We've been working really hard on getting Lila to come to us when we call her. I know it sounds like I'm training a dog and sometimes it feels that way. I've been really frustrated recently by her tendency to high-tail it out of the room when I am trying to get her dressed, change her diaper, feed her lunch. Essentially every time I try to meet one of her basic needs she stages a revolt. Only, I'm pretty sure she just thinks it's a thrilling game. But it's exhausting and annoying. And then a few nights ago I had a dream that Lila ran away from me into the street and I couldn't get to her. She was running straight down the middle of the street and I was too slow to catch up with her. I woke up before anything happened to her, heart racing, sweating. I resolved to train that pooch to come when called. It's now beyond a minor irritant. It's a safety concern. We've had very few real safety concerns, but usually because I can catch her in time for her to really be in harm's way.
Anyway, the last three days, I've really cracked down on her disobedience in this - even if she just thinks she's playing. Good-natured defiance, you know. She needs to understand that when Mommy or Daddy say, "Come here," there's no choice involved. Sometimes it will just mean, "Come here, I need to put your shoes on." Others it might mean, "Come here before you get hit by a car/eaten by that bear/snatched away by the creepy guy lurking behind the corners at Target."
Today seemed like we took one step forward, and 29 steps back. The one step forward might even be a little gratuitous. It was just a constant battle all day long. So when Eric called to tell me he was heading to Topeka to get our last dossier document certified I let out a sigh that was 50% relieved that it would be done and 50% resigning to an extra hour or two of Mommy vs. Toddler. So I called my parents and asked if we could come over for a break.
Before we headed to Nanny and Pop's however, we stopped at Target to return something. And that's when I won the battle but lost the war. Actually, I'm not even sure I won the battle. Lila ran away from me in Target. I had a brief panic attack when I turned the corner where she had disappeared and she wasn't there. The little booger had taken off down another aisle. I found her easily enough, but now I was really put out - the anger and frustration that had mounted all day combined with the momentary stress when she slipped from my sight pushed me right to the brink. Stupidly, I soldiered on after I gave her a stern reprimand. As I searched for the shortest checkout line, she took off again, this time more slowly because I think she sensed that I was "stuck" in line. Finally I had to relinquish my place in line, abandon my purchases on the belt of a closed lane, scoop her up and march out of the store. I gave her a spanking in the car. Just a swat on the hand, but she looked at me with this offended look that was a mixture of shock, pain and defiance. I told her, "Lila, when Mommy tells you to come, you need to come right away. It's not safe to run away from Mommy." Then I got in the car and drove to my parents' house, bubbling with frustration, exhaustion, self-doubt and regret.
I was thinking, "I should have gotten a cart - then I could have just corralled her in there and I wouldn't have had to resort to spanking her. That mom with her three angelic children who commented that she was wondering who Lila belonged to when I finally retrieved her probably thought I was being an irresponsible parent. Did I spank her because it was a fitting punishment or because I was angry? Should I spank her at all? Ever? If time outs don't work, what other choices do I have? I'm really a bad mom if I can't even keep my cool for something that small. I wonder why she's been acting up so much today - is it because I didn't play with her enough? Is it because I didn't get her in bed on time so she only took a short nap? Is it because I spent too much time on the computer this morning when I could have been interacting with her? Is it because she's hungry? Maybe she's getting sick. If she's sick I shouldn't be so hard on her. I shouldn't have gone to Target. It's my fault she's acting this way...." and on and on the self-doubt continued.
You might think that was the low point, but you would be wrong. The low point came an hour or so later when, after some innocuous comments from my parents about Lila's behavior, I completely lost it and ended up yelling at my dad in front of Lila. Which made her cry because I don't think she's every seen/heard me yell like that. Thankfully, by then Eric had come home so he took her home after I picked her up and told her "It's okay, Mommy was just upset. I shouldn't have yelled." When she kept crying I asked her if she was scared and she wailed, "Yeeeaaahhhhhh!" and my heart broke. Of all the ways I screwed up today, this one did it. I had completely lost it and now my daughter was scared. Of what, I don't know. It was just clear that Mommy was not okay and that was scary. So Daddy took her home and put her to bed and I stayed to talk things out with my parents.
What a horrible way to end a horrible day. I hate the thought that the last interaction we had was that scared, upset, emotional one. I hate it. I really, really hate it. I'm crying right now thinking about it. Of course I went in and held her for a little while when I got home. I held her and cried some more and begged Jesus to let this day just slip away from everyone's memory. Let it just be gone.
I'm still praying that prayer. I'm praying that in 18 years when Lila is reading this post she says, "Mom, I have no memory of you ever yelling like that." Maybe that's wishful thinking, because I'll probably be guilty of many more days ending like this. But I'm going to pray it anyway.