Initiation

They’re staring at me, judging, disapproving, clucking.

He’s flailing in the middle of the road, gone limp in a pile of toddler rage. It was funny at first, how it always is: he stops drops and rolls, and it’s my own laughing that makes me unable to wrestle his squirming, indignant noodliness.

But today, waiting a g-d fricking hour for the annual Santa Claus Parade (and then leaving with not a single g-d fricking elf in sight), laughing turned to frustration which turned to dismay which turned to forcible confinement which turned to near-child-abuse which turned to an all-out ban on Christmas for the next ten years.

I’m a wreck. I’m still shaking. I need two padded rooms: one for me, and one for him. I’m not taking him anywhere by car ever again. I lack the brute strength required to buckle an enraged rhinoceros into a carseat.

You’re supposed to stay calm, be button-free. Instead: squealing out of the bloody legion parking lot, both of us bawling, one of us covered in vomit, the other behind the wheel screaming the world’s most heartfelt F********************CK!!!!

“Oh, my little junior is so active too," you say, chortling. I smile, faking affinity, thinking Bullshit. Take my kid and call me in a week. You’re standing on the side of the road and he holds your hand, twiddling the ribbon on his balloon. I see you forty-five minutes and forty-five tantrums later – yours is in his stroller, watching the road, nibbling a cracker.

When does it get better? Does the advent of talking help? How does anyone have more than one child? The thought of it makes me break out in nervous hives. Maybe we're feeding him too well. Maybe a little nutritional lethargy would be just the thing.

Why does everyone else seem to have it together? Why don't people realize that it only makes me feel worse to gawk at us like the spectacle I already know we are? Why doesn’t bribery work? Why do everyone else’s kids seem so complacent?

<Complacent: is that the right word? Thesaurus says: satisfied self-satisfied smug unworried content contented self-righteous. No word has ever been more right.>

He scissors his legs in fury, dislocates both shoulders for easier transmission to the ground. Then the gun goes off and he lunges directly for a) speeding traffic; c) the edge, any edge; c) imminent danger. I make a feeble effort at restraint, shrinking with embarrassment, shame, ineptitude. See paragraph one. Repeat.

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Upon re-reading: am tempted to delete. I know what you're thinking: You're supposed to stay calm, be button-free. You let him get so upset that he threw up! And you're not helping matters by being upset yourself. You shouldn't be driving when you're feeling out of control like that. You shouldn't curse like that in front of him, let alone be screaming it when he's already freaking out.

Yes: it gives me as much indigestion to live it as it gives you to read it. But quiet meltdowns, private ones, are more toxic than public ones. If you don't acknowledge the stuff you're ashamed of, it eats you, makes you loathe yourself. So here you have it.