leave me!" Everett cried. Cam stood at the door yelling, "I want to come outside too!" Chuck was inside pooping. I swear, it's how he manages to evade all the stressful moments.
Just then Junior's friend's father pulled up. Before Junior could take a step, Everett wrapped his arms and legs around Junior's leg.
"Get off me!" Junior shouted.
"I want you to stay!" Everett cried. It was raining. He was still in his pajamas, which were decorated in Christmas moose (meese?). I calmly asked Everett to please stop.
Junior started walking towards his friend's car, dragging Everett with him. Junior shouted, "Everett! You're making a scene. YOU HAVE TO LET ME GO." It was like something out of a romantic comedy. I swear, sad music started playing in the background and the wind picked up just enough to tousle their hair.
"YOU HAVE TO LET ME GO."
"BUT I DON'T WANT TO!"
"BUT YOU HAVE TO!"
"PLEASE DON'T LEAVE ME!"
I saw it: Brothers. Changing. Growing up right before my eyes. Not toddlers. Not even little kids. But real people with genuine, big people feelings and emotions. Junior is leaving Everett behind, I thought. He wants to break away.
It hurt my heart. I tried not to get choked up. It was easy, given that the friend and the friend's father were gawking at us from their car, and Cam was still screaming at the door. I bent down (this detail will be important in a minute) and helped pry Everett off Junior's leg. I held Everett (all 60 pounds of him) and we waved goodbye. Because I no longer have standards, I used my clothing to wipe the snot and tears off his face.
"He needs to see his friends," I told Everett. "Everyone likes to see their friends from time to time."
When we got back inside, Cam was ecstatic to see Everett. "Will you play with me?" he asked. Everett grudgingly agreed. I said a silent thank you to the universe, hopeful that maybe Cam will help fill in the gaps when Junior is out of the house. Maybe this is the silver lining of being the middle brother. You always have options for playmates.
Chuck finally emerged from the bathroom three hours later. He wanted to know what all the drama had been about.
"Nothing," I lied.
"That's not true," Everett giggled. "Everyone saw Mom's butt."
"What?" I shrieked.
"You have a huge hole in your pants."
"Bend over," Chuck said.
I did. "You have a huge tear. I can see...crack..."
"Omigod," I said.
Moral of the story: I need a costume change too.
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