April 8, 2009:
First of all, I should warn you that this is not an upbeat and uplifting post today. Let me explain how the day ended, and then we can get to how it started. It ended with Andrew walking in the door around 6:15 p.m. and me promptly putting on my shoes and coat and heading out the door. It has been one of those days where you think your kids can't act any more rotten, yet they find ways to do so!
Yes, today is not an "adventure to the high-seas" type day. Rather, it is a slow sink into the low doldrums of youngster chaos. We all have those days, where you think it can only get better, the kids can't possibly act any worse. And yet...
Today started with Ella waking up with her cough that she has had the past 2 weeks. Grace also woke up with the same cough today. So I thought long and hard about why they seem to wake up with these awful coughing fits and stuffy noses that seem to melt away as the day progresses. I thought about my own self and how I have had a stuffy nose and congestion for about a month which is finally beginning to be a non-issue. My body is adjusting to this new environment as is theirs. But as vacation looms just around the corner, it seems wise to try to get the kids healthy. About a week or two ago I decided that my nose and throat woes were due to allergies. It has been so long since I have suffered from intense allergies that this realization shocked me. But it made sense. Tons of cattle, pollution and grasses are in full force in Caen. Tons of rain falls and that adds to the mix. So then today, I realized that what is affecting Grace and Ella might very well be allergies. So I began the day by giving them Benedryl to see what affect this medicine had on their runny noses and coughs.
The effect? Ella was basically comatose and Grace was just herself. The bottle had said "May Cause Drowsiness" so I thought how wonderful, maybe they will all just chill out for a while and get some rest. But Ella resisted the nap her body was so strongly requesting and Grace seemed to defy the drowsi-effect. But, their noses did clear up and their coughs did, too. I got Ella to take a nap after a long struggle and Grace never seemed to need one. But after Ella awoke from her nap, collective behavior began to unravel before my very eyes.
I can't explain what I mean exactly, or provide specific examples of this awful behavior. But I can tell you in general that it entailed doing things over and over again that are "against the rules" such as pushing, pinching, hitting, writing on each other's paper, standing on their dining room chairs, playing with their food, saying "no" directly to your face and not listening to any requests made. And it was these types of things over and over again with time-outs and being sent to the rooms scattered throughout the day yet heeded no positive results what-so-ever.
On days like this, I think to myself that I would be so embarrassed to go out in public with my children acting this way. I also don't want to reward them with a fun outing when their behavior is not worthy. So no way will I get them together for an outing. But then I think maybe they need to get out of the house, which is why they are acting like this. It's a catch-22. Finally at 2:00 p.m. I couldn't take this anymore so we got ourselves together and my only plan was to go for a walk to a small park down the road. Anywhere but home and something to get them some fresh air. Even despite the fact that it was raining and had been raining all day long. After a long and chaotic walk to the park, the girls finally played there for about an hour. They couldn't have cared less about the rain drops. They pretended to make a campfire with twigs they found. They made birthday cakes with wet sand. They slid down the slide that was coated in wet, dirty mud. And after an hour, I thought I better take them home. I am sure passer-byes thought I was a bad mom already, letting them play in the rain!
When we got home, they took baths having been coated in sand - all with bad behavior, splashing all over the bathroom, dumping full bottles of shampoo and pulling stuffed animals and clean towels into the tub (in just a matter of seconds, as I went to get some clean clothes!), soaking the shower curtain and it was just general mayhem. What must you think of me and my parenting skills? And the social skills of my children? These are my thoughts as I watch the craziness unfold. We made it through and managed to get everyone at least half-dressed.
For the next 2 hours I just let them have at it, running and screaming and fighting and pulling on each other. I was watching remotely, making sure there was no deadly danger, but in general I just wanted them to work out their petty tattles and try to find composure themselves. I sure wasn't able to get them composed.
So, I had emailed Andrew a bit earlier and told him that he should expect me to leave once he got home from work, as the girls were exceptionally difficult today for me and I needed a break. I left and did some shopping required for vacation, I exchanged some sweaters for Andrew and then stopped at a wine bar and had a nice glass of Muscadet in the peace and quiet. The weather had cleared up, the sky was blue and the temperature was mild. And I was finally enjoying some peace after a very loud day. It's funny. I would not have enjoyed this single glass of wine so much had my day not been to rough. If my day had been typical and ho-hum, this would have been just like any other glass of wine.
As I sat and sipped the wine and stared out the window of the wine bar, I couldn't get the song, "Mama Said There'd be Days Like This," out of my head. Days like this happen, fortunately not often, but they do happen. I think the comforting part of it all is knowing that my mom went through this, your mom went through this, all of you with children go through this and even the perfect French families I see walking down the street go through this (just not when I seem to be looking). So, we shall all just chalk them up to "one of those days" and know that tomorrow can only be better!
Pictured above: The girls playing at the park in the rain today.