It's 7:45 and I quietly shut the door to my big kids' room about fifteen minutes ago -- not exactly the "early" bedtime I was pushing for, but after going to bed past ten lately, it's... better. I always joke that when Austen gets ten hours of sleep instead of her usual eleven, everyone had better watch out. The child turns into a monster. But it's not an exaggeration. She needs all, and exactly, twelve hours of sleep. If that doesn't happen, her world starts crumbling at around three in the afternoon.
At three this afternoon, we had just arrived at the library. Since we didn't have a car last summer, I wasn't able to take the kids to the library at all. And then, other than that, I don't have an excuse, but I hadn't taken the kids to the library since Austen was about ten months old. I don't know... I'm a crappy mom I guess, because I never take my kids to the library. We were all excited. Within ten minutes of sitting down with my carefully chosen book, ready to watch the kids play and explore the children's area, Austen thought it would be hilarious to throw a foam block across the room at my head. Whatever, she's a two-year-old, so I asked her to come over so I could quietly explain that we can't do that in the library.
Now, a friend recently mentioned to me that kids go through six-month developmental periods of calm and storm. This makes complete sense to me, and I can say it's been true with both my kids. River's "storms" are pretty mild and mostly just obnoxious. He argues more, whines more, is a little more wild and careless and runs into a lot of doors. Austen's are like a hurricane. And it seems like anything can set her off.
When I told her I wanted her to come over to me, she refused. I started counting, a la the book 1-2-3 Magic. This method works great, mostly. Just to explain a little, you don't just count "One...now I'm warning you!... two... I'm not playing around!... two and a half... you had better listen RIGHT NOW! Two and three-quarters!... OKAY THAT'S IT, GET OVER HERE!" It's a very simple, to-the-point technique that cuts down on a lot of arguing and fit-throwing. Especially if your kid is River. (Austen is not River.) First you say, "That's one," and you wait five seconds without saying a single world. "That's two." Wait another silent five seconds. "That's three, it's time to go to time-out." Usually by, "that's one," the kids quickly oblige because they know what's coming and very rarely do we reach three. But Austen thought it would be cool to change things up a bit in public, you know, where everyone is watching my parenting skills, or lack thereof, in action. She flat-out told me -- NO. And by the time I got to three, she was in hysterics. You can't reason with a toddler in hysterics.
I gathered her up to take her outside, River following along, "But Mama, we just got here... are we going home? I really, really don't want to go home!" (Poor kid.) We sat outside while Austen screamed and moaned, much to the annoyance or amusement of passers-by, but the girl would not let up. I thought we'd be out there for two minutes, tops, her usual allotted time for disobeying. After ten minutes, I apologized to River and we headed home. Her screaming did not cease until we were in the apartment, at which point it started up again because I shut and locked the door when she wanted to do it. We made our way to the bed where we snuggled and talked and she cried some more about wanting to go back, and though the day certainly didn't go as planned, I'd call this a parenting win and I'm really hoping the lesson was learned.
So, you could say we're in the middle of a storm.
Having grown up a child who was spanked, it's difficult for me (but has become easier) during these moments to not want to just pop her on the behind. I know I can offer my kids better, but damn it is hard when you're in the middle of it. And Austen isn't one to respond to spanking. I don't know from experience, as I've never spanked her before, but I know for certain even a light tap disguised as a mean, old spanking would devastate her. The kid has a lot of feelings.