She is throwing things before we even walk through the door, still enraged that I told her we weren’t having Halloween candy before dinner. Before I prepare my acceptance speech for the “World’s Worst Mom” Award, let me say that she just had a mini kit-kat at the vet, and a free cookie at the grocery store, and dinner is just 40 minutes away, if I could figure out what to make now that I have realized the drumsticks I took out are still frozen.
“I’m going outside.” She stomps to the back door, leaving a trail of sand from her sneakers. Seconds later, the door slides open again. “I want someone to play with me.” Given that it’s just the two of us at home, it’s pretty clear who that “someone” is supposed to be. “I can’t right now,” I tell her, hearing the edge in my voice. She pushes a stool over, and yells, “I just want someone to play!”
“Damn it,” I say, louder than I should. “Margaret, I played outside with you all afternoon, and I need to figure out dinner.” I can feel myself getting angrier, and miraculously stop myself from offloading all of my stress onto this not-yet-four year old. I take a breath. We’re heading for a meltdown: the perfect storm of 4pm, which feels like 5pm because of daylight savings; my premenstrual grouchiness; my Election Day anxiety; my lingering frustration that my 5am wake up to work on my writing class was actually a 5am wake up with Margaret (see: daylight savings); my realization that I ordered postcard stamps instead of Forever stamps for work, which makes me remember several other work-related tasks I didn’t complete.
Margaret watches me, eyes wide. This is one of so many parenting situations when I realize that I have to be the grown up after all. She isn’t going to tell me, “Oh, hey, thanks so much for everything you do for me, Mom. You pushed me for an hour on the swing, and that was really wonderful. I totally get it; this isn’t a good time to play.” I force a smile, offer some Cheerios.
“Sorry,” I tell her, as she slurps Cheerios into her mouth. Her strategy is to take as large a spoonful as possible, slurp all of the milk through her teeth, and then eat the now-soggy Cheerios on her spoon. “That’s okay,” she replies, Cheerios dribbling down her shirt. She returns my smile. Meltdown, on both of our parts, averted.