Today I told her, after we had played at the park for a good forty-five minutes after school (what a nice mommy I am!), that in order to have any friends over she would have to pick up her bedroom. Being the good mom that I am I allowed her some time to play in the backyard before the rain came today thinking that she should have plenty of time to pick up her room before bed-time, and tomorrow she could have friends over again. Next thing you know, I look out in the yard and she is gone. I have a moment of panic until I hear her next door and see little brother standing at the part of the fence she goes over to get next door. Yeah, I was a little mad. The rule in our house is that you don't go anywhere, not even over the fence to the next door neighbors, without telling me (or someone who is in charge). That got her sent to her room to clean up immediately. We aren't fooling around about safety in this house.
Well, that sweet child of mine was up in her room for about ten minutes before she came out screaming and crying that it was too much of a mess and she needed help picking it up. I was in the middle of steam cleaning the play room - which I can guarantee you contained none of my mess, yet I was picking up after her. When she told me she needed help I about lost it. Perhaps if some small girl would help clean up more regularly, so that I wasn't the only one doing it day in and day out, I would be more inclined to help her. The mess in her room isn't bad, mostly costumes, books and dolls. It would be a quick job - nothing compared the 'exploded' room (which looks pretty good right now, if I can pat myself on the shoulder). I know for a fact I didn't make THAT mess, either.
What followed was twenty minutes of her writhing in agony on the floor at the bottom of the stairs screaming at me that it would 'take for hours'. I agreed with her, and told her it might take days if she didn't get up and get on it, and until then no friends, or maybe another round of grounding. Nothing was working. Then she told me that my voice sounded angry, and here is where I should have held my breath and counted to ten before saying anything... I was in the middle of trying to make mac and cheese, because I knew part of the cause of the meltdown was hunger, and I told her, "I'm sure my voice sounds angry right now. I only asked you to clean up your room. I spent two days cleaning the play room, and I know I don't make a mess in there, so am I supposed to clean up after you, little brother, and daddy? And then my stuff on top of it all? Am I your maid?" She shook her head 'no' and slunk out of the room.
A little while later - "But your voice sounds mad at me and everyone hates me!" She wailed, starting all over again. I tried to discern if something was going on at school but all I got out of her was that my voice hated her. And I didn't like her. And it wasn't fair. All of which isn't true, but as I know from experience, there is no consoling her when she gets like that. I just have to ignore it and let her get it out of her system.
I was a little smarter this time and I simply told her my voice was going to take a time-out from talking right now since it wasn't saying the nice things she wanted to hear. A lot more crying from her, but I didn't waiver, and my voice took a long time-out.
Dinner was served and everyone is going to bed early tonight. Wicked early.
They aren't always such little monsters, and I can usually pinpoint what's causing the meltdown, and it's usually just a matter of fixing the problem and everyone will calm down. When food takes longer to prepare and it's a hunger-caused meltdown, watch out, but when it's exhaustion causing them to lose it, that's a bit harder to fix, especially when they haven't had dinner yet. You have to fix one and then the other, because as it was pointed out to me tonight, 'it's just not fair to send someone to bed without dinner. That's not nice.' And she's right, it's not nice, but I sure would like to be able to do just that sometimes.
To end on a nice note, we finally uncovered the play kitchen in the playroom yesterday and found all of the food and serving utensils. When little brother saw it he immediately went to the phone that hangs up at it and called his sister at school. He babbled for a minute and then told her 'bye bye' before hanging up the phone. It was super cute. Those are the moments that make all this other harder, almost impossible sometimes, stuff worth it!
P.S. As soon as I fed them the house calmed down. And wouldn't ya know it - my darling dearest is up there right now, cleaning her room and singing. Little brother is still in bed, though...