Being the parent of a toddler is all about picking your battles and having the discernment to know which battles to pick. I like to think that at least 50% of the time I get this right. No? Okay 40%? But there are sometimes when I get it dead wrong...
It was one of those days. I had been out of town for work and had a 4 1/2 hour drive back into town that afternoon. Of course I was running late and by the time I got to school my kids were the absolute last children in the building.
As a side note there are few things that bring such overwhelming shame and guilt as being the last parent at pick up time. I mean I wasn't even late!! I had a clear 10 minute window before the doors officially closed. But nevertheless as I entered the empty parking lot and pulled into the coveted first space in the pick up line (because there was simply no one else there) I felt it wash over me...my failure as a working mom.
Well, of course the kids were exhausted from such a long day at school and the inevitable late bedtime last night (as I was out of town and not home to crack the whip). They screamed and whined and cried the whole way home. It was the longest 12 minutes of my life.
We finally got into the house and I frantically searched through the fridge for something that could resemble dinner. By this point DC had thrown himself down in the middle of the kitchen wailing as RJ tugged on my pants leg demanding an egg roll and "chicken china" for dinner. The dogs, who had been kenneled all day, were incessantly barking to be let out. I desperately looked at the clock....how much longer till hubby gets here? It's 6:45 already it can't be long.
I was finally able to pull something together and got the kids into their seats at the table. I got the dogs out of the kennels and took them outside. I was just beginning to take a deep breath when I heard screams from inside the house. I raced back in with the dogs to see that DC had flung his dinner plate across the kitchen strewing food from one side of the room to the other. I lunged for the scraps of food fighting off the Chihuahuas and got what I could back onto the plate. 5 second rule right?
It was at this point my phone rang.
"Hey Babe I was just calling to tell you I'm running late tonight and I'm going to be at least another hour and a half."
The tears welled up in my eyes.
"Ok" I managed to squeeze out before I hung up the phone without so much as a goodbye.
They finally finished dinner and by "finished" I mean threw half of it on the floor for the dogs and somehow managed to rub the other half all over their bodies. I mean noodles behind their ears and applesauce in their armpits. How do they even do that?!
I herded them up the stairs too defeated to even attempt a bath at this point. If you've never wiped your kid down with baby wipes in lieu of a real bath then you truly must be super mom. I, on the other hand, am not.
I told RJ to pick out her PJs while I put DC to bed and I would be back to help her in a few. DC at this point was kicking and screaming from sheer exhaustion. I wrestled him into his room and using all of my body weight to hold him down managed to change his diaper and get his pajamas on. Story time was a total bust as he screamed and kicked through half the book before I finally just gave up and put him in the crib.
As I closed his door behind me I took a breath. "One down one to go. I'm halfway done." I said to myself.
I headed into RJs room to find she had emptied her entire pajama drawer onto the floor. This moment I believe was my tipping point.
"RJ!!!! I ASKED YOU TO PICK OUT YOUR PJS!!!!"
"I had to see which ones I want" she replied.
"IT IS NOT OKAY FOR YOU TO EMPTY OUT THE WHOLE DRAWER! PICK OUT 1 PAIR!"
Crying and screaming ensued.
"I HAAAAAAVE TO SEEEEEEEEEE THEM!"
"Okay," I said trying to regain my composure. "Which ones would you like to wear?"
At this point she begins unfolding a pair of Hello Kitty pajamas.
"Good," I said and I started to reach for them.
"NOOOO!! I HAVE TO SEE THEM ALLLLLLLL!" she wailed as she stomped her foot and took a swing at me.
We argued back and forth a few times before I finally put my foot down.
"NOOOOOOOO!" she screamed as I grabbed the Hello Kitty pjs and started toward her.
I was at the point of no return. To give in then would negate all I had worked for. This was no longer about the pajamas. This was about control and who had it. I certainly wasn't going to let my 4 year old think she was the one in charge. I dug my heels in deep.
"ABSOLUTELY NOT! THIS IS THE PAIR YOU ARE WEARING! YOU DO NOT NEED TO UNFOLD EVERY PAIR OF PAJAMAS TO PICK ONE PAIR!! YOU ARE WEARING HELLO KITTY!"
She let out a Banshee scream and collapsed on the floor. As I wrestled to get the suddenly boneless toddler into the Hello Kitty pajamas she continued to scream unintelligible protests. I ignored her and tugged and pulled and twisted and stretched until I finally got her into the pajamas.
When I finally let go of her she started to get up. When she stood up I noticed that she had a 3 inch mid-drift from a too small shirt and that the pants only reached midway down her calf.
Through her choked up sobbing I managed to make out a few words...
"These pajamas don't fit me" she whimpered.
Well then I was really in a predicament. To relent and let her change pajamas was simply unthinkable at this point. But to make her sleep in pajamas that were clearly two sizes too small? What would you have done?
I am not proud of it but for the sake of being totally transparent I will tell you that we did not change pajamas. I left her room that night with my authority, although maybe not my dignity, intact.