this kid & the terrible horrible no good very bad day
This kid was having just the worst day.
Terrible night of sleep, tossed and turned all night. Woke up at 5, grumped out to the kitchen counter, and couldn’t even enjoy the glowing, billowy heaps of untouched snow through the window. Grouched at everybody over breakfast.
“UGH. It’s gonna be an awful day.”
Hoo boy. One of these now.
Luckily, I’m this kid’s mom so I knew just what to do.
When this kid said, “I need a treat,” I said “Of course you do, love.” We made a cheesy bagel in the broiler and picked the crispy bits of cheese off the pan with little yummy noises.
When this kid said, “That was great! I want another one, plus a cookie,” I said, “How about a cold orange from the fridge, love? You’ll feel better if you eat some fruits and veggies.”
When this kid said, “I don’t feel like doing anything,” I said, “Let’s get your cozy jams. You can bundle up under a blanket by the snowy window and look at your new book. It’s okay to do nothing for a while. We’ve got nowhere to be.”
When this kid said, “I’m stupid,” I said, “You’re sad and tired, not stupid. You’re still you, wonderful you. I love you. Nobody talks about my baby like that.”
When this kid whined about the regular chores — making the bed, ferrying last night’s water cups from the bedside to the counter — I said, “Hey, kiddo, chin up. You’re tired but you’re not incapable. You’ll feel better when you’ve done your work. Let’s do this.”
Yes, my darling, you can eat something delicious. No, my darling, you can’t skip a good dinner.
Yes, sweetheart, let’s snuggle up in thick socks. No, baby, you can’t hide from the day. Let’s go outside and smell the snowy air and play.
And so we did. We walked out into the snow together and took five deep breaths. We felt better. And when we turned around…
There was only one set of footprints.
WATCH OUT, M. Night Shyamalan! “This kid” was actually ME the whole time!
Yeah, I slept about 4 hours last night. I blame the two children in my bed. Plot twist: I put them in my bed. Plot twist twist: I voluntarily put them in my bed because I was worried about the high winds putting a tree through my roof and if we were going to go down, we were going down together. So that makes for a restful night of sleep: existential dread plus two sweltering children made entirely of elbows.
Yeah, I was the one who growled into my coffee this morning: “Ugh, it’s going to be an awful day.”
I mowed down a cheesy bagel and made the yummy noises while I picked the crispy bits off the pan. I was the one who wanted two more just like it. Because fuck laughter, melty cheese in my mouth is the best medicine.
I wanted to hide from the day in a blanket on the couch, while shaking my head at myself for wasting a whole day in a blanket on the couch.
Fuck the dishes on the bedside table. Fuck the bed. Then I walked by the unmade bed and thought, “Stupid, you didn’t even make your bed. Is there cake? I need, like, a lot of cake today.”
I would never treat my kids like that.
I would never punish them for feeling tired or let them self-medicate off a nutritional cliff. Why are those two responses acceptable for me, but not for them? No matter how hard my kid’s day had been, I wouldn’t let that kid eat a pint of ice cream or call himself worthless for being grumpy after a truly shit night of sleep.
So what if, when our days were hard, we loved ourselves like we loved our children?
For my child, I would bend a few rules to maximize physical and emotional comfort. I would bring out the favorite sweatpants cook a hot lunch he loves. And in those fave sweaties and with a belly full of mac, he would maintain the framework of his day because routines are comfort, too. Because productivity and nutrition are comforts, too. Because sometimes we need to be reminded that our lives go on, buffeted but not capsized by whatever feels unrecoverable today. You’re sad, but your sadness has not deregulated your life. You’re tired, and you got this.
I am tired and the day will go on, I could remind myself confidently, the way a parent answers questions about zombies and mummies and “What if the dryer explodes?” That last one is timely because Chicken has been reading warning signs on household appliances lately. He’s convinced we live in the Temple of Doom. “But it says not to put anything flammable in the dryer, Mom! MOM.
“They’re talking about fireworks, not sweatshirts, baby. I’ll be cutting your grapes until you go to college; do you think I’d let you sleep next to a ticking bomb? No way, creme brûlée. I’ve got you. You’re good.” What if I talked to myself with the same loving certainty? I’ve got you. You’re good. You’re still you, wonderful you. I love you.
What if I loved myself like my child tonight? What if I treated her and nourished her, respected her and stayed steady for her, and cut her a goddamn break?
There will be a glass of wine, not a bottle.
A cookie, not a cake, and my favorite whole roasted carrots.
I’ll write this blog post, not a book, and it’ll be enough.
And I think I’ll find out how well The Sixth Sense holds up after I put the kids to bed a few minutes early.
This kid deserves a treat.
Thanks for reading this post. I hope you put a little bit of this into your heart, even if it’s just the part about Toni Collette being an intergalactic prize of unparalleled value for which we should practice active gratitude on the daily.
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