Most mornings, my little girl is the soul of sweetness.
We have our breakfast and get her a bath. We pick out some clothes she can wear, a little Elmo here/a bit of rainbow or butterfly there. We joke about stuff and have a few laughs and maybe I sneak in a tickle attack or two, but all in all things go pretty smoothly.
Then, usually her mom drives her the 20 minutes to the Y in town where she goes to her preschool to listen to stories and run around in the gym and just have a grand old time with her ‘friends’ her age, three and four years old who each have enough energy to start a small wind farm.
And who, collectively, could probably power a space ship from Pennsylvania to at least Jupiter.
So, the morning passes by and before long it’s time to head back to town to fetch our kid and start Part Two of our day.
This is when the trouble starts.
Typically, we pick her up and whoever goes in to get her receives a great little report from the teachers. Violet was fun today, they say. No big problems or tantrums or hair-pulling terrorism, they tell us. So we feel a little proud inside, a little bounce showing up in our step as we walk with her down the back ‘Secret Spy Stairs’.
Then at the car, we strap her in her car seat and we’re off. Ugh. Lately we get no more than about a block or two from the building when Violet, the kid who just had a wonderful day with her pals, begins to have a nuclear meltdown. Some days this might be triggered by the fact that she dropped her ‘seed’ somewhere (she insists daily on picking up one of the zillion seeds that fall off of one of the trees outside the Y). Or it might simply come about when I turn around from the drive’s seat and smile and say something utterly provoking like, “Hey hon, how was swimming today?!”
The point is, I don’t think it much matters what we say or how we manage to trip her little system into a full-on Chernobyl catastrophe, it’s just simply that it happens, regardless of cause.
Now my wife Monica has a theory based on something she says she read somewhere that basically says that toddlers experiencing the more ‘formal’ environment of preschool for the first time in their young lives are basically like pressure cookers when they finally reunite with their families for the day. Having the greater sense to understand that they are not permitted to act unruly when they are with their peers under adult supervision, Monica’s theory surmises that as soon as they are released from the more formal environment of the preschool class, they basically just have to go loco.
At first, I guess I didn’t really want to believe it. I think I wanted the whole thing to maybe be a couple miles more complicated than that explanation. I think maybe I wanted to have to dive into the quagmire head-first, to come up gasping for air with all sorts of possible connections between diet/lunar phases/rare illnesses/satanic possession and these after school burnouts that come on like clock work.
But, slowly, I have come to see this particular forest for the trees, you know? And Monica’s theory has come to make perfect sense to me. OF COURSE a toddler would react to holding in the electrical storm of her 3-year-old emotions for several hours by having to exhale them all at once as soon as humanly possible! OF COURSE! OF COURSE! OF COURSE!
Yet, I am me and if there is one thing I know about me it’s that I am very very often the wrongest dude on the planet Earth. So, simply by buying into Monica’s theory, I began to fear that it couldn’t possibly be true because it was ME who was now buying into it!
You see how exhausting this parenting thing can get?
Image: http: flickr.com/photos/carowallis1
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