I spent two hours at the Social Security office today with both girls trying to figure out if we qualify for Faith to continue to receive Medicaid or Disability benefits (spoiler alert, consider it two hours wasted - we don't qualify). I bribed Lila with ice cream if she held it together while we were there. I thought I'd be there about an hour so I brought Lila's special princess sticker book (it's special because I only let her play with it when I really need to buy some time and keep her distracted - like on a car trip or at an appointment) and told her if she didn't whine about things taking a long time we could get ice cream afterwards.
She did great for an hour and fifty minutes, but the last ten minutes were threatening to make me forget how awesome she had done for the first 110 minutes. In the end I found myself carrying a limp three year old (she was "too tired of waiting to walk"), Faith's diaper bag, my purse, Lila's lunch box, Lila's sticker book and Faith in her carseat in the sweltering heat to my car. When I plopped Lila into her carseat I accidentally brushed her leg against the hot car door which elicited a screech of pain and lots of tears. The heat and the sweating and the overly-dramatic reaction to being slightly burned by a car door pushed me to the edge and I snipped at Lila who was too busy keeping in character of Injured Child to get herself buckled. Let's just say I'm only willing to do so many things for her that she is perfectly capable of doing herself when I'm hungry and it's approximately 300 degrees outside (i.e., walking to the car, i.e., carrying her own lunch box, i.e. GETTING BUCKLED). My snippiness was met with fresh tears and the proclamation, "You aren't being nice to me! You woke me uuuuuupppppppp!!!!!" I sighed, wondering when she thought she had fallen asleep in the 45 seconds it took for me to buckle Faith in, and walked back around to her side of the car mumbling to myself, "She did awesome for an hour and 50 minutes. Remember how awesome she did for an hour and 50 minutes."
I buckled her in, gave her a snack and that's when Faith decided it was too hot in the car and she wanted out. Immediately. I decided I was too sweaty and stressed to drive all the way home with a screaming baby so I stopped at my parents' to give us all a break in an air conditioned house before heading home to put Lila down for a nap. No ice cream for us.
When Lila woke up she was all smiley and happy and actually let me take some pictures of her (which she hardly ever lets me do these days). I took advantage of her willing mood and this is the result:
She was cracking herself up with some borderline potty talk which I let slide because it was making for good pictures.
I thought maybe I could make good on my ice cream promise after dinner tonight, but unfortunately, the evening unraveled much like the morning and we endured 35 minutes of an exhaustion-fueled tantrum complete with accusations that we weren't "obeying God" because I guess God would find it horrible that we were forcing her to wear a Monsters Inc Pull-up even though she was very clear that "Monsters is NOT MY FAVORITE MOVIE!!!" That assertion bled into a chorus of "YOU HURT MY FLEELINGS!" with a "YOU'RE BEING MEAN TO ME!" thrown in here or there for good measure. In times like these I waffle between being amused and annoyed. And, sure, mad as hell sometimes, too. Especially when she intentionally dumped a cup of water on my carpet as phase three of her protest.
After calming down (the both of us), wiping her face free of the snot and slobber that had accumulated, and issuing the apologies necessary (from me, the grown-up, who really should have more self-control and not yell at my kid when she's clearly hysterical, exhausted and irrational), she forgave me and we snuggled in bed. She asked me to "talk to Jesus" so I thanked Jesus for her and asked him to help me not lose my temper. I let her hear me ask Jesus to forgive me for yelling at her, too and I'm pretty sure she nodded in agreement.
She was asleep in two winks after all the hullabaloo and I slid out of her bed and stumbled back into my room. I opened my computer only to be greeted by the photos I'd uploaded from our post-nap photo shoot. I spent the next two hours playing around with the design above and sure enough my perception quickly changed as I let the images replace my frustration with affection for my big little girl. Three years, 8 months and 14 days of being her Mommy and I'm still just as clueless and in love as I was on December 16, 2009 when she was placed in my arms. Come to think of it, she was screaming then, too.
I hope when she is grown, it's the memories of silly photo shoots that remain and not Mommy yelling at her. But if my raised voice does echo in her memories, I hope she also remembers that I admitted I was wrong and asked for forgiveness. A friend told me once that our mistakes as Mommies are an opportunity for us to show our kids what it looks like to be forgiven. I'm thankful for that tonight. And that tomorrow I get to start three years, 8 months and 15 days of being her Mommy. It's the best job a girl could ask for.