Worst. Parent. Ever.
That’s me. Flat out worst.
Which is a pity, because the day had gone rather well. Kids playing together, birds singing, sun shining, whatnot. I went out–promising Rory I would come back–and i did, which she seemed to see as a good thing. Better yet, I went for a bike ride with a friend, and every hill just felt good, because it was just so great to be out on my own.
I miscalculated dinner. I had an easy entree, so I thought I’d go all out and make actual French Fries (there’s a new recipe, super easy, in the newest Cook’s Illustrated and I highly recommend you run right out and buy it) and a chopped salad, which (surprise!) turned out to involve a lot of, well, chopping. All of this took time and dinner wasn’t ready until close to seven, and since we’d actually hauled everyone through the day without napping they were pretty tired and whiny. Rory, in fact, was half asleep on the couch.
Everyone else came to the table, french fries being a huge draw, But she refused. I’m tired, she yelled. I’m SLEEPING.
Fine–but not if it involves disrupting everyone’s dinner…so Rob offered to carry her upstairs, and that’s when the fun began. No no no, i not want to go to bed, no no no no no. Did she want to come to dinner? No no no no no. I don’t want go upstairs, I no want diner, aaah, aaah, aahh.
I’m wishing we’d just let her on the couch–it wasn’t that big a deal, when Rob shouts–she’s just peed all over him, and the kitchen floor, and she is still screaming hysterically. No no no, not upstairs, no dinner.
Dinner is pretty much screwed, anyway…and we all know how I am when I cannot eat my dinner hot. Especially when I have worked for the last hour making it. I grab pajamas, clean her up, not particularly kindly, and am about to haul her up to bed when Rob intervenes. She can eat, he says–by now she wants dinner–if she helps him clean up. (I know, the orphan wiping up her own pee…I can see the DIckensian implications of the whole thing now, but at the time it seemed reasonable and we’ve done the same with Sam and Wyatt over and over again.)
She gives it what I see as a cursory swipe, tries to but the rags on the counter and then, when I tell her to throw them away–she’s giggling, and I say it’s not funny does so–and then goes, sits down at the table, and starts to eat my dinner.
I yell. Loudly. I take her away and tell her that’s not the way it works, she doesn’t get to go eat my dinner after all that…I am fierce. It’s not pretty. She cries.
Rob helps her to clean up. I get her a plate. She eats, sniveling and hicupping, a huge plate of food, but she won’t talk. Only the same Maa and grunts that we were getting hours after we picked her up. I feel awful. Awful.
After a while I apologize. She thought–I can see now–she’s three, for god’s sake–that she had cleaned up. And she probably thought, in spite of it not being at her place or on a kid’s plate–that that was her dinner, or at least, she didn’t think about it. And I yelled at her for it. So I tell her that. You thought you had cleaned up, and you thought this was your food, and I yelled at you. I was angry, and I’m sorry. I see a glimmer of understanding and get stony silence. A glare, even.
Well, at least I won’t get fat from eating the tasty fries, right? Because I can’t eat now.
Rob jollies her. He moves in slowly. While I clean up, and get the other kids settled, he approaches slowly, gets her giggling, finally laughing, and has her, as we always do, clear her place. Me, I just back off. I’m picturing a major setback–we’re all she has, and I in particular have been a real rock for her, even when I don’t want to be–and I have been horrible, scary, she will probably never forgive me. Would I have said the same to one of the three? Absolutely, but that’s the thing. Maybe I shouldn’t have. Maybe I’ve just been nasty and scary again and again, and they just recover because this particular mommy is the one they’re stuck with, and someday they will be telling tales of my manic rants in their EST groups.
But no–she’s looking for me. She hides her face in my bed, and when I come, and hold my arms out, she giggles. She wants hugs. Can I take her to brush her teeth? Yes. Can I read her a book? Yes. Can I put her to bed? Yes, but only if I’ll stay where she can see me while she falls asleep. We settle on the couch outside their room. and I read for five minutes–she’s asleep right away.
Happy ending, I guess. More than happy–paradoxically, tonight may be the first time I’ve enjoyed her for her. Found the on-my-own toothbrushing cute. Been able to read to her, and see her find the pictures funny. Let her “read” to me and been charmed. That a baby. She cryin, she goin in crib. Letters, abc def (turn page) lmn op. I have always especially enjoyed one-on-one time with the kids, but so far I’d been reluctant–I just didn’t want it with her. She seemed so needy, so unpredictable. What would we do? I didn’t know her. I knew the others. Why not spend time with them, and just leave her as part of the pack for a while? Her need for me seemed weird and un-meetable. I couldn’t exactly replace her foster mama. I almost couldn’t see why her heart was open to even let me try. Plus, well, I suck on not enough sleep.
But when I thought it was gone–when I thought we were back to square one, or worse, that I’d lost what I hadn’t even realized we’d built, or that I valued–well, then it was different. She’s adjusting beautifully. She really is. She’s doing more than meet us halfway, she’s throwing herself into us, and I’m letting her do it, without giving the the help she needs. I hope tonight will change that, not just for tonight but going on. It’s must a little bit of time, this. It really is.