Return of the Demon Child

Well, now that Explorer is up and running again, I can finally access the internet. So now I’m back.

And Demon Boy has returned.

At least he’s only doing this at home, and seems to be handling school pretty well. But the “Yes!”, “NO!”, “Yes!”, “No!” is about to make me insane.

He is Captain Contrary. Whatever I want him to do is the very thing he will decide somehow goes against his moral fiber. When I give him what he wants, he complains. When I deny him what he wants, he complains until I say, “Okay,” and then he decides he doesn’t want it. Stinker.

In our house, we judge tantrums by horror movie screams. Below, you will find the tantrum scale, from least dramatic to most.

1. Low level zombie attack

This entails a lot of moaning, whining, rolling around on the floor.

2. Full blown zombie attack

Louder moaning, not quite yelling, but annoying. Crying like your heart’s being torn out. Sometimes running away–this usually happens in stores. You know, those places where it’s absolutely NOT OKAY to run off.

3. The spring-loaded cat (or, “I’ve just been startled by a cat, but the axe murder is just around the corner”)

Crying, punctuated by an occasional (and unexpected) ear-piercing scream.

4. The Nancy Kerrigan (because really, wasn’t that a horror movie, in and of itself?)

Crying, yelling, lots of shouting “Why?” (or, in Chewey’s case, “NO!”). But, thankfully, no tire irons in sight.

5. “I am currently being killed by an axe murderer.”

I think this one pretty much explains itself.

I’m going over this because Chewey threw a level five fit in the middle of a certain hippy supermarket yesterday (my favorite kind). It was a doozy, apparently over nothing more than his father insisting that he wash his hands.

He started out at a low level zombie, rolling around on the floor of said market. Obnoxious. But seeing as how it has the vegan muffins I like (no, I’m not vegan, but having an allergy to eggs does preclude most baked goods unless I go to specialty stores, and I have yet to master egg-free baking), I wasn’t willing to simply leave.

So I continued to shop.

And we proceeded immediately to level 3, the spring-loaded cat.

By this time, we had had enough, so Husband decided to take Chewey outside to the car, and I would finish shopping with Sea Monkey.

Now, before I go on, I should probably make it very clear: when Chewey is acting up, Sea Monkey is an angel. When Chewey acts up, people actually buy Sea Monkey things, give her free stuff. I’m not joking. She walked out of said market with a flower, a juice box, two smiley face stickers, and a fruit roll-up. People stop us to give her things (we only accept stickers and flowers, unless it’s from someone working at the store). She once walked away from the Salvation Army bell ringer standing in front of Large Chain Store with his bell, despite my rather desperate attempts to give it back. When she’s being perfect and cute (in her little dress, with her waist-length almost-black hair done up in two french braids), she’s a force to be reckoned with.

I am grateful to my husband, because this is the child I kept. Husband walked out with a child who had rapidly progressed to level 5. I could hear him after he went outside.

And that’s when it happened. I suppose it was bound to happen one day.

My husband, the cop, got stopped by a woman who thought Chewey was being kidnapped (I suppose it doesn’t help that he was screaming, “No, Mommy! No! Don’t take me!”).

My husband handled this with more grace than I would have thought, and certainly more than I would have. I probably would have given her a dirty look and walked away. But when the woman asked,

“Excuse me, is this your son?”

Husband responded: “Would I be tolerating this if he wasn’t?”

God bless him. After a minimal exchange, he even showed her a picture of Chewey on his phone at a football game, and everyone went away happy-ish.

And Husband thought this incident was funny, and it is. But it’s embarrassing too, because I used to be one of those “When I have kids, my children will never behave like that” judgmental types.

That was before I had kids, of course. Now, every time I see a kid acting up, I look over at that poor parent and just want to give them a hug. Because I know what it’s like to do the walk of shame out of a store, abandoning groceries, plants, clothes, whatever. I know the looks that other people give you, the “Why can’t you just control your child, you wretched parent?” stares that follow you as you hang your head and walk out of the store.

I never thought that person would be me. I knew all sort of tricks. I can make a room full of preschoolers with autism behave. I have behavior charts, consequence maps, reward systems with a treasure box. I’ve written social stories.  I did all of this with Sea Monkey, and now I’m doing it with Chewey. And I guess I thought that, because I was an easy child (too shy to throw tantrums in public, that’s for sure), at least one of my kids would turn out the same way.

No such luck. I’ve done the walk of shame with Sea Monkey, and now we get to do it with Chewey. And to all of the judgmental people out there, who look at me like I’m the WORST MOTHER IN THE WORLD while I walk out of the store with a screaming three year old tucked under my arm, just wait. You’ll be right here with me soon enough. And if you’re lucky enough to have a kid who never makes a fuss in public, well, bully for you. Not everyone is so lucky, and not everyone with a bratty kid is a bad parent.

Over time, I’ve come to realize that sometimes, the best parents have the toughest kids, through no fault of their own. Some days, when I’m tired and cranky and have a tantruming child–but I can’t leave because I really-really-really need toilet paper–it’s all I can do to keep it together long enough to get to my car without bursting into tears. I’m just doing the best I can, but I’m not perfect.

And neither are you.


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