I yelled at my kid this morning.
It was one of those mornings when you wake up from a dream and step into a nightmare. The first thing I heard when I came out of my exhaustion-induced coma was the three year old yelling for daddy from the top of the stairs. This is actually his morning routine. He yells and Daddy comes and gets him and feeds him breakfast before leaving for work. He was yelling, but no one was answering. How odd, I thought as I slowly dragged my mind out of sleep.
The next thing I noticed was the the monitor had run out of batteries. Slowly, over the sound of my now extremely irritated three year old, I hear the baby crying. How long had he been awake? What time was it? Daddy was already at work. I jumped out of bed, threw on the nearest sweater I could find (inside out, actually) and stumbled down the hallway toward the baby’s room.
The three year old looked at me with his big, sad eyes as I passed by him. “Where’s Daddy?” He whined. I considered explaining to him that I had been awake for precisely 14.5 seconds and had absolutely no idea, but figured it probably wasn’t worth it. The baby was on his tummy in his crib, wailing. The room had that familiar smell of poop in the air. No wonder he was angry.
I laid him on the floor to change his diaper. The three year old continued to yell from the top of the stairs despite my urging him to come talk to me. He said he couldn’t walk. Finally, I get the wriggling baby’s clothes back on him and head back toward the cranky toddler.
“Would you like to come downstairs and get some breakfast?” I ask him, as patiently as I can.
“NO!” He was considerably less patient.
“Then can you move so I can get down the stairs?”
I stepped over his now prostrate body and carefully negotiated the stairs while carrying the baby. Upon arriving downstairs I discovered that while I was cleaning the poop off the baby, the dogs decided they couldn’t wait to poop either. It was some kind of fecal domino effect. I was greeted in the kitchen by two very large piles of poop.
I sat the baby on the play mat while I cleaned the poop off the floor. The three year old was still protesting at the top of the stairs. I called to him a few more times as I flushed the poop down the toilet. Apparently he still couldn’t walk. I was about to enter into negotiation tactics with him when I heard a crash coming from the playroom. The baby had pulled not one, but two, drawers of legos down on him self.
I picked up my sobbing baby and dusted him off. He needed breakfast, I needed to pee, the dogs were refusing to come in from the cold back yard for fear of what I might do to them. It was pure chaos. I looked at the clock. I’d only been awake for 12 minutes.
The three year old yelled again from the top of the stairs.
I lost it. It’s not something I’m proud to admit, but I think we all lose it once in a while and today it was my turn.
I put the baby in his walker and thundered up the stairs. I was looking for a fight. I was tired. I was crabby. I had a headache. And he was being entirely unreasonable. What was he, three years old?! I was looking for someone to blame and he had walked right into oncoming traffic.
I asked him one last time to get up and walk down the stairs. He looked at me with defiance in his eyes and said nothing. So I picked him up, walked him down the stairs and plonked him unceremoniously on the toilet. Yelling the entire time.
“You are perfectly capable of waking down the stairs on your own. Just sit down on the toilet. No, you can’t get up there yourself because apparently you can’t walk anymore. Gosh, would you just grow up?!”
I regretted it the moment I’d said it. His eyes filled with tears. His lip stuck out and began to quiver. I’d won. I’d successfully taken my bad morning out on a three year old. I gotta tell you, it didn’t feel good. I crumpled to my knees on the mat by the bathroom sink.
“I’m sorry, buddy. I didn’t mean that.” I said, quieter.
“I want Daddy.” He said with tears rolling down his cheeks.
Of course he did. I couldn’t blame him. I was being a complete witch.
After he finished peeing, I carried him to his favorite recliner and got him some milk. He calmed down. I calmed down. The baby was playing quietly by himself, steering clear of the monster that had taken over his mother’s body. Smart kid.
I got down in front of the chair and looked at my first born son’s swollen, angry face.
“I am so sorry I lost my temper with you. Can we start today over? Good morning, honey!” I said, as cheerfully and enthusiastically as I could. He looked at me and hesitated for a moment, as if he was weighing his options.
“Good morning, Mommy.” He said, smiling. “I love you.” And just like that, it was over.
I am left with an unsettled knot in my stomach. How much longer will I be able to use the reset button when I lose my temper with him? At what point will he start giving me a well-deserved “shove off” when I ask if we can start over? Despite what I said to him in anger, I’m not ready for him to grow up. I still have a lot of work to do on myself before facing the older, more world-weary version of my son. I’d rather carry all 44 pounds of him down the stairs a thousand times than watch 80 pounds of him turn his back on me.
I can’t take back the yelling or the tears shed this morning, but I can remember how it felt to see him shoulder the burden of my frustration. I don’t ever want to see that again.