When my kids were little and they would get crabby, people would ask me what was wrong.
“Is he hungry?” they would ask.
“I don’t know,” I would say.
“Is he wet?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Awww.. he must be tired.”
“Look, lady, I have no idea why my kid is crying. He’s a kid. That’s what they do. I’m not a mindreader. Get off my back.”
Ok. I never really said that, but I wanted to. I sometimes knew the surface reason why they were crying. The cheese stick curved the wrong way. He wanted chips for breakfast. She disapproved of the way the sunlight came through the window. But I was never sure of the deeper reason, although I guessed it probably had something to do with bad mothering.
My daughter was the worst. She had rules for everything and the first rule was that you had to know the rules without asking. She felt – strongly – that she should buckle her own carseat buckles. Or, alternately and equally strongly, that you should buckle them for her. And you were not allowed to ask. That was the worst crime of all. Every car trip, I would mutter a little prayer, cross myself, make a wild guess, and dive in. I had a fifty percent chance of peace and a fifty percent chance of a rage-filled mutant screaming vile threats and curses at me. (I couldn’t understand them, but I’m pretty sure that’s what they were.)
I was not allowed to put her in the shopping cart at the grocery store. I was not allowed to have her walk with me next to the shopping cart. I was not allowed to let her ride in the basket of the cart. I was only allowed to carry her as I pushed a full shopping cart.
I have vivid memories of her fighting as she rode against her will in the cart, up one aisle and down the next, shrilly screaming at the top of her lungs. She had stamina. She usually made it to the milk before she took a breath. One benefit was that I traveled in a little bubble of isolation and essentially had the grocery store to myself. There was never any mistaking where we were and people magically disappeared as they heard us coming.
She once raged for over an hour because the four inch Happy Meal Toy man would not fit into the one inch high Matchbox car.
People would ask me what was wrong when she cried and I’d say “I have no idea. She’s insane.”
I still stand by that.
They thought I was brave because I let her wear mismatching shoes. It wasn’t bravery. It was terror mixed with emotional exhaustion. After her rabid demands to drive the car, mismatched shoes seemed trivial.
So I instantly related to this tumblr blog in which a dad maintains his sanity by posting pictures of his sons and the reason they’re crying:
Check it out for a good laugh. And when you get a chance, buy a mom or dad of toddlers a beer. They need it.