This is the last thing I said to my girls tonight before they finally fell asleep:
"YOU DON'T NEED TO WORRY ABOUT MONSTERS IN YOUR ROOM! THE ONLY MONSTER YOU NEED TO WORRY ABOUT IS ME! DON'T YOU DARE MAKE ME COME IN THERE AGAIN!"
That was right after they started screaming when I slammed the door to their bedroom, at the tail end of the five hours of continual torture they inflicted upon me.
You know how you're not supposed to go to bed angry at your spouse? I guess you're probably not supposed to go to bed angry at your kids either.
Well, I haven't gone to bed yet, so there's still some hope, I guess.
I don't think it was me this time. I really don't.
Well, it wasn't my preexisting emotional state, anyway. I had had a pretty good day. I got stuff done around the house, including about a million loads of laundry, which seemed to have made my wife happy. I had gotten the house straightened out and the kids fed lunch just in time for our twice-monthly visit from the cleaning ladies. I tended the garden, fed the animals, and made it to the gym with the kids in tow. I even managed, with the kids pestering me and the cleaning ladies vacuuming under my feet, to work with an editor on some changes to a forthcoming article I'm pretty stoked about.
But at around 4:30 pm, I fucked up. Bad.
The kids were playing nicely with each other, running upstairs and downstairs and out the back door onto the deck. We had talked about going scootering or doing some other wholesome outdoor activity, but I was a little spent, and it seemed like they were getting plenty of exercise. I figured, you know--snack time, maybe some reading, and then Mom would be home with leftovers she had scored from a drug rep lunch at work. Then slide right through the bedtime rituals and bam, done.
I thought about the fresh strawberries in the fridge for a snack, but we had been eating them by the pint for the last few weeks. I glanced at the apples, oranges, and avocados on the counter but was uninspired. And then I remembered the chocolate-covered graham crackers that Mom had bought on an impulse as a special treat for the kids. I had been strictly warned against eating any myself, but of course I had ignored the exhortation.
They were strong medicine, these cookies. They weren't really chocolate-covered graham crackers as much as they were rich milk chocolate bars with a crunchy, graham cracker center. It was like the Swiss take on a Kit-Kat. It took all the restraint I could muster to not plow through the whole bag during my midnight raid.
What the hell, I thought. The kids have been pretty good today, I can't give them the cookies after dinner because the chocolate will jack them up for bedtime, and, most importantly, they might share them with me.
The kids didn't dilly-dally when I announced that they would be having the special cookies for snack time. And they didn't share with their old man either.
Remember, maybe it was in college, that one girl? She was really nice and kind of funny and cute? But after the fourth shot of vodka, to which she was clearly unaccustomed, she became erratic, and then irritable, and then weepy, and then angry, and then weepy again, and then FURIOUS, and everyone was like, whose friend is she again? Can somebody call her roommate?
That's what both of my children turned into after eating these cookies. As I tried to fold laundry, they stamped around in the water they had poured into a large puddle on the deck, and then tracked it inside, onto the freshly-mopped floor. Then they stomped around in the freshly-scoured bathtub with their filthy, wet feet.
I used to worry that losing my temper and yelling at the kids would emotionally scar them; but now I just worry that it's completely ineffectual.
I yelled at them from upstairs, and then ran downstairs to continue yelling at them from close range when the initial yelling didn't have any effect. When my back was turned, they filled the bathroom sink with soapy water and slung it around the bathroom, and laughed in my face as I yelled and hid the handsoap from them.
As I cleaned up the mess in the bathroom, they tore the living room couch apart and used the cushions as a slide, a trampoline, and a "pile of rocks."
Mom came home, dropped off the food she had brought from work, and then headed out to her crossfit class.
At dinner, one kid wouldn't keep her hand out of her milk glass. The other refused to eat with the fork I had given her because she didn't like the color, and instead shoveled rice into her face (and down her dress, onto the floor, etc.) with her hands. All I could think to do was withhold the food until they calmed down. Forks were thrown. Threats were hurled, and ignored.
Somehow, we got through dinner without a visit from CPS. Mom returned and helped with bedtime preparation, but then took off to pick up provisions at Target.
Bedtime can be tricky under the best circumstances, but, now that the poison cookies had turned the twins into volatile middle-school students with the self-expression skills of toddlers, I didn't know what to expect.
I should have expected the worst, because that's what I got. Maddy has started doing this thing where, every time the cleaning ladies come, she won't sleep under the covers of her bed because she doesn't want to mess up the smooth bedspread and hospital corners that Lupe and Company have created. It's a problem. And tonight, Livvy started playing the same game. Add to that their demands that Daddy take turns lying in bed with them, and you've got a recipe for an unstable trained chimp turning on his masters.
"Sleep with me, Daddy!"
"No, Daddy! Sleep with ME!"
"Not on top of the covers, Daddy! YOU MESSED UP MY BED! BLAAAAAAHHHH! SMOOTH IT OUT DADDY! SMOOTH IT OUT!
"IT'S MY TURN, DADDY! SLEEP WITH ME, DADDY! No, Daddy! Get under the covers. AAAAAAAGGGGGGHHH! YOU MESSED UP MY BED! SMOOTH IT OUT! SMOOTH IT OUT!"
"I have to go to the bathroom."
"I need water."
"I can't find my ballerina doll's shoeswaaaAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!"
This continued for twenty minutes, until finally:
"THAT'S IT! I CAN'T DO THIS ANYMORE! I DON'T WANT TO HEAR ANYTHING ELSE ABOUT YOUR BLANKETS AND DOLLS AND LOVIES AND CRAP! GO TO SLEEP! GOOD NIGHT!"
[Exits bedroom, slams door.]
Then came the wailing about being scared of monsters, the rejoinder from Dad, more wailing, sobbing, snuffling, and at last, slumber.
I'm not actually mad at my kids. I went into their room and kissed their cheeks as they slept, just as peacefully as a couple passed-out drunks in a boxcar. I'm disappointed in my poor judgement this afternoon, and my terrible attempts at damage control. But I've forgiven myself, and I have high hopes for tomorrow. Especially since the kids will be in school all day.