May 13, 2010. Today my mother-in-law is 85 and hopefully her cold will have resolved enough so that tonight we can celebrate. I have always said God must have known I still needed a mother because he gave her to me. She is an incredible woman and a precious presence in my life. For her I am thankful. But yesterday, I must admit, was not a thankful day, at least the after school part. On the heels of having just convinced myself to behave and feel more like a normal human being, I flew completely off the handle. Apparently I am and maybe always will be a work in progress. Peter came home wet from school, but just a little, and so I made him change. I didn’t bother sending his teacher an email because the reply would be rote, and something along the lines of “I didn’t notice and he said he was dry.” After Sophie did her homework and the kids ate their snacks, we left to run errands, something I dread doing with the children, Peter more than Sophie, but I had no choice. The bank was fine (Thank God for drive-thrus), picking up my repaired watch from the jewelry store was more of a challenge (Peter started repeating “goobaloo” to the wide-eyed patrons), stopping at a store to retrieve Grandma’s birthday present went without a hitch, but then we reached Friendly’s, which was supposed to be the grand finale for even marginally good behavior. Pat was in the city and I sometimes take the kids there when he’s away because he frankly can’t stomach the whole concept. As soon as we got there, Peter ran into the bathroom at warp speed with his shirt pulled low, never a good sign, but twenty minutes later he still hadn’t emerged. A knock on the door and a curt “Peter!” lead me to believe he had pressing, private business that needed attending. Not the kind of thing you want to interrupt, much less rush. I actually felt guilty for a minute for not trusting him. So Sophie sits down at the table and starts to color and I stand near the checkout counter, the only vantage where I can see her and also keep an eye on the Men’s Room door. But he won’t come out. The waitress eyes me curiously and I wonder out loud whether I should risk opening the door to check. The restaurant is nearly empty and I hadn’t seen anyone else come or leave, so I decide to take a chance. As soon as I peer inside I see Peter mopping his clothes with paper towels. “Get out, Mom. I’m pooping!” Obviously, this was not the case. Having wet his pants, he was planning, I suppose, to wait out the rest of his natural life in the Men’s Room, hoping no one would notice. I check the crotch of his dark sweatpants, a task I never imagined doing to my almost 9-year-old when I dreamed of motherhood all those years ago. Quickly confirming the diagnosis, I then pulled him out the door by the hand. “We have to go, Sophie. I’m sorry.” To avoid a double meltdown, I promise to take her through the drive thru at McDonald’s. I usually carry a change of clothes in the car but he used those on Mother’s Day, where he also peed in the restaurant, and I hadn’t yet replenished. So we leave with Peter screaming, “I hate you, you’re stupid, Sophie can’t read, and you’re a dumb lady. I’ll pee if I want!” He refused to get in the car and then started attacking Sophie as soon as I wrestled him into his seatbelt and closed the door. Knowing what she was enduring, I ran around to the driver’s side as quickly as I could and used my deepest, scariest, Mom voice to stop him in his tracks. It didn’t work, naturally, so then I bring him back out of the car and have him do jumping-jacks to deflate the rage. This worked and we were able to leave. Sophie accepted the consolation of her Happy Meal and I informed Peter that I’d fix him some dinner after he showered the urine off his body. But he went bezerck in the shower, flailing, screeching, thrashing the way I imagine a cat might react if flung unkindly into a swimming pool. The water was a little cold at first, though hardly freezing, and warmed up within 20 seconds. I know this because I wound up every bit as soaked as Peter. Afterward I checked his room while I listened to his looping diatribe, “I don’t know who you are you are a nobody,” and found more soiled underwear stuffed behind the dresser. “What are these?” I asked, holding up the evidence. Peter grabbed his dirty underwear from my hand, held them to his nose as he sniffed deeply. “Yummy!” he beamed. And that’s when I lost it. ”You hate, us, don’t you?” I said. “Just say it Peter! Get it over with!” I can’t believe I have just said these words to my troubled, damaged, often sweet child, but I have. What is wrong with me? He deserves better parenting than I sometimes offer. Its no surprise that he screams all kinds of horrible things back at me, and at that point I can’t blame him. I say goodnight and he goes to bed clean, angry, and indolent. I take some deep breaths before walking downstairs where I find Sophie gratefully playing the Wii, with the volume turned up. Together we work on an art project – she’s making a potholder for Grandma’s birthday. Then she chose a Russian vocabulary picture book to browse through because she’s taken an interest in her past, which she’s clearly struggling to integrate. We had fun snuggling and giggling in the “big bed” as we tried pronouncing all the strange, exotic words. She helped me calm down. This morning she’s still laughing over the fact that the word for buttocks is “popa”. She was her old self yesterday, and so far today as well, and for that I’m relieved. This morning Peter is all business, dressing in record speed and changing his sheets quickly (he wet through the bed last night, its unclear whether he took his diaper off to do this or not). He even apologizes when he comes down for breakfast. I smile, return the apology, and thank him for the effort. I know he means it. He always does. I used to think he would never develop a conscience when he was younger, but I was wrong. It was either always there but hidden or somehow we managed to instill one. But it fails to surface until after the fact. His brand of conscience is a post-script, never a prologue. Once he spirals, for real rather than for show, he’s a tornado intent on maximum destruction. Why he saves these special rampages mostly for home I’ll never know. It does make us believe he can suppress his rages, at least somewhat. When I ask, all he offers, matter-of-factly, is this: “I don’t want to go to the Prineepul.” Apparently the threat of getting sent to the Principal’s office is a bigger deterrent than wrecking a home. But despite the severe weather gathering in Peter’s brain yesterday, a storm which lasted approximately 5 hours, today the sun’s back out, and I can hear the birds chirping. There is plenty of sunshine in my life, that’s what I have to remember. Just some days I have to look a little harder, and despite the coming warmth of summer, remember to keep my head (and temper) just a wee bit cooler.