Children after 4:00 (Alt. title: Hell in the Suburbs)

So here’s a mom post.  Born from the multiple personalities that my eldest child develops at some unspecified time after 4:00 in the afternoon.   Today, she had me googling an exorcist.

Once upon a time, I had a mellow receptive little girl who peacefully went down for her nap and awoke 2.5 hours later with a smile on her face and a story to tell.  Those times are gone.  Eleanor gave up her pacifier on her 3rd birthday.  We brought them victorious to the pediatrician for her to ‘give to all the new babies’.  Sidenote: I’m too cheap to buy new pacifiers, so I made the poor woman put them in a paper bag and sneak them off to the front desk so I could take them back home with me.  Ever since Eleanor gave up the dang paci, no nap.  Most days, we can deal.  But now that we’re happily skipping around the burbs, she has summer camp.  She comes home like one of those cartoon characters with their little sleeping outline floating above their bodies.

The “quiet time” isn’t an issue.  She likes to watch her Harold and the Purple Crayon video or she plays with her doll house.  But somewhere in the 4:00 range, her eyes go cloudy, her voice deepens, and I may have noticed points on the end of her canine teeth the other day.  Like Zuul or Chucky or Sybil, the switch is thrown and the girl is stone cold horrible.

I’ve tried going Zen on her.  I’ve tried going cerebral.  I’ve tried going OFF on her.  I’ve tried just ignoring her.  No dice.  This is how our actual conversation went this afternoon:

Me: Eleanor, where are your underpants?

Eleanor: I don’t want underpants.

Me: Well, we can’t go outside and do bubbles unless you’re wearing underpants.

Eleanor: I DON’T WANT underpants.

Me: Do you want your rainbow or your Fancy Nancy underpants?

Eleanor: I want bubbles.

Me: You need underpants.

Eleanor: No! I want bubbles.

Me: Eleanor, you can’t walk around without underpants.  Oliver and I are going to do bubbles, and you can join us when you get your underpants.

Eleanor: [Unintelligible]!!!

Me: Here are your Fancy Nancy ones. Let’s put them on.

Eleanor: No! I want my rainbow ones.

Me: Ok. Here are your rainbow ones. Let’s put them on.

Eleanor: NOOOO!  I WANT Fancy Nancy!!

Me: [Pretty much doing some lamaze breathing to keep things chill.]

I won’t go on, as you get the gist.  At one point, her voice got all guttural and there was some gagging involved.  Eleanor, not me.  (Although, I poured a hefty glass of white wine when I finally closed their door for the night.)  I’m not sure that there’s any point to this post other than to hi-light how much more I feel like a ‘mom’ out here in the burbs. I think it’s mostly coincidence because it’s summer and I’m now home all the time, but somehow it seems magnified out here in the anti-urb. These are the moments when I go to that ugly place of self-doubt when I wonder what ‘damage’ I’m inflicting on my children when I’m yelling and screaming and storming around the house because my 3-year-old won’t put on underpants to go outside for bubbles.  I mean, who ever thought they’d say something like that?!

The suburbs don’t really have anything to do with Eleanor’s multiple personalities, but they do seem to exacerbate my reactions when she’s going the wrong way down a one-way street. Isolated in the house, our chaos feels magnified.  In the city, chaos was everywhere!  I’d be watching The Bachelorette on my DVR and hear screaming children walking down the sidewalk.  Our neighbor’s kids would come into the building in full tantrum mode at least 3 times a week.  Sirens were our background soundtrack in the city.  Disarray was the norm.  Out here, things are cleaner.  Calmer.  More pristine.  And against that backdrop, my daughter’s resemblance to Gozer the Gozerian somehow feels amplified.

Hopefully as she settles into her busy summer camp schedule, her moods will stabilize.  If not, I may be looking to lend her out between the hours of 4 and 7.  First come, first served.




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