Both boys had been engaged in a perpetual tantrum and whine cocktail that began around 7 a.m. and was still flowing come noon. By 12, I had already tried defusing the toddler, engaging the toddler, rocking the toddler, singing with toddler and talking with the toddler in an attempt to calm his ceaseless squawking. He tantrumed about everything from his pants button to not being able to find his left boot. And by noon, the newest tantrum began because the crust broke off of his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Calmly, I explained it could not be fixed, though I tried to get it to stick back together with more peanut butter. He couldn't handle the disappointment of a broken sandwich and the meltdown began. I knew I needed to walk away, so I left him screaming about the sandwich in the dining room and headed for the shower explaining that as soon as he was ready to stop screaming, I'd be happy to listen again.
The little bugger followed me into the bathroom and proceeded to scream about his sandwich. And I was his captive audience as I was already showering. So by the time my shower was over and he was still screaming about his broken bread, no amount of pausing, deep breathing, prayers for patience or relaxation techniques could save a certain toddler from the events about to unfold. And much like Dr. David Banner transformed into the Incredible Hulk, I morphed into the mommy monster the moment I stepped out of the shower and grabbed a towel.
She thundered over to the screeching, PB&J-clutching toddler sprawled on the bathroom floor, flung him over her shoulder like he was a sack of screaming potatoes, walked forcefully to the time out chair and briskly plopped his stunned butt in said time out chair all while fuming and sure she'd turned green and everything. She barked at her 2.5 year old, who by then had stopped screaming, a flowing list of atrocities he'd committed during the day as reason for why he was sitting in that chair until the end of eternity.
"How long, mommy?" he asked, eyes wide as saucers.
"Forever!" the mommy monster bellowed.
"How many minutes is that?" he questioned.
"Five!" the mommy monster exclaimed.
Whichever, she didn't have any concept of time because the screeches from a day's worth of tantrums were still bellowing in her head.
Silence filled the house for the first time in five or so hours. The mommy monster noticed that even the baby had stopped his incessant complaining to watch the stampede to the time out chair. Suddenly, the mommy monster realized that she was standing sopping wet in a towel in the middle of the dining room next to a stunned 2.5 year old in a time-out chair. She stomped back to the bathroom and began feeling a little sheepish. The greenish hue began draining from her skin. She huffed and puffed about the tantrums as she got dressed. And then she saw her smiling baby. As she picked up the baby, she felt the strain leave her jaw.
A little voice sounded from the dining room.
"Mommy, I ready to talk nice now."
She grumbled a little and began walking back toward the time-out chair.
"Mommy, I yuv you; I want to talk now."
The irritation drained out of her body and she morphed back into, well, me again.
We talked for a few minutes about why the mommy monster sent him into time out. He apologized for his tantrums. I explained that I, too, was sorry for losing my temper and turning into a mean mommy.
"Will you forgive mommy?" I asked.
"Of course I forgive you!" he said.
At that, I felt silly. Oh, that I could have diffused the broken peanut butter and jelly crisis before it turned into an epic meltdown. Oh, that I could have not become the mommy monster, losing her cool and forgetting to talk to a still very little boy who was just beyond frustrated and having a hard time coping. And that she'll never again stomp angrily through the house shocking both of her little ones into silence.
Because as wonderful as it is to make a mistake and be able to seek forgiveness and model how we talk after we make a mistake, it's important to model how we learn from our mistakes.
And I pray that I can be a fast learner this time around and that mommy monster never ever returns. And that she'll be forever banned to some swamp out in the middle of the country forever and ever amen.