This morning Wally was kneeling in the kitchen, drawing on a piece of paper. Jay came around the corner on his diabolical plasma car and barreled directly into Wally, pitching him forward onto his face. Jay is a master driver with that thing and never hits anything unless he wants to. I told Jay that he’d lost the car for the next ten minutes, and then I clenched, waiting for him to erupt into a tantrum.
The last two weeks with Jay have been the hardest stretch of parenting we’ve had yet. Since the second-to-last day of our vacation in March (more on that soon), Jay has been quite nearly impossible. He resists every act of direction. He’s ready to turn into a screaming, crying mess the second he doesn’t get exactly what he wants. Twice this past week he cried the whole way to pick up Caroline because I’d put Wally’s coat on before his.
And, most difficult at all, he’s been both extremely clingy and incredibly annoying. Last Saturday morning he pleaded for twenty minutes to be allowed into bed with me and Caroline. Yet, the second he was under the covers he started trying to poke Caroline in the eye before climbing on top of my head. Finally, Caroline and I threw back the covers and got out of bed. Jay was left behind, screaming and sobbing that his so-called snuggle time had ended prematurely.
There have been many moments like that in the last two weeks and, really, for the first time ever as a parent, I’ve found myself completely at a loss for what to do. Jay’s demands have often been so over the top that I couldn’t possibly comply with them even if I’d wanted to- but the second I haven’t complied, he’s lost it. In the back of my head I’ve felt sympathetic to him. He’s clearly been going through a lot. But more immediately, I’ve just felt exasperated and sometimes angry, too, with the way he’s been behaving.
And so this morning when I ordered him off his plasma car I expected that for the next twenty minutes our house would be filled with screams. But instead, Jay calmly got off the car and asked how long until he could have it back. I was stunned. Caroline and I stared at each other. We could barely remember the last time Jay had behaved so reasonably.
For the rest of the day, too, he’s been his old self again. He helped Wally apply his chapstick. He skipped with me through the grocery store, took no offense when I told him he had to put a package of brownie bites back on the shelf, and he went into quiet time an hour ago without a fight. Even his voice is different today- it’s sweeter, calmer, softer, more in control. The change is as dramatic as a fever breaking; it’s as if overnight some great knot loosened inside of him. And it feels so good to have him back.
Related post: Jay falls apart, puts himself back together (June 8, 2012).