When my children were one and two years old I knew I needed help. Or was it two and three, the mind is unwilling to delve into the time period. I wanted a therapist, but not the kind of shrinks I’d had before where we’d dissected my childhood, trying to re-live all the “trauma” so I could “let it go.” Firstly I have written and preformed five one-person shows that included my childhood and my only complaint is that it wasn’t nearly bad enough to warrant an immediate book deal. Secondly I don’t really believe in this kind of traditional therapy anymore, as digesting, processing and re-living shit may just be just fancy psyche-talk for holding onto it forever.
The therapist I found professed to be a “parenting expert” and I believed her, even though she only had one child, so what the heck could she possibly know about my travails as the mother of Irish twins? On the other hand, I’ve met therapists who deal with parenting issues who have no kids, and devote themselves to the kids in their practices like they’re their own. She had a pixie short haircut, elfin features and a pleasantly orderly manner so I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Besides, I’d never actually been around children until I had them; I just needed someone to tell me what was “normal” so I didn’t “kill myself.”
At this age, my children, G-d bless them and everything, were almost constantly whining and crying. That is to say when they weren’t whining, they were crying, and vice versa. It’ll get better said the mothers of older children, and they were right, it did get slightly better when they weren’t clinging to my leg like retarded koalas, refusing to let go even when I needed to make a bowel movement. I’d close the door, and they would stand outside, hurling their tiny bodies against the door, “Mommy, MOMMY,” they would scream in escalating tones (the screaming was intertwined pleasantly with the whining and crying.) The therapist explained to me that this was the same reason that kids this age loved peek-a-boo, as when you are out of their sight they literally think you have disappeared, their tiny, egotistical minds unable to process that you could possibly exist without them.
The most important thing Dr. Pixie taught me however, was the skill of recognizing when I was about to lose my temper, and getting the heck out of the room before I hurt someone.
“Mommy has to take a cool-down,” I would say and calmly get up and leave the room while the little ones wailed and gnashed their teeth, “No coow-down, no coow-down.” I did this before the adrenaline flag had turned to red inside my brain, when it was still on orange and manageable. Then I would lie in bed with a pillow over my head, or anything else that would block out the screams on the other side of the door, until I was calm enough to return, triumphantly having resisted hitting/spanking/killing them for another hour. This skill probably saved my children’s’ lives (you know how redheads’ tempers are) and also saved me from a manslaughter charge, so I’m eternally grateful to Dr. Pixie for that.
Unfortunately I had to fire her after she told me to teach my children the correct biological names for “penis” and “vagina” and the little hellions spent days on end yelling penis and vagina at the top of their (deceptively loud) little lungs. Nevertheless…
The other night I found myself alone with the kids at home, after we had both had long days, and I still had dinner to make and the request to wash their hands had been repeated more than five times. I used my standby trick of going to the bathroom to calm down, but this failed because David stood on the other side of the door the whole time saying “Mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy” as if he were two years old instead of eight. F.M.L.
So I developed a new cool-down strategy after I came out of the bathroom and he threw a fit about picking up the dog’s poop or some other assignment I’d given him. I went outside and took a cool-down in my car. I just sat in my cozy Prius with my phone and the inside light on, enjoying my night, while my kids did whatever they had to inside. After around seven minutes one of them came outside and tried to talk to me. I rolled down the window.
“Yes?” I asked.
“We washed our hands,” said Samson, “And David picked up the poop.”
“Great thank you. Tell him to pick up the chair he overturned, and I will come back inside.”
And I did. And the rest of the night was fairly peaceful, and when it wasn’t, I went out to my car again. For some reason it added that touch of danger to the regular bedroom cool-down. Would mommy finally turn on the engine and drive away? Was mommy fed up enough to turn the cool-down into a trip to Mexico?” How they could even imagine that I would ever leave them didn’t concern me, only that I had unwittingly stumbled on a good disciplinary tool (at least for their current age range.)
And I sat in the car, and smirked, and thought, “Cabo, here I come.”