Picking up my son is my reward at the end of the day. Usually. The drive is typically tense: a crowded commute red with brake lights and last-minute work calls.
But then… the prize: quality time together. “Mommy’s here!” he screams as he runs over to me.
For a moment, all is right in the world. I learn about his day and we start the trek back home, talking about what we’ll do: Swinging, sliding, or running through a sprinkler. These are the great days that I envision when I close my eyes.
But there are other days that don’t go quite so smoothly.
Like last week: I picked him up, like any other day. Just a few minutes in, he fought getting into the car. He cried at his snack options and threw the bag’s contents all over the car. I was probably a bit tired and cranky myself, and I yelled at him.
We got home, and we both needed a diversion. Bubbles! It worked for a moment, until… in a fit of frustration, he poured out the whole bottle. I yelled again.
I tried another distraction, and put him to work feeding our dog. He took the dog food—and deliberately dumped it all over the floor.
Strike three: Time for a time out. At this point, I was feeling guilty because this precious, little boy I’d wanted to see all day was making me crazy.
“This is common at the end of the day for all of us,” points out Amy Schroder, manager of parent education at Hartford Hospital. “You want it to be quality time, but what it really is, is reality time.”
“Sometimes, we need to hug our kids, even when we want to yell at them. Think of it as “Time in” instead of a “time out.” He’s been a good little boy all day, and when he comes home he falls apart because he knows he can, and that you’ll still love him.”
And I do, even after bath time, when he poured water all over the floor.
Perhaps I should have hugged him. Instead, I asked, “Charlie! What is going on!?”
“Mommy, I’ve done a lot: bubbles, dog food, water. I need to go to bed.”
I agreed. But not before we read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible No Good,Very Bad Day (Aladdin, 1972).
Then I hugged him tight and that made us both feel better.