It's funny how soon something happy can just crash and burn, how euphoria can quickly become tarnished. Yesterday after seeing the horse (and he really was there! Lucy's teacher said he was there for Inventure, a special presentation and projects for the older kids that evening but that Lucy was welcome to come too) Lucy and I were so excited we galloped (ha ha) inside to Darren and Elaine.
"There's a horse in Lucy's school!" I told Elaine. "Do you want to come see him after supper?" Her face was wreathed in smiles at the thought of something so wondrous as a horse. "I wanna see the horse!" she said.
Everything was going wonderfully. Everyone was happy. The soundtrack from Jaws may just as well been playing in the background. "I need to wash my hands" I heard (what else is new?) After she'd been in there for awhile, I said, "Elaine, please put the placemats on the table and tell Lucy that supper is ready." "I wash my hands," I heard from the bathroom. I waited a minute or so, went in the bathroom, and repeated my request. "I wash my hands." I gently lifted her off the stool, turned off the water, and said, "Put the placemats on the table and go call Lucy." She looked me full in the face and screamed as loud as she could. "NO! I WASH MY HANDS!"
That sent Darren running upstairs from his basement office. He applied a little discipline, set her in the Naughty Chair, and said, "You tell Mom you're sorry for screaming at her." Usually when she sits in the Naughty Chair, it's only a few minutes before I hear, "Sorry. I'm sorry, Mom. I get down now." Not tonight. I gave her repeated chances. Finally I said, "If you can't say you're sorry, you'll need to go upstairs and get into bed until you can."
I took her upstairs, kicking and screaming, and looking like the exact definition of "2-year-old tantrum" in the Big Book of Stereotypes. All the happiness and excitement of the afternoon were gone. Remember how parents would say, "This hurts me more than it hurts you" when they disciplined you and we all thought that was the most ridiculous lie in the world? Newsflash, turns out they were right. It's so awful. This went on for almost an hour. In case you're wondering, an hour is a very, very long time.
In the meantime, I got Lucy fed and bathed. She said to me, "Mom, can I tell you something secret, just between you and me? I don't think Elaine deserves to go tonight. But I still want her to." Yeah, that pretty much summed up exactly how I felt too. I stood there blowdrying her hair, chatting cheerfully to her amidst the ear-splitting screams, while inside I was a) praying that God would soften that little one's stubborn heart and b) wishing I could just get in bed and pull the covers over my head instead of driving to school for the third time that day just to see a smelly old horse whom I now blamed utterly for wreaking such havoc on my family.
Finally, finally (with Darren's prompting) I saw a little tear-streaked, woebegone figure in the bathroom doorway. She sidled up to me, buried her face in my shoulder, hiccupped a few times, and whispered, "Sorry." Then she said, "Want my leeny-leeny (aka tortellini) now."
Eventually we got everyone fed and bundled into the car. When we got to school I asked the lady at the door who was welcoming everyone, "Where's the horse?" She looked at me like, uh lady, do you really think we'd let a horse stay for hours in our elementary school? and said, "I think the horse went home quite awhile ago."
You have GOT to be kidding me.
We went into the gym and looked at the books kids wrote (they were great), the science exhibits, and the social studies projects. I said to Lucy, "Luce! Someday you'll do projects like this!" and she wailed, "But I don't know how!" as if I expected her to construct a suspension bridge out of cardboard and dental floss by herself tomorrow.
When we went out to the car I said to Elaine, "I'm sorry, sweetie, that you didn't get to see the horse. I guess he went home for his supper and to bed." "You teased me, Mom" she said dejectedly, as if the entire horrific evening was some sort of elaborate practical joke I'd played on her.
But now...today is a new day. There are new games to play, new pictures to color, a chance to do everything over. Maybe we'll see the first robin of spring today! They seem to be more reliable than horses.