Please say yes even if you’re lying. Please say yes even if you’re judging me.

Last night after I got home from picking my kids up from aftercare at school, I sat in my minivan and cried. So defeated. So embarrassed. So ashamed. So… sad.

Audrey’s behavior at school drop off and pick up has been deteriorating day by day and last night’s pick up was some of the best work I’ve seen from her – which is saying something.

Granted, it’s a huge transition for her. She only turned three in May and she’s gone from a small child care center where she’s been since age 16 weeks full of familiar and trusted faces to a large elementary school with nearly zero familiar faces. She’s in a new classroom with new teachers, new friends, new rules, new structure. It’s been very difficult for her. I just… I didn’t expect it to be this difficult.

Tuesday morning at drop off she screamed and thrashed in her teacher’s arms as I promised I’d see her after school and sulked down the hallway to the lobby where I could still hear her. Screaming. Not crying or whining. I’m talking fingers-slammed-in-a-car-door screaming. After relaying that information along with the very similar situation at pick up that night, my husband suggested that he drop the girls off Wednesday to give me a break. Her teacher also mentioned (we’ve been emailing and she’s amazing. She assured me that Audrey is getting there and it’s a slower process for some kids and she’ll be great.) that many kids do better when their dads drop them off. It’s not a viable long term option, but if it gave me a morning of reprieve, I’d take it.

Tom reported back that there were some sad tears, but no screaming so I felt better going into aftercare last night to get them. She greeted me with a smile and then ran over to color a picture. I told the girls it was time to wrap up and get going and Audrey protested that she was DRAWING A PICTURE, MOM. Her teacher mentioned that she could take it home and finish there and I agreed. Audrey responded by throwing her uncapped marker at me (which hit me in the leg and left a lovely blue line down my khakis) and collapsing to the floor in a heap of thrashing tears.

Big sighs all around. I knew it was only going to get worse. I thought I was prepared. I wasn’t. She wouldn’t stand up, let alone walk. She wouldn’t “let” me carry her, so I had to hold her like a football as she kicked and screamed, “LET ME GO!!!” out of the room, through the hallway, past many other students and teachers, her backpack and Olivia dragging somewhere behind me.  Out the door, across the parking lot – still screaming and writhing around – into the minivan where the screaming continued and the kicking started. In my face, my arms, my chest – this little ninja was NOT going quietly into that good car seat.

Ten minutes later I get her secured and she is still screaming, “GET ME OUT OF HEEEERE!!!!” and begging for her treat. I bring graham crackers and milk for the 25 minute ride home and at that point I wasn’t feeling particularly generous so I told her when she could calm down and apologize, she could have it. More screaming. More thrashing. More demanding .

By this time, Olivia is yelling at me to give her the snacks. That if I just give her the snacks she’ll stop crying. That the crying is all my fault. Then she starts crying. Now both are crying and everyone hates me and all I wanted to do was pick up my beautiful little girls, give them a nice snack and chat about their days on the ride home while listening to their favorite music.

Instead, I lose it and yell at both of them.

By the time we get home, we are all crying. I get Audrey into the house and go back for Liv. I pick her up, look into her eyes and tell her how sorry I am that I yelled at her. How sorry I am that I can’t explain how Audrey needs to mind me and she can’t just get everything she wants to make her stop crying – her five-year-old self doesn’t understand that by doing that I’m just encouraging the behavior. She just knows that her sister is upset and I’m not fixing it.

She wiped my tears and said, “Mommy, it’s okay. You are beautiful. Do you need a snuggle?”

KNIFE, MEET MY HEART.

I know it’s a lot for her to process all at once. I know she’s overwhelmed and tired and a bit scared and maybe even a little lonely. But, trapped in the car with the screaming after being punched and feeling humiliated and sweating through your clothes and being blamed for the whole thing? It’s hard to remember all that.

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