Dear 18 year-old Henry,
This is what a tantrum is like.
I pick you up from school at 4:20. You've had a good day, but no nap. You played outside for hours and there's ink smeared from your mouth to your left cheek. We chat all the way home. You're super excited about helping me make kabobs for dinner.
We get in the house at 4:30. A 4:32, an tantrum-bomb detonates somewhere inside your body. Between 4:32 and 5:16, you:
- refuse to have your diaper changed
- run the water in the downstairs bathroom for eight minutes while playing with the stopper
- throw your milk cup
- throw your water cup
- get your stool from the bathroom so you can open the package of handi-snack peaches on the counter
- start reaching for bottles of flavored water to throw when I take away the peaches
- pull on my pants so hard I think they'll rip
- hit me. Repeatedly, and hard. I don't know where you learned to spank (not from us, thankfully - I manage to retain my self-control most of the time, because honestly, if I started, it would be hard to stop. Also, I don't think you'd care.), but it's terrible. Still, I pretend you're not there.
- push me while I have a knife in my hand. I put it down and say your name very loudly. You cry.
All of this is being done at the loudest volume possible. I finally leave the kitchen because it's dangerous for both of us to be in there when you're flipping out. You find me in the family room, just sitting. "Don't sit!" you scream. You calm down enough so that I can figure out that you're hungry. You don't want to wait for kabobs with me and Dad, so I tell you that you can have a peanut butter sandwich and then go to bed.
From 5:18 to 5:25, you eat your dinner: peaches, strawberries, applesauce and a pb&j. Things are calm and quiet. I get you more food when you ask for it. So you become drunk with power and indecision.
"Close that window!" "No, leave that window open!" "Close it! I said close it!"
I finally close the window because it's really windy and Gracie's starting to freak out. You haul ass out of your booster seat and start just start pounding on the glass. "I break this window!"
I grab you around the waist and lug you upstairs, avoiding your very sharp nails (I have a 5" long cut on my neck from a few days ago) and your pummelling fists. You scream unintelligibly and then throw up bile, an attractive side-effect of your tantrums. Vomit is on the carpet, your shirt, and your pants. You start screaming "Don't clean me up!" as I grab the paper towels and dab at the already-stained rug. I reach for your shirt and you whirl around, throwing yourself face-down onto your bed. Now I have to change the sheets.
After some chasing and wrestling, you're naked except for a pair of socks and a diaper, which is so wet that it's hanging between your knees. You're really wigging out now, just furious at me, at Gracie, at everybody who's ever dared to look at you. I usher Gracie into our bedroom, then go back to your room and shut the door with both of us inside. You start hitting again, so I go into the hallway and hold the doorknob so you can't get out. I'm quiet. You think I left, so you really start to lose your shit. I can hear your little body slam against the door at a steady pulse. I tell you that I'm there and that I'll open the door once you calm down. You eventually quiet. I open the door and SLAM, right in my face. This goes on a few more times because I keep giving you the benefit of the doubt. I'm an idiot. I start to cry. This only makes you more mad, and I finally leave. You can't figure out how to open the door to your room so you're stuck.
We do this dance a few more times, which is dumb because I know you're just going to keep raging. You calm down enough to lure me back in before turning into a human downward-spiral. I do manage to remove your diaper, but you kick like an angry kangaroo when I try to get you into a new one. So I leave again, hoping you will have trouble with the doorknob for at least a few minutes. It's 6:00.
Five minutes later, I'm on the phone with your Gram in my bedroom. You come in, quietly, wearing only a pair of blue striped socks, balls out. You tearfully listen to Gram tell you a story about Molly, then repeat it to your dad, who somehow manages to always come home during the few minutes you're not screaming at me.
By 6:15, you've gotten your eighth wind. My brain is numb from the screaming. Throughout all of this, I only raised my voice once and that was when you yanked on me while I was holding a knife. I'm not good at keeping my temper, so today has been a grand success for me. That's an awfully depressing thought.
It's 7:40 now. Your dad just put you back into bed for the third time tonight. Our marriage has gotten stronger since you came along because we now have a common enemy: toddlerhood. I'm going to work for the rest of the night while your dad does dishes and falls asleep on the couch. And we're going to do this all again tomorrow night, and probably the night after that. But I don't care about that night, because I'll be at quilt guild and you won't be my problem for five glorious hours.
I know this will get better. Everyone says it, and kids live well past toddlerhood. But if there's one thing you take away from this, 18 year-old Henry, it's this: wear a goddam condom.
Love (even after all of this),