Pre Kids, I had a lot of “ideas” about parenting.
I think we could file most of those ideas under “starry-eyed” and “idiotic.”
For example, I now understand and ACCEPT that large, plastic, red and yellow toy monstrosities will take over my home instead of tasteful toys made out of wood and hemp. I don’t understand how those parents do it, the ones I see in magazines with their clay colored nurseries done up in vintage rocking horses and no drool. Good for them, I figure. But I had this idea that somehow, SOMEHOW, I too would be able to maintain the idea of “tasteful” in my house along with two small boys.
Oh, I get it now.
I also understand that there will be always be a level of grime in my house that is alive and breeding. And nothing I do will ever be able to obliterate it. There is simply no cleanser paired with grim determination and some hefty solvent fumes that can deal with my kitchen floor. It is, and will always be, just a little bit sticky.
I accept it. I surrender.
There is one area of my parenting ideology that has just recently been vanquished; one area that I simply did NOT think was an “issue” at our house, or that I could conquer and squash flat with all militant finesse. (“Militant finesse”? oxymoron, I know.)
I was wrong.
It is: When the Toddlers Get Overtired.
I know. It sounds silly, like saying that we really shouldn’t fear the cat when his eyes get all big and he does that sideways skitter samba move. But then, BLAMMO, the furball goes all furry nutball, attaches himself to your bare foot, wipes the floor along with you as you stomp and voice your displeasure, and you end up with shredded ankles.
It seems I never really thought the Overtired thing was a Thing. I had heard of it… there were whispered rumors amongst the moms at play group, and one time we took the boys on vacation and there was that weird incident with an irrational fear of a late night stop at a fried chicken place, but we worked through it. I simply did not allow myself to accept it this whole “Fear the Overtired Toddler” thing. It was an urban legend, and we’re gonna just ignore it.
Yea. Well. Why don’t I just pop open a Coke and drink it.
WITH A SIDE OF POP ROCKS.
(The lawyer is grimacing and reminding me that the Pop Rocks urban legend really IS false, but I’m not gonna try it. I do live a life filled with risk and adventure, but even this is pushing the boundaries for Momsie.)
The Legend of the Overtired Toddler:
It’s nine o’clock. One full hour before the monsters come out, as Bill Cosby would say, but still, a solid step onto the crack with two small boys. The husband is out of town, and I am picking the wee ones up from a friend who was kind enough to watch them while I jetted off to the grocery for some staples. Why, you ask, did I have to go to the store at such a late hour? (No… you think, I wasn’t really asking. This story is kinda boring anyhow.) I don’t have time to explain all that now but just believe me, it was nine, it was after both Tball AND swim lessons, and Mercury was in retrograde. (Actually I have no idea what the Mercury thing means, but I saw it on Facebook and maybe it adds suspense.)
We start home. The four-year old is so tired he’s basically amped up to the squealing equivalent of a pre-teen at a One Direction concert. But, still, we’re doing okay.
And then I made the fateful decision to turn on the radio. Journey is crooning “Faithfully” at my two boys, and they never knew what hit them.
The song triggered, I think, some sort of flash forward to that achingly pathetic reality that will be a 7th grade dance where they will be glued to a gymnasium wall while the love of their short life is out there dancing the LAST DANCE OF THE NIGHT WITH SOMEONE ELSE. *
So Red, overwhelmed and confused, starts up by shouting, with all the incongruity of a Cialis commercial during Saturday morning cartoons:
“I wanna da chips and salsat!”
I give Red points for wanting to try new things and all, but it was hitting 9:20 or so, two HOURS after bedtime, so I mentioned, rather casually, that going for some chips and salsa right now might not be the best thing. Why not have a glass or milk and a graham cracker?”
“WHATTTTTT?? NOOOOOOOO!!!!! I’M SO HUNGRRRRRRYYYYYY! I JUST WANT SALSA AND IT’S WHAT I WEALLY WANT AND YOU ALWAYS SAY NO TO MEEEEEEEEEE!”
Once it was clear that everyone within the four block radius of our car had heard how sad and undernourished my little south of the border loving boy was, he then suddenly switched to a high-pitched meeping that sounded like a baby bird. A really annoying baby bird.
I would try to write the dialogue here but it’s impossible. There is no written language for toddler whining. Probably because it is so annoying to listen to that no one will sit down long enough to try to decipher and write it out.
It is then that I come up with the brilliant idea of trying to distract the toddler. This works well in all the parenting books I read back before I had children. You can guess how well it worked in the tin container of amplified tribulation that was our car.
It was at this moment that Blonde decided to bellow out: “IF I GO POTTY RIGHT HERE IN MY SEAT WOULD IT BE A BIG MESS?”
I don’t know if his strategy was to freak out his brother, or me, of if he actually was considering this and wanted to understand all the, er, fallout of such a risky endeavor, but it did serve to shut down the wailing. Red watched him with anticipation and soggily sniffled.
I did the most logical thing: I stomped on the accelerator and prayed to Just. Get. Home.
Veering down our street I trilled, “Almost there!! “Won’t it be nice to take a nice bath! And see our kitty! And read our books! Yea home!! Yea everything! Now get your little bottoms out of this car before I lose what’s left of my mind!”
And then blonde said, after eyeing the dark sky, the dark house, and Momsie’s dark hopes at getting indoor without agony, uttered the most logical response: “We have to go to SLEEP now? But. Why?”
Red’s wailing amped up to jack hammer status.
I wrestle with car seats.
“Nooooo!!! I WANNA DO IT! I WANNA! BUT I CAN’T! NOW I’M TRYING BUT I CAN’T!!!! MY HANDS ARE SMALL AND TODDLERISH! I AM DOOMED!! THIS CAR SEAT IS DOOMED! WE’REALLDOOOOOOOOMED!”
I lug stuff out of the car, two wailers in tow.
“WALKING IS HARD!! IT’S DARK! I’M STUCK ON THIS BOTTOM STEP!! WHY MUST I WALK PLACES?!!! THERE’S THE DOOR AND IT’S FAR FAR AWAY!!! I DON’T LIKE THE COLOR OF THE PAINT ON THE HOUUUUUSSSSSSSSE!”
I get inside. Drop stuff all over. Grab the smaller one and head up for the bath of dashed hopes and bitterness.
“I DIDN’T GET MY SALSAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” (uttered with a pretty impressive Latino accent.)
And then, magically, our sweet cat sits in a circle of light at the top of the steps like a Fairy God Kitty. Blonde crouches and pets the soft fur and Kitty purrs. Red wipes snot on Kitty and Kitty purrs louder (I never said he was smart.)
Momsie breathes. All we can hear is the soft motor of the darling animal and the absence of nutball behavior.
And it is this moment when Blonde looks up at me sweetly, all brown eyes and darling tousled locks, and says,
“I miss my dad so much. I HOPE HE DECIDES TO COME BACK.”
Cue the Big Red One. Epic Despair Division.
And that is, my friends, the urban legend, discovered at full. Overtired Toddlers do exist.
Fear them. But try to get a photograph. I think you can sell it to some tabloid for enough cash to help cover your therapy sessions.
* The lawyer is pointing out that I might be speaking from experience. No way.
Now, if the song was “Purple Rain” and it was the 8th Grade Sadie Hawkins dance and my beloved Doug Lloyd? It might be possible. But I’m over it.