I Got You

Confession- I used to be a smug bastard-person.  I'd see people with kids going bonkers in Target, or pitching tantrums regarding their perception of appropriate cupcake portions, or, gawdallmightyhelpus HITTING other kids and I would smile sympathetically on the outside but inwardly make that sneer face Cinderella's evil stepmother makes when those bitches tear Cinderella's dress apart.  Smug. Smuggy Fitzsmugerson, with my total lack of experience divided by my calm knowledge that "I would never tolerate that sort of behavior"carry the 2 equals smugness.

Nothing pertaining to my experience with my first child did much to derail this smugness.  In fact, I daresay my preternaturally "easy" child went a long way towards fanning the smug flames into a fire of...-barf-....subconscious self righteousness, that most tedious of attitudes.  Having parented one small human through the so-called "Terrible Twos" and finding nothing all that terrible, I was serenely certain that my way of parenting was, in fact, The Right Way, and that if people with stinkers for kids would only sit at my feet and catch my pearls o' wisdom their little Damiens would transform into that kid from Jerry McGuire: amiable, yet charmingly precocious. Maybe with cute glasses.

And lo, the Lord did see my smugness and it did displease Him mightily and He sent unto me....Wesley.

Wes was my easiest birth.  He came wailing into the world with a couple of pushes and me actually laughing at one point.  He was a relatively mild baby, easy to nurse, quick to learn to speak his first words and crawl and walk, sweet and cuddly but also much more independent than Gwen.  He fit nicely into my views on "Good parents make good kids!'

And then he hit 18 months.  And the shrieking.  The face-melting, macaque-like shrieking when he didn't get his way.  That was the first crack in my veneer.

It turns out, he began the "Terrible Twos" about 6 months before schedule.  The shrieking evolved into tantrums, hitting, throwing, and a general grumpiness that permeated most of his days.  I pulled out all the tricks in my "loving but firm" arsenal- getting down on his level, eye contact, confident communication as I set "boundaries".  "We don't hit, buddy! We don't throw things when we're mad, buddy! Hair is not for pulling! Hands are not for hitting!"  Mommy needs a drinky.  Because none of it seemed to make a damn bit of difference.

Wes was (and is) a law unto himself.  In hindsight, I see that his mental capacity had out-paced his ability to communicate with us in a way that we could understand.  He would have something he desperately wanted/needed/wished us to comprehend, and no matter how he tried he could not make us see it.  And so, rage.  Violence.  A lot of time spent on the supermarket floor writhing about while I tried desperately to open a bag of Goldfish crackers to placate him.  And by the way, in the middle of all of this, I got pregnant with Owen.  Holy shit, you guys.

So now I was exhausted in addition to exasperated.  And still we toiled.  I read books.  I scoured websites.  We tried time-outs.  We tried just doing whatever he wanted for an hour a day.  Gentle play.  Horse play.  Ignoring bad behavior.  Making him apologize for bad behavior.  Time alone with Mom or Dad.  Gentle discipline.  Firm discipline.  And only one thing ever really worked.  And that one thing was TIME.

As he grows his verbal ability is growing with him.  It sometimes felt painfully slow to us, parents of Gwendolyn who practically came out of the womb talking in full sentences.  But every added word- every naming of a thing or emotion in a way recognizable to us is one more battle shut down before it happens.  I know when he's thirsty now because he tells me.  There's no need to hurl a sippy cup at my head.  It is a study in meeting your child where they are, when they are- not at some predetermined mile-marker you got from an "expert" or from what your other kid did or what might be convenient to your life at the moment.

There was very little we could control besides hanging the hell in there, holding onto our patience with both hands, and having faith that we'd come out the other side with him.  We weren't bad parents.  We weren't weak or over-indulgent.  We weren't too harsh or demanding too much.  We were just parenting the child we were given to parent, as best we could.  We couldn't magically turn our bear into a bunny, no matter how hard we tried to staple those big floppy ears to his hard head.

And I realize now that in all likelihood, all those parents my 20-something smug ass had been judging were simply along for the ride with their own challenging kid, sweaty and embarrassed at Target, hoping there were no smug assholes like young-me looking down their noses at things that they couldn't hope to control.  So I'd like to say, "I'm sorry, moms.  I was an ignorant dick.  And I'm sorry."

This is not to say we are completely out of the woods.  My Wes is still challenging- most recently refusing to nap at all which leaves us at around 4pm with a emotionally brittle nearly-three-year-old,  just looking for an excuse to collapse.  He still has a problem with even approaching the concept of "sharing".  He still gets into everything (and I include, memorably, his own poopy diaper only yesterday.  Ermagerd.)  I still need to occasionally call my mom-friends to be reminded "It Gets Better". And may God above help me, we're about to begin potty training.

But there are good days now, days when he wakes up with a dimply smile, and tells me over and over "Thank you, Mom!" for some particular toy or favor that has tickled him.  He honest-to-God plays with his big sister- laughing, jolly, rough-and-tumble play like I always dreamed of for them.   And when he's having a really hard time, I can take him in my arms and hear him repeat to me the phrase I said so many times to him in those rough months when he was raging and flailing and making me question whether he loved me at all:  "I got you.  I got you, Mom."

I got you too baby, always.


In Defense of Mr. and Mrs. Arendelle (Elsa's Ma and Pa)

Hold God, with the Frozen stuff.  I mean, really.  Obviously, my 4 year old is, like all her cohorts, insanely obsessed with Disney's little flick about an emotionally repressed shut-in who has the power of ice (and also the power to create friggin life, but let's stick with ice for now because, like holy shite the implications of that, amiright?).  This whole winter it was all videos of cute kids scream-singing Frozen, and my own actual cute kid scream-singing Frozen, and this weird-ass video which starts out in Africa but ends up at the local rec center and features tiny Marie Antoinette and the bad guy from "The Princess and the Frog":

And then Travolta with Adele Dazeem and the feminists are debating whether Elsa and Anna are the greatest heroines since Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Gloria Steinem  or instead make girls into derpy princess-worshiping moron people and so much scream-singing and I'VE SEEN THIS MOVE 450 TIMES YOU GUYS.  So I think about it, like way more than I need to.  Let's begin from a place where I am aware none of the following matters and yet I'm blogging about it anyway because I have three kids under age 5 and don't sleep/get out much and this is the deepest stuff I have the capacity to think about right now, k?

One of the notions I've seen in commentary and blogs is how much Elsa and Anna's parents suck, having reacted to their daughter's incredible powers by locking her up in a room for all her formative years with a mandate to repress her emotions in order to control those powers, complete with cutesy rhyming pneumonic device to help her remember to hide her true nature and shove her feelings down into the place where ulcers are born. Like, essentially they've groomed her for her role as a basket-case barely keeping her shit together, who predictably breaks at the first test of her control and pretty much ruins everything (how many deaths are attributed to the freeze? In New York City, half a dozen people die every time it snows and we have plumbing and heat and Dominoes pizza delivery).  So yeah, her parents suck.  OR DO THEY?

Let's just break this thing down, from a parental POV.  You're asleep in your giant royal bed.  You are a head of state and you deal with heavy kingdom-ruling crap all day and besides, you've got two kids, so you really love sleeping, in a fervent, almost religious kind of way.  You are awakened from this sleep by one of your beloved daughters screaming for you.  You go hauling ass to the ball(?) room only to find the whole goddamn place is frosted over, your one kid is almost dead, and your other is apparently the cause of all of this. Really, it's very The Good Son:
  So you go visit the local trolls (ok- pause- can we all agree the troll thing is just....not very well thought out? Like, they don't fit, I'm sorry.  We are all in Norway or wherever and then we are just plunked down in Fraggle Rock a mere brisk gallop from the magic-phobic city? Feels a little shimmed in there, right? Anywho.)  So the troll wizard/patriarch guy does the VAGUEST DESCRIPTION EVER of what's going on w/ Elsa and her powers.  Like, he knows enough to be able to craft a Power Point presentation in the sky about the future, but not enough to simply say "Think happy thoughts, and you won't kill your whole family with your ice powers"? No, essentially what he does is say "DON'T BE AFRAID- OH, HERE'S A GLIMPSE OF YOUR ADULT SELF BEING CONSUMED BY RED FEAR-DEMONS! BWA HA HA!!" And then Mom and Dad come up with the great reduce-the-staff/ separate-the-sisters Rochester's wife plan, RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE TROLL.  And does the troll say, "Naw, dog, just use love to counteract her powers!"? Nope.  He just sends them on their way and presumably bills their insurance for the ice-removal from Anna's head.

So at this point, I'm thinking the parents are just doing the best they can with the information they have.  Because A.  They have to protect their youngest child.  B. They must know that the reaction of most of their subjects to uncontrolled freakish ice-powers will be similar to this guy's:
C. They love Elsa and want to help her but literally have no tools whatsoever to do so thanks to Vaguest Troll.  

I feel the Arendelles.  The Arendelles, they are like 1980s parents.  Confronted with the Gordian knot, they hack right on through.  Daughter has dangerous ice-powers and can hurt people with them? Lock that ish down, teach daughter self-control, set it free and hope it all works out.  Kids come home from school at 3 and you can't afford a sitter? Buy them some snacks,  and tell them to put on She-ra, Princess of Power and lock the front door.  You do what you gotta do and hope for the best, 80s style, like Don Johnson. And yeah, maybe your kids end up a little....wonky....but hey. They are alive. 

Look, I'm not saying it was a perfect solution, but really, what were they supposed to do?  "Conceal, don't feel" isn't going to sell any bumper stickers, but you know what, it kept her from killing anyone.  It's the available remedy to an unresolvable situation, one that was destined to come to fruition no matter what they did to prevent it, because really, Elsa needed to break bad, so she could choose what sort of life she ultimately wanted to have.  And also because if she didn't the movie would be called "Mild with Slight Chance of Showers" and be vastly less interesting.  

And really, they could have just abandoned her.  Instead they halted their WHOLE LIVES to attend to her special needs in the only way they saw possible. They named her their heir.  They loved her through the whole nightmare, despite being afraid both for and presumably of her. And despite their tireless work to keep both their kids and their kingdom safe, while all the time not thinking of their own personal safety as they continue to visit and instruct their daughter, when she went bonkers the first instinct the whole viewing audience had was to blame the parents.  Aint that just the way?

And plus *spoiler* they die in a freaking shipwreck.  So I think they've suffered enough. 

I think those stones say, "Here's Lies the Arendelles. They did their best."
PS: Just kidding, they do kind of suck. Gloves, Dad? Really? That's your plan?