Monday, January 30, 2012

Mysterious Vomit Puddles: a cautionary tale

Sec's been experienceing some mysterious emotional tumult lately. In point of fact, its probably not too mysterious -- she's about to have a little sibling and that's enough to rock her little, intensely-emotional world. So for the past few weeks, she's been moody, brooding, angry and all around like someone wearing too-tight shoes. In an affort to cheer her up, I scheduled a bunch of playdates for her. This is a big deal because, being the second-born, Seconda doesn't typically get first dibs on playdates. Up until this year, her playdates have been of the tag-along variety, meaning she'll play with the little sister of whoever Primo is playing with --and this worked out pretty well since almost all of his friends have four year-old kid sisters. Whether or not she liked this kids, whether they were her "friends" was irrelevant, mainly because, I've found, four year-olds don't so much have friends as other kids of approximately the same size they fight over Play Doh with. But now that Sec's in Pre K, about to turn 5, I have had to concede that perhaps it is time to really consider her social life on its own terms, and take the time to set up playdates JUST for her. So last week, I packed 'em in, offering on both Monday AND Wednesday to pick up kids from her class and bring them over to our place to play.

The first playdate wasn't a resounding success but it wasn't a total disaster, either. It was a case of the best of times, the worst of times -- pretty much your standard four year-old play session.
The second one, however, was an unequivocal nightmare. Lest you think I am exaggerating, let me say this: mysterious puddles of vomit were involved.

In retrospect, the reason it went so badly is probably that my expectations were much too high. Hubris is what that is. I was picking up a sweet, adorable little boy in Sec's class who she's always delighted to play with on the playground and with whom she's never had any beef, as far as I can tell, because the kid is so mild-tempered and accomodating, he couldn't have beef with a heifer. For this reason, Primo loves the kid, too.

Here's how naive I am: I thought that Primo liking the kid would be an ASSET.

When I picked up Sec and her friend, Johnny, the kids were delighted. They were hugging and chatting and playing, beaming like little rays of sun. But in ten minutes, when we picked Primo up, all joy and relevery on Sec's part ended abruptly. As soon as she saw Johnny hug Primo, and Primo take his hand and recount in painstaking detail every trait of every character in the Ninjago game, she grew dark and furious.

"This is MY PLAYDATE!" she shrieked, puhing her brother as hard as she could, "Don't talk to my friend!"

You can imagine how the next two hours played out. Every time Primo so much as looked in Johnny's direction, Sec became apoplectic. BY 3:30, the time we got home, she was in a rage so deep and toxic, there was no turning back. I tried. Oh how I tried to reverse the rage! I basically forbade Primo to talk, look or acknowledge the little boy, directing him instead to his homework and video games. Then the little boy waited patiently to play with Sec, who was by that point, crying hysterically in the bedroom. I offered to play with him. I offered to take out the paints. Hell, I would have offered to buy them each a pony if I thought it would have made a difference. Sec was injured beyond repair.

Making matters worse was the fact that the playmate was scheduled to last til 5:30, which was the earliest the mom could come by to pick Johnny up. At 4pm, Sec was still hiding in the closet, crying and screaming insults at me. Because, of course, its all my fault somehow. By 5, I'd managed to coax her out and basically forced her to stay in the room with Johnny and settle on a game to play. Primo was playing video games and could keep playing them, as far as I was concerend, for the foreseeable future, if it would only prevent Sec from having another nervous collapse.

But after five minutes of brainstorming games to play with Johnny, Sec walked out of the room and announced, "We want Primo to play!"

"Are. You. Kidding. Me." I replied through gritted teeth. I am, by the way, eight months pregnant. My nerves can't take this shit.

"No," I added, "He's happy playing his video games now and you said you didn't want him to even talk to your friend. This is YOUR playdate, remember?"


"No. WAY."

"Mommy, if you don't let Primo play with us, I am going to hide in the closet and won't play with anyone and Johnny will be bored and tell his mommy."

I love it when my daughter gives me ultimatums, but I love it even more when they work. It feels freaking great to cave, just give in to your insane child's wild deamnds after she THREATENS you with more bad behavior. It is basically the first lesson of "What not to do in parenting 101" and I did it. I didn't know what else to do. I am hormonal. My daughter is a dictator. I had a whole half hour left hosting the kid, at least, and every moment felt like an ETERNITY.

"Fine, you can ask him to play. But you listen to me, Missy--"

(That's when you know you've departed from the bank of Good Parenting, by the way - when you call your kid "Missy")

"If you get upset that Primo and Johnny are playing together WHEN IT WAS YOUR IDEA -- if you come out here crying, I'm going to ----"

What? Whip her? Sell her to the gypsies? Throw the TV out the window?

"I am going to be FURIOUS!" I concluded.

Because THAT consequence is such a huuuuuge deterrent.

So Primo joined the kids and they played, pretty happily in fact, for about five minutes or so and then - miracle of miracles -- Johnny's mom arrived, with his big brother.

And that's when the REAL disaster struck. Remember, people, I haven't even gotten to the mysterious puddles of vomit yet. Which is why this post is . . .