In spite of receiving said memo and committing it to memory, holy hell. I had numerous online acquaintances warn me that aside from the usual four-year-old tomfoolery, Penguin would be going through a testosterone surge at this age that would subject him to hormonal mood swings. I sort of forgot that part, but it explains so many, many things. Yesterday, as Penguin entered minute 11 of his loud and protracted crying jag resulting from my insistence that, no, he could not have a bag of gummy fruits, I stared at him in utter disbelief. “Who are you, child,” is the first thought that was sent running through my head, followed by, “Will this eye twitch ever go away?”

Some context. Penguin needed a bath yesterday. Following his nap, I suggested that it was time we take our bath. Crying and shrieking ensued. I told him there was much to do the rest of the evening and so there was no option for delay. At which point my upper chest was pummeled by a barrage of hitting. That is an absolute no-no in my book, so I told him to stop immediately or the rest of his computer time would be taken away for the rest of the evening (Question: Good punishment? Better suggestion anyone?) The hitting did not cease and computer privileges were removed for the rest of the night. Kicking then ensued because of the rage over losing computer privileges. I warned that television privileges were about to be lost as well, which they subsequently were. (Again; Good punishment? Better suggestion anyone?)  At that point, I was frustrated and we needed to take a bath. I left for a moment to regain composure then informed Penguin that he could come with me nicely or I would pick him up and take him to the bath, but bath time it was. He did not walk, so he was carried into the bathroom and plopped into the tub. Gnashing of teeth and wailing ended fairly soon after that.

Ye olde nerves were already frazzled from that experience, yet I tried to shake it off and start afresh after the bath. Penguin wanted to watch a little TV before running errands and I reminded him that he lost his privileges. Cue crying jag number 437 of the day. I held firm, explaining that he had lost his TV privileges for kicking me. He then switched to wanting the bag of gummy fruits. Honestly, had the boy been a well-behaved boy, I’d have given him another bag in spite of the fact that he had eaten two already. But he was being such a pill that I just did not want to give him anything.  This led to the epic 12 minute long shrieking and crying episode that involved a lot of rolling on the floor, beating into the air with clenched fists, kicking dust particles and all manner of performance art. I tried to tune it out but, people. People. It was epic.

I was so frazzled by 5pm yesterday that I could not unclench one of my fists for a good 10 minutes. It was SO much. Too much. It felt irrational and hysterical. It felt – wait for it – PMSy. Today, this morning actually, I recognized the angst for what it was. I get like that, too, when the world and everyone in it is just too damn much to bear. I don’t want to hear “yes” and I don’t want to hear “no” and I want you to be near me and I want you to go away and I want to laugh right now but in a second you are going to say something completely innocuous and I am going to lay down in the middle of the kitchen floor and sob hysterically (<–true story) and I feel pretty and I feel terrible and I love you all but I hate you very much.

This is very much how I see many of Penguin’s days playing out. I think he feels as overwhelmed as the rest of us. I know that feeling so well. Knowing that something big is about to come on and then feeling so powerless to stop it that all you can do is unleash it and hope the resulting carnage isn’t too traumatizing for those in its path. Hoping desperately afterwards that those that love you realize it’s nothing to be taken personally, even if you were an utter shit in the moment. Praying that they’ll forget what an ass you just made of yourself or, at the very least, promise not to hold your moment of crazed weakness against you on your better days.

And then, Penguin being Penguin (and I being I, Papa Bird being Papa Bird) have personalities that ramp this all up exponentially. We take the normal and expected and then add an extra dash of hysteria and ennui for flavor. This added “gaaaaaaah” is probably the direct result of all of us having an anxiety disorder of sorts. We’re already primed to break down. It takes just the right combination of frustration, disappointment and hormones to send us toppling over the edge. For example, yesterday, I shrieked, too. At about 5:13pm on the nose. It was very short, very quick and sounded like a barn owl spotting prey. It caught us all by surprise. As I was getting everyone ready to leave the house, Penguin was dallying about and I just went “AAAEEIII!” very loudly.  Penguin burst into a fresh round of tears. Owl stared at me  confused. I then promptly put Owl in his crib and went into the bathroom and gave myself a time out. I sat there for a few minutes, on the toilet, just breathing in and out and willing myself to relax. I did. I felt better after that and was able to get through the rest of the day.

Knowing all of this. Reflecting on all of this helps. To a degree, of course. It is still incredibly challenging in the moment.

I think Penguin is a fantastic kid. I also think there are moments when he might very well kill me. Not intentionally. Death by exasperation, most likely. I don’t know if there is an ICD-10 code for that.  Sometimes I feel like such a helpless asshole. I mentally rise above my body and I see myself standing there, mouth hung slack in gaper’s awe, a mixture of WTF and controlled irritation screwing up my forehead and eyes. I don’t know what to do in those moments. I don’t know, a morning later, if I know what to do in retrospect. I can’t control my emotions, or his. I can tell him I love him, because I do. I can apologize when I’ve crossed my own personal line, which I do.

We muddle through, of course, and pray that somehow, some way, the end result of a happy, healthy, well-adjusted young man is realized.