Sunday, May 07, 2006

It's Been a Bad Day, Please Don't Take a Picture*

Otherwise, you'd have seen the sorry bits of the contents of my head after it had exploded.

I'm not sure what spirit beset him, but Sean was truly on his absolute worst behavior today. He didn't listen to a single thing I said. He defied me at every possible juncture. He was the preschooler from hell.

He and Allie must have performed a body swap: Excluding one earth-shaking tantrum, she was an angel today. And of course I am grateful for that. From Allie I've grown to expect difficult behavior that makes me want to pull every strand of my hair out. Sean has his moments but generally can be counted on to listen (if not at first, then at least eventually). This contrast in their diverging capacities for toeing the line has not gone unnoticed: when I'm scolding Allie, he often says proudly, "But I'm being a good listener." (I can't wait for the sibling-rivalry issues that observations like this will engender along the line.)

At bedtime, the final insult led to the aforementioned head explosion. It was over, I believe, train tracks that Sean had spilled all over the upstairs hallway and refused to put away. And other toys that he dumped out after I asked him to help clean up. And a hair-pulling incident with his sister.

I know, it's small-time stuff. But I am ashamed to admit that, after an entire day of similar insults, I lost it. I yelled, sent him to his room, told him that he had lost his bedtime story privileges. And although all day his reaction to my growing impatience with his behavior had been blithe indifference, this time he burst into tears. Which makes me feel terribly guilty for yelling. (I don't regret the other two reactions -- I do think some consequences were definitely in order.)

We managed to end the night on a good note, with a calm discussion about the day we had and how we would work on having a better day tomorrow, followed by a big hug.

Still. I'm wrung out, and feel like I must be doing something horribly wrong for a day like this to have happened. My mother suggested that Sean might be reacting to Jeff's being away again (oh, did I mention that?). If that is it, I feel even worse for not addressing the core problem but instead reacting like a madwoman to the surface behavior.

Here's to a happier tomorrow.

*On a completely unrelated note, if you want to be depressed about the state of the union, read the lyrics to this REM song, written in the 1980's. Nothing has changed since then. Sigh.