Maddie and Riley are no different from most kids in many ways, one of them being the way they store up negative emotions for release with a safe person: ME. This means that while yes, they were very happy to see me this morning when they got up from school and yes, we had a lovely time telling each other about all the great things we'd done while we were apart, the proverbial shit hit the fan tonight.
It was the perfect storm:
• Saving up of lots of big emotions during our time apart.
• The arrival of a package from John's parents, which is super fun, but which always contains toys the kids want to play with Right Then when there's no time for much of that in the evenings.
• Exhausted kids, exhausted mama.
We opened the package before dinner (dumb move #1). Riley got this totally awesome LEGO kit from which you can build all kinds of Star Wars stuff. He got settled working on that while I got the delayed dinner ready (dumb move #1a, consequence of dumb move #1). Riley quickly got frustrated (tired child = child who has difficulty with LEGO directions). I advised him to wait for help after dinner. He plowed ahead. We had dinner. After dinner, I cleaned up and he plowed ahead some more. Then he waited for some help, but when I got there to help, things had become, uh, rather interpretive in the LEGO department and attaching the cool robotic arm was not really going to happen in a satisfactory way without some backtracking and redoing.
The world pretty much stopped turning for Riley at that point.
He proceeded to rail at me, rail at Maddie, rail at the universe. I told him that I was happy to help when he was in a state in which he could receive help. He railed some more. I repeated my offer of help, to either continue in the interpretive vein and figure something out, or backtrack and redo. More railing. I advised that it was getting into story time and perhaps it would be wise to put the LEGO decision off until morning, opting for some fun! Harry! Potter! instead.
Finally, after much sitting and waiting (and a lot of patience from Maddie), offers for snuggles, and reiterations of help, I let Riley know that it was time to head upstairs for pajamas and bed and that there was time neither for finishing the LEGO project nor for stories.
Not really the first night home I wanted. It ended with brushed teeth and pajamas and two quick songs and big, big hugs and reassurances of love, but it was still a very rough evening.
I hate to see Maddie or Riley frustrated. I hate knowing that the frustration is from tiredness and other overwraught emotions, but knowing that such an explanation seems hollow to the frustrated child. I am proud of myself for not getting upset in this situation, but still feel like I wasn't much help. Would it have been better to just calmly go upstairs and let Riley know I'd be reading with Maddie and that he could join us when he calmed down? I feel like she suffered unjustly. I wanted nothing more than to just wrap Riley in a huge hug, but he wasn't ready for that until the very end of it all.
Oh, poor sweet baby. I missed them so much. I am grateful that the vacation gave me the grace to handle that situation kindly if imperfectly, but wish that it didn't feel like the vacation was indirectly responsible for the behavior in the first place.