The Voices In My Head
Have you taken care of other peoples' children? Did you have them all figured out? Did you watch them manipulate their parents? Were you amazed at how the "oldest trick in the book" worked every time they pulled it? Did you think to yourself, "My kid will always nap for me. I will never ASK my kid if they want to do something when I actually mean that they WILL be doing it in the near future. Any screaming, warm body around me in a public eatery will be IMMEDIATELY escorted outside. Pacifiers will not be dragged all over town after 6 months of age. Any (large) crumb we leave on any floor at any place other than our home will immediately be picked up by me and disposed of in a proper receptacle."
There are some things that I learned in my years of providing childcare that have actually translated to my current state of raising my child. I knew better than to spend money on nice furniture for the living room. I expected to have everything dragged out of every cabinet and drawer from four feet down. I insisted my child learn to sleep in his room--not mine. I NEVER let him run into the street. But after that, everything else feels negotiable some days, you know? Some days they just wear you down.
It's easy to be consistent with a child who is not your own, when you're being paid to do it, and you're leaving in X hours. It's easy to watch a child who is not your own throw a fit. It's not pleasant, but it's not heart-wrenching. You quickly and accurately assess the situation: he / she is throwing a temper tantrum, attention will only increase the feedback system on which tantrum-throwing relies, they will learn that when they throw a tantrum it does not achieve their purposes, I will give them an age-appropriate amount of space, while ensuring he /she does not (badly) injure himself / herself, all the while maintaining a cool but loving exterior, they cannot hear words over their screaming, they are hungry / tired / insert stressful condition here and this is the end of his or her rope. You get the idea.
However, as a parent, (for me at least), it now seems to go something like this: "He is throwing a temper tantrum, Why did I let him get to this place? What tool have I not provided him with to communicate, be adequately mentally stimulated, eat, drink, rest, or sleep so that this would not have happened? Maybe if I speak calmly (and loudly) into his ear he will hear me explain my case and will magically comprehend on a 27 year old level. Maybe the sunscreen I applied 6 hours ago is all of a sudden horrifically burning his skin. Maybe if I pick him up he will feel better. Maybe he feels better now that he has hurled himself from my arms onto the ground. Maybe he didn't want me to hold him because his stomach hurts and it was making him even more uncomfortable. Maybe he has a stomach virus since I gave him his pacifier back without washing it when he dropped it on the ground at Target the other day. Maybe he's turning purple and signing "finished"* because he wants his nausea to go away. Maybe his diaper area that looked perfect a couple of hours ago is now covered in yeast or eczema. Maybe I'll put a movie in while he throws himself all over the sofa, smearing his snot everywhere--oh, nope, not this movie--maybe a different one. Ok, I'm going to leave the room (now the screaming goes from constant to intermittent). Maybe I'll peek back in--ok, SORRY! I take it back! I'm looking away...please go back to not screaming! Would you like to take a bath?"
And so it went.
And in the back of my mind, there is a tiny voice, the "Nanny Lauren" voice, telling me that he is not all of the sudden contorting his body out of excruciating pain. He is tired. He misses his Daddy. Put him to bed. I miss "Nanny Lauren." Somewhere along the way, "Crazy Mommy Lauren" kicked in. She gets on my nerves. And apparently she gets on Spencer's nerves too.*