Josh suddenly screamed from the back bedroom, “Daddy got my hair wet.”
Josh hates his hair getting wet. When he was just 14-months-old, he spilled boiling hot tea on his arm. I grabbed him and jumped in a cold shower, both of us fully clothed, to stop his skin from burning. The burn healed completely but the psychological damage remained.
Ever since that day he has hated, no, feared water on his head. Now he is nearly four years old and I have probably washed his hair twice in his entire life because, trust me, It’s not worth it.
“Josh come out here,” I called from the living room. “Mama can hold you.”
“AAHHHHHH,” screaming continued.
“I got a space for you,” I persisted.
“Yeah, space. I have a spot for you.”
He started walking down the hall toward me. “A Hot Spot?”
“Not a Hot Spot. A place. A space. Here, come here.”
He was naked like a little baby and I let him pile himself on top of me. Without a blink, he stated a well-known fact among three-year-olds, “iPads can make sadness go away.” His expression was stoic, faking neutrality.
“No iPad Baby. “ He continued to lie on me until he got bored and hopped up on top of a noise-making toy. His sister seized the opportunity to slide onto my lap, causing Josh to scream again. I was at his disposal, not hers. He then tried to wiggle his way between his sister and me.
Amelia screamed, “Eww, his penis was just in my face. Disgusting!”
I looked up at Josh in order to read his expression, not wanting him to experience body shame. A half-smile appeared. No shame there. He was thrilled. Antagonizing his sister is one of his deepest joys. Seamlessly, they both returned to fighting for my attention. I yelled for my husband, “Help me.”
Their Bionic Dad finally came and pulled Josh up by the leg. Josh screamed and I yelled, “Don’t pull him by the leg, because you’ll break it and then we will go to jail!”
I wonder about this chaotic little scene. Sometimes it seems like other families are so calm and patient with each other. At the grocery store I see a small child just chilling for an inordinate amount of time while her mom chats with an old friend. My sister-in-law painted her entire living room with two kids under five, apparently playing quietly while she worked all day. Another friend mowed the lawn with her infant strapped to her back, while her toddler played horsey on the porch contentedly. I start to feel bad about my kids, my parenting, and my generally fussy personality before I remember something that I must never forget: If I compare my insides to another person’s outsides, I’ll always come up a few feet short.
It’s so natural to look around and imagine that everyone else is parenting better than me, and that I’m the only one with my hair on fire, fried to the max. Even though we are The Tantrum Family, our intentions are good–be healthy, happy, at peace, and loving to each other. Sometimes we are a moody and fussy crew; that’s our signature style. We will never be perfect, but we are forgiven and we are enough.
As always, parenting with heart,
Jennifer Olden, LMFT and Mother