Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Jesus Cake and Holy Rollers
Upon correcting her, she reproached, "No. We will caw it a Jesus Cake. Because it was weow-wee good, and all my friends whuved it. And Jesus is weow-wee good, and I'm pretty shuah all my friends whuve Him too."
Touché. I'll not even attempt to debate that point.
But, apparently, the aforementioned purvayor of pastry pseudonymity didn't get a healthy enough dose of the divine dessert. Judging from what I experienced today -- embarrassment in its purest form, immediately followed by overwhelming feelings of helplessness and parental failure -- I've deduced this child undoubtedly needs more Jesus Cake in her diet. Because if Jesus is "weow-wee" good, my four-year old is "weow-wee, WEOW-wee" bad.
Today, a leisurely lunch and conversation with my very hip, collected and gracious brother was tainted by flailing, crayons thrown to the floor, frustrated table pushing, screaming and a whole heaping helping of steaming hot sass being thrown my way. Even now, I'm not clear what exactly the catalyst was. In my limited research of Piss-Poor Preschool Attitude Syndrome, it seems the symptomatic triggers A) can vary, B) are composed of several chemical reactions, and C) depending on the environment in which the piss-poor attitude is being cultivated, can mysteriously self-produce independent of any and all logical and/or rational factors.
All that stupid metaphorical mumbo-jumbo to say, she freakin' went roller-girl in public with absolutely no intention of breaking. She showed no mercy. And refused to let up. I have a faint memory of something to do with a coloring book page that was torn. From there, it was a blur of the following internal dialogue:
"Crap. Oh Crap." (Eyes shifting quickly around the restaurant to gauge level of interest in the horror scene about to unfold.) "Shiiii... please stop. Oh please, please, stop. Okay. It's gunna be fine." (Attempting to self-soothe by breathing deeply.) "Arghh. This isn't working. I'm the adult. I'M THE ADULT HERE, for God's sake!"
If you're wondering how it ended... I was a teeth-gritting, stoic-faced parent, dragging/quasi-carrying by one underarm, hip and possibly the scruff of the neck/herding my kid through the lunch-crowd while patrons did their best to look away, instead focusing their energy on all the judgment they could muster. One middle-aged woman offered me a "knowing" head tilt and half smile before sheepishly looking at her shoes.
I took her out into the cold and gray March day, sat her on the concrete steps in front of the doors of a local pub (wishing that the young man sweeping under bar stools would pity my plight, and without a word, slide a pint of draft beer out to me) and did the only thing I knew to do. I sat quietly beside her until she settled down.
She's four. I need a manual. Because, as it stands, I haven't the slightest idea how to begin a conversation with her on the unacceptable nature of her behavior, the resulting palpable embarrassment that had by then taken over my appetite, or the unbridled disappointment and helplessness I was feeling as her mother... caretaker... at this point, more like an involuntary participant in some sick parenting game, the intent of which was to force the losing player into a position of complete and unadulterated discomfort and shame.
In desperation and not having anything else at the ready, I thought about telling her all this. Instead, as the wind picked up, I looked at her, and simply said, "You embarrassed me in there. Do you know what it feels like to be embarrassed? It's like when you stand up in the middle of the room, and everyone else is sitting down, looking at you. And your teacher asks you to sing a song, and when you finish, everyone laughs and some of your friends tell you all the things you did wrong, and all the words you messed up and all the ways you may have made yourself look silly. Have you ever felt that way?"
"No. But I'm weow-wee saw-wee you feeoh that way."
So, I've learned a two things today:
1) I must work harder at embarrassing my children. And each time I do, I will openly define the situation as "embarrassment" so that they will understand exactly what it feels like. It is unacceptable to me that I have a human being in my care who claims to have no understanding of this emotion to which I so religiously cling. I can't recall two days in succession when I've not had a run-in with it. That my children are experiencing anything other than this irritates me. This will change for them. And in so understanding, my opportunities to be entertained have just increased exponentially. (Bwaaaa haa haa haa haa ha ha ha ha... heh heh... ahem...)
2) I have no idea whatsoever what I'm doing as a parent. I need a game plan. Should similar situations play out again, I need to be ready. I've gotta get a better strategy in this parenting roller derby. I took a beating today, and I feel like I may be sore for a while. I found myself helmetless on the rink floor amid a swarm of elbow throws and kicks. But this one... this one will require some thought. Other than swearing to never leave the house, thereby never having to parent in public again... although, this is a viable option... I don't have the answers.
It's days like these that make you think back nostalgically on the pre-kid utopia you once lived. The days before Jesus Cakes, kid-interrupted conversations that take weeks to complete, and the brutal roller girl beatings children can bring.
But, then again, Jesus is "weow-wee, weow-wee" good. And, perhaps, armed with enough of His cake and a sturdy pair of parenting skates, I'll eventually roll through this derby alive.