The best laid plans of mice and moms... / by Susie Lubell

Last night we did end up going out for dinner for our anniversary. We wanted to take advantage of some free babysitting so we brought our kids over to my brother and sister-in-law's house in a neighboring town figuring we'd just go out for dinner around there with local friends and our easy-going, flexible children would play with their same-age cousins. What could be easier? We get there around 7:15 and my brother's family is wrapping up dinner with friends of theirs who have twin three year old boys and a 15 month old boy. Throw in my niece and nephew and the house is a little chaotic. Fun chaotic. Kids running around. Eating popsicles. Playing outside. Parents drinking wine. Good times. My daughter jumps right in and gets herself a popsicle. My son is hesitant. This isn't his kind of fun. But he's keeping it together. Then I set up all of their stuff in my brother's bedroom - two sleeping bags, two sets of PJ's, two toothbrushes, two toothpastes, a stuffed kitty and a stuffed rat. Then I explain to my son, for the twelfth time, that he will be going to sleep here. I even fib and tell him that we're ALL going to sleep here. And his stuff is set up so not to worry. But he wants to sleep with us in the guest room. Meanwhile the guest room floor is covered in paperwork and junk because it's a room in transition. I offer for him to sleep with his older cousin. No. His little cousin. No. On the couch. No. And he starts sobbing. Don't go. I don't want to stay here. Don't leave me. I want you to go out for dinner here. And I just can't bear it. I mean in those moments I just can't stand this kid. So I tell him in my best impression of nice mommy that he doesn't even have to go to bed; he can stay up and wait for me to come home. My brother even tells him that he'll clean up the guest room so he can sleep in there. Nothing is helping. So I say goodbye and leave.

And as I walk toward the car where my husband is waiting for me I can hear him screaming and sobbing from inside the house. And I know he will quiet down and enjoy himself in two minutes. And he'll behave well. And he'll play. And he will fall asleep somewhere. But as I'm sitting in the car seething, I never actually want to see him again. These are his cousins for the love of chicken nuggets! He begs me to take him here. He loves his aunt and uncle. He loves their yard, the toys, everything. Why can't he just keep it together? I know that he's not trying to ruin my life anniversary, but he does. He can. How can a five year old be so tortured? Will he be doing this when he's six? Seven? Eight? I know it's me and it's my problem. I just have to let it all roll off of me. But it's actually painful for me to feel so much resentment and rage (yes, rage) and not be able to scream YOU ARE RUINING MY LIFE right in his face. I need to find some other way to release or channel all of this negative energy. Sometimes I even ask if he would ever act this way with his teachers and he looks at me like I've lost my mind because he would NEVER throw fits like this at school. Which makes me wonder how the behavior is serving him at home? And what on earth am I doing to reinforce it? And can someone please send over a pita with nutella?

But back to the car. So I keep my eyes closed all the way to our friends and I stay in the car two extra minutes after my husband got out so I can collect myself. I didn't want to bring my negativity to dinner. And, in fact, dinner was lovely. I called to check in and my sister-in-law confirmed that two minutes after we had left my son calmed down which was no surprise. I guess I just thought we were past all of this nonsense. He's done well with babysitters for the last year or so and plus these were people in his family that he knows well and loves which is why this whole exercise felt less like an anxious preschooler expressing his insecurities and more like a purposeful act of aggression. Like he's some kind of vengeful, conniving monster.

I have to keep reminding myself that he's just a little shit boy.