January 7, 2011

The Other Shoe

At 6 months
I have easy babies.  Most nights before going to bed, I listen to my children laughing over the monitor, talking to their toys or each other and generally going happily to sleep.  I look at M and I say, "Why are they so good?  HOW are they so good?"

He says he doesn't know, and we probably shouldn't question it.  And I shake my head and wonder, "When is the other shoe going to drop?"

When we go on vacation and they're pleasant and playful EVERYWHERE, they go to sleep in the car, and they don't puke on anything, I wonder when it will end and I'll have to learn how to cope with a difficult child.

When they both enter and exit Sam's Club without a trip to the bathroom, a single cry, or a furious need to pull things off of shelves. I wonder what on earth I would do if they weren't both such easy babies.

One should never ask these questions.  One never wants to know the answers to these questions.

You might think that, having fifteen month old twins, I would know what to do if my children had a gigantic freak-out in public.  You would think, being a fairly competent mother, I would know how to maneuver two hysterical toddlers on a city street.

I have seen my children have meltdowns before.  I know that DD needs to be hugged and distracted when she's very upset, that SI requires a little more time and calm and effort than DD, and that her tantrums can set off DD as well.  I also know that as soon as DD decides that SI is ACTUALLY in trouble, she turns silent as the grave.  She just watches and waits, because something must obviously be wrong with SI.

I'll admit, I was not at my best this morning.  My alarm had gone off at midnight instead of seven, I hadn't had breakfast, and I'd had blueberry oatmeal flung at me.  I then made the very mistaken move of taking my children out of the house.

First, SI wouldn't wear her mittens.
She had to wait on the lawn while I got DD in the car.  She didn't like that.
After that she had to watch SuperMommy have a big fight with the (broken) car door, and then get strapped into her car seat.  She didn't like that, either.
Then she had to sit in the back seat, with SuperMommy in the driver's seat.  She DEFINITELY didn't like that.  At this point DD decided that whatever was wrong with SI was not going to get better, that SuperMommy was NOT going to help, and it was time to freak out now.
Then SuperMommy had to park, and LEAVE the car to go pay for the parking.

As I strapped the two screaming and flailing toddlers one by one into their stroller, people all over the parking lot stopped to stare.  Some with loathing, some with pity, all with expressions that said, "I'm not going anywhere NEAR you."  I pushed 140 decibels of angst 50 feet down the street to a door, barely wide enough to squeeze the double stroller.  Through the lobby shared by our pediatrician's office and a bank, and up to the elevator.  Oh yes, dear readers, this was a trip to get shots.  We rode the barely-large-enough elevator up, up, up to destiny.


I used to use a meditation technique to go to sleep.  You imagine that you're in an elevator, and as it rises higher you imagine leaving behind your muscles, your face, your ears... until you are nothing but thought.  You hear nothing, you feel nothing but warm and secure, and you rise weightlessly into the endless stars.

That was nothing like this elevator ride.

When we arrived at the doctor's office, the waiting room was blessedly vacant.  The doctor told me she heard us coming down the hall (at least that's what her hand gestures said), and to go ahead and calm them down.  As if I knew how.  Somehow our stuff ended up EVERYWHERE.  It was on the couch, on the chairs, behind the desk, on the water cooler... and the stroller was partially disassembled.  I sat on the floor attempting to herd my shrieking, flailing toddlers into my lap and calm them down.

SI rolled all over the floor, unable to express her misery through sounds and tears alone.  This made everything worse for DD.

She couldn't take it anymore and smashed her face onto the floor.

They wouldn't even LOOK at a book.  They wouldn't listen to words or music.  They wouldn't "Dance Away the Sadness" (our usual method when all else is failing).

I ended up with DD tucked onto my lap under one arm, clinging to my shirt with her breath hitching and the occasional squeal of her repressed cries coming through her lips.  SI was spralwed across my lap on her back, her head resting on one shin and her feet dangling over the opposite hip, with eyes closed... COMPLETELY silent and still.  It looked as though she had fainted.  It was only worse once she finally opened her eyes and stared vacantly into space.

We stayed like that for about five minutes before going in and getting the girls their shots.

They were champs.  Even when SI had to sit on the floor while DD got her shot.  They were champs.  They went back into their clothes, coats (although not SI's mittens), stroller, car, and then HOUSE without complaint.  And then they sat in the living room, perfectly calm and watching cartoons for half an hour before going down, without struggle or complaint, for a nap.

So, here I am.  With a nice cup of almond tea, lunch, and a baby monitor playing quiet, uninterrupted lullabyes.  Contemplating my fate.  I have no doubts that this will happen again, and I have no doubts that it will occur in a less toddler-friendly environment.  Who's to say there will be a nice quiet waiting room?  Who's to say one explosion won't just lead to another, worse meltdown?  Who's to say people will be nice to us?

My mother says it's like losing your virginity, having your kids melt down in public.  You don't really know what it's like until it happens.  With sex, you get better as you do it more often.  With your kids' meltdowns... well... I just don't know that I want to try it enough to be sure I'm doing a good job when it happens.

I still don't know how or why my kids are so good... GENERALLY... but I don't think I'm going to question it anymore. 

That other shoe's a bitch.


  1. I'm glad you have to wear the other shoe so seldom that its pinch still surprises you.

    Keep drinking that tea, girlfriend. Maybe start thinking of new breathing meditations.

  2. As I read this I couldn't help but wish I was there at that moment to help you and give you a hug because GURRRRL, I've been there. The other part of me wanted to burst out laughing when you described SI sprawled across your lap.

  3. Does dancing away the sadness work with adults?

  4. thestormsurfer:
    Yes. Yes, it most definitely does.



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