Before yesterday, I could have counted Blake's VERY BAD tantrums on 2 fingers - one was soon after we moved into this house and I was trying to get him to nursery when he just wouldn't cooperate (re-read the tale here), and the second was the infamous Dulwich Park tantrum when we didn't let him have another go on the fire engine ride last summer (if you're feeling brave, read that one here). There are no doubt countless mild to medium ones that have occurred since then, but nothing quite prepared me for what happened yesterday afternoon, what I'll henceforth refer to as THE Tantrum. As in, the Tantrum to End All Tantrums, or the Mother of All Tantrums. Or, the "Please don't let there be another one of those, ever again, please" tantrums...
Hindsight, as we know, is the prescription status I often wish my glasses were. We had hosted our good friends Jenny, Charlie, and Flora here for lunch, and met up with them later in the day at the local park. The older boys were doing a fantastic job of really running around a lot, giving Jenny and me cause to think that they were going to be really tired for bedtime, making that part of the day a little bit easier. When she asked me if I wanted to go back to their place for the kids' dinner, I thought it seemed nice and I also relished the thought of not having to go home and make something, so I gratefully accepted. That's the part where in retrospect, I should have just come home and called it a very busy and successful day, but instead we parked up in front of our house and headed around the corner to theirs. It takes about a minute to walk there and it has been so nice to have them as lovely neighbors close by.
The kids had some fish pie and peas, and Charlie and Blake created a fantastic traffic jam out of Matchbox cars, but as 6:00 approached I told Blake it was time that we headed off home. On our departure, Charlie offered Blake a page out of his Cars coloring book - lucky Blake ended up with a picture of Lightning McQueen which seemed like a great little activity for when we arrived home. Or so I hoped...
No sooner did we say goodbye and their door shut did Blake burst into tears and start saying that he didn't want the Lightning McQueen picture - he wanted another one. "Well, sweetie, look, they've closed their door and are going to start to go have their baths, so we'd better get on home ourselves and do the same," is what I think I said to start. At this point Blake started stamping up and down and screaming that he wanted another one, and I thought to myself, "Oh no, this isn't good!" Within about 5 seconds his face had gone bright red, he looked completely aimless and like he didn't know what do do except scream and shout (at that point I had a sinking feeling that he was just completely and utterly exhausted), but then he ran back to their front door and started banging on it. Well, Jenny is a lovely lovely person, and probably actually of course wouldn't minded this slight disruption, but I was not at all happy with Blake doing this and quickly moved to get us on the route home. I realized I would just have to pick him up and carry him the short distance.
I had made the mistake (the only-retroactively-aware-of-it mistake) that I had just carried Noah over from our house and Blake had walked; an hour earlier the world was a fun and beautiful place and the idea of doing a 60-second walk just carrying Noah with Blake walking chirpily beside me seemed absolutely fine. Now, not so fine. I had Noah in the crook of my left arm, Blake initially in the crook of my right arm and I was making some forward progress. Then all of a sudden, WHAP came the sound of a little hand hitting me - hard - smack in the middle of my face. WHAP, it came again as quick as the first had landed. As much as I knew we weren't doing well, those blows were still very unexpected and very surprising. I stood, slightly frozen as I understood that I'd just been hit in the face by my 3.5-year-old, when all of a sudden he then started pulling my hair - REALLY HARD, and scratching me like an angry cat. On the sidewalk we'd just come from, two teenagers walking by seemed to be giggling at my predicament. Great, I thought, that is just what I need. Turns out that I didn't have too much time to worry about that, since now that I'd let Blake down on to the sidewalk he had bolted off so I then had to chase him around the corner. But unfortunately he didn't carry on in that direction (toward our house) and decided, looking something like a slightly delirious animal trying to escape from a cage, to run back toward Charlie's house, still chanting about wanting a different picture.
At this point let me just say, all of this would be very bad if it was happening inside our house. Or even inside someone else's house. But it was happening on the street, in broad daylight in full view to any number of neighbors who had gone to investigate what in the world that screeching noise was that had been going on for the last 10 minutes. Not to mention of course the possible danger of Blake running into the road and me being unable to catch him for having Noah to contend with, or putting Noah down to get Blake and having Noah wander into the road...it was NOT a good situation.
What made it worse, and yes, it got worse, was that at this point a neighbor of Jenny and her 3.5-year-old daughter drove by on her bike. I don't know this woman all that well, but I do know that I often seem to be more critical of my own mothering style when I'm around her, so I'm obviously concerned that my techniques probably aren't quite the same as hers, and that somehow mine are worse (examples of mine being the giving of ice cream as not even necessarily a treat, but a way of getting through the early evening, or the watching of tv for that same goal). A few minutes later her husband who had been out for a run came by and asked if I needed any help. I actually said yes, as I was feeling so helpless and just desperate to make it the 50 yards or so more to our door. We tried to figured out what he could take - we ended up thinking my bag would be a good option, as I was still clutching Noah (no idea what the poor little guy was thinking throughout all this, until he actually started crying and it was pretty clear that he was kind of freaked out too). Blake was just rolling around on the sidewalk at this point, not listening to any reason, and I ended up telling the husband not to worry about us. I then picked up Blake again and proceeded to try to move forward. His next act was to bite me really hard in the shoulder, and I pretty much just dragged him parallel to me until he saw our road and ran to our front door.
Once inside, I closed the door behind me and tried to pause for a moment to take some deep breaths and attempt to stop shaking. Humiliation, frustration, shock, disappointment, guilt, resentment - that's pretty much the list of feelings that were coursing through me. Blake's sobs ultimately faded into sniffles but mine were really just beginning, and I didn't really - I couldn't really - speak to him for about 10 or 15 minutes; I just had to get Noah in the bath and into bed. I finally started asking Blake if he understood why what he had done was not nice, and explaining that Mommy was very sad because what he had done had really hurt me (how many times have I said, "Hitting isn't nice!"?). He had said he was sorry several times, and it was clear he was feeling very contrite, but still...we had a cuddle on the couch, and he cooperated and had a bath with Noah before falling asleep pretty easily, pretty early. As I said, he was exhausted.
I felt pretty crappy all day - you try getting beaten up by a 3.5-year-old and tell me you feel good the next day! I explained to nursery this morning what had happened and they reported when I picked him up that Blake had been very good all day and that he'd asked them if he could make me a card to say he was sorry. He's obviously a good boy, and yesterday was clearly just a case where he lost the plot (not that many of the stories he now reads have much plot to speak of for him to know what that even is). I don't think at least that I have the makings of a Lionel Shriver novel on my hands. He was just over-tired and Mommy was the unfortunate victim of the resulting exhaustion-borne outrage.
I don't know about you (although I have a feeling I actually do), but it is certainly not very often that I get hit in the face. The only time I can actually think of being involved in any sort of physical altercation (apart from my rugby-playing days) was when I was in probably 4th or 5th grade and a brother and sister pair on our street and I got in a fight and one of them pulled a clump of my hair out. I vividly remember the scene, and I have no other memories of a hand making hard and fast contact with my nose, so yesterday's incident was quite a shock to my system. I spent much of today feeling as if I'd been in a barroom brawl, and with a newfound empathy for Evander Holyfield and what he must have felt in that fight with Mike Tyson.
This evening all was quiet on the home front. Blake and I were good friends and he told me several times that Noah, Matt and I were his "best friends", which is reassuring. He also made me laugh, when, in the back garden with his plastic Toy Story ball, he told me and Noah: "Watch the team of me!" as he dribbled the ball and kicked it into an imaginary goal. After Noah went to sleep I helped Blake draw some dinosaurs on a beach, along with a "wiggly house" and "our house" and several palm trees, to which he needs to add some coconuts to a tree once he finds his brown marker.
I'll certainly be ready for the weekend to to try to rest and regroup. If I'm in the mood to watch sports, I think the British Open golf tournament will be on. I am sure it will be very civilized, quite unlike my recent experiences with boxing.