The Assisted Living Home
nThis morning my daughter's kindergarten class made a trip to a nearby home for the elderly. They planned to sing a few Christmas songs and recite a verse and be all cute. As you know, elderly folk seem to just love seeing young kids and it was an easy way to spread some Christmas cheer.
I promised Lauren I would be there to hear her sing. First wrong move.
In keeping with every law of nature, my youngest daughter actually slept in this morning. I needed to leave the house by 8:15 to make it in time for the program, so I was faced with a painful decision:
Wake the beast or let the sleeping cherub keep dreaming peacefully?
I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I very seriously considered breaking my promise to my kindergartener and standing her up. You don't understand how bad it can be to wake a 3-yr-old when you don't have a trip to Disneyworld or a lifetime supply of gummy bears waiting to greet her.
And so, overcome by mother guilt, I edged closer to the sleeping child. After a few moments, I succeeded in rousing her, using the antics of our Elf, Buddy, as an excuse to get up.
She happily allowed me to pick her up and carry her down the stairs, where she was delighted to discover Buddy had taken down her portrait and drawn glasses and a mustache on everybody.
This delight was short-lived, however. Namely, because I informed her that her worst nightmare was about to become reality: she would have to put on clothes so we could leave.
Moments before waking her, I had carefully, oh so carefully, chosen her attire. Green stretch pants, her very favorite Santa shirt with cute green ribbons on the shoulders, plain white socks, and the most crucial of all the decisions, her underwear.
I picked up the underwear, figuring we'd get the hardest part over with first. For some reason, this child has an EXTREME distaste for wearing underwear at all, and there are only a few pair among her vast supply which are acceptable. I looked and looked, examining each and every pair to ascertain if it was one of the approved for wear versions. Finally, I found a pair with Hello Kitty, a sure thing.
I chose wrong.
She immediately fell on the floor, crying and moaning at the inhumanity of it all.
I watched the clock ticking.
Fine. I'll skip to her favorite garment, my secret weapon: her Santa shirt.
You can imagine my shock when, seeing the shirt so near and dear to her heart, the same shirt she'd insisted on wearing every single day last week, she narrowed her eyes and said, "I HATE that shirt. NO!!!"
Alrighty, then. Apparently everything I know about the universe has changed overnight. The rules don't apply anymore and I'm starting from scratch. What's next? A boycott on french fries? Or maybe a favorite blanket burning?
At this point I was forced to enter into a physical altercation. I coaxed her sweet little legs into those stretch pants and informed her that we were running late and she could strip off all her clothes the minute we got back home. She could be naked as a jaybird for the rest of the day for all I care. Before you think I was too harsh, you should know I even asked big sister to retrieve yet another pair of underwear so Leighanne wouldn't be traumatized by having to wear a pair she hated. I really did try.
Of course the 2nd underwear option was equally disdained, so we carried on with the forced dressing of the body. Have you ever tried to reason with a 3-yr-old who is taking clothes off faster than you can put them on her? Mad as a wet hen.
I was nearing my breaking point. Even the dog had stopped to watch. We wrestled our way to the car, where I attempted to put her in her carseat. She placed her little feet on the doorframe and would not budge. She wouldn't bend her body. It was like trying to put a steel beam in the sitting position.
"We have to go!! Your sister is singing songs about BABY JESUS to the OLD PEOPLE!!! Don't you understand?! You're going to make me miss it all because you don't like your underwear!!"
After getting her in the car, I went back inside for my phone and keys. I don't know how she did it, but in those mere seconds, my oldest child calmed the sea.
I'm going to start calling her the tantrum whisperer. Leighanne, perched calmly and serenely in her booster, just sucked her thumb and then apologized for her behavior.
I looked at my oldest in a combination of awe and fear (if she's THIS powerful what will she do when I'M upset?). It was amazing. Turns out she used a little stuffed reindeer toy to reason with the unreasonable child. I guess having antlers gives you a distinct advantage when working with children. Note to self: go buy an antler headband.
And so, off we went to minister to the elderly and spread our Christmas cheer. I had never longed more than at that moment for a "silent night".