Peanut was cranky anyways, so when she started crying hysterically on the way to bed tonight, I just tried to calm her down.
"On side! Side! Side! Ahhhhh wahhhha wahhh! On side!!" she began crying as soon as I walked into her room. She points to her door.
"Outside? You want to go outside your room?"
"Uh huh!!! SIDE! Side."
We walk out of her room, and she points at the bathroom door. But when I open it and show her there is nothing - and no one - in there, she screams again. "ON SIDE! Side!"
"Shhhh. It's ok." I calmly said, trying to soothe her before she worked herself into a frenzy. "Show me what you want."
I put her down and grabbed her hand. Usually she will lead me to whatever it is she needs, but this time she flopped onto the floor, Raggedy Anne style, and began wailing even louder.
"Mama! Side side SIDE SIDE!"
After two minutes of non-stop "SIDE!" screaming, the patience I had miraculously found was wearing painfully thin.
I tried one last time.
"Ok, Peanut, try to tell me again. What do you need?"
"SIDE! Side Mama, Side!"
The same ol' "side". But suddenly something clicked for me.
"Peanut, are you saying 'OUTside? Like in the backyard outside?"
"Uh huh. Mama. Uh huh - SIDE!"
Hours earlier, while playing with friends, Peanut had taken her babies - the ones she plays with constantly, the ones she takes in the car and to the gym and to bed with her - outside to play. She had pushed them on her toy car, and had them play down the slide.
And now, 6 hours later, my smart, loving and memory-like-an-elephant baby girl was going to bed and trying to tell me she needed her baby friends.
I searched outside while Peanut and Bjorn watched from the screen door.
"Bjorn, where are Peanut's babies?"
"Oh, the cars had a crash, Mommy. The babies were stuck underneath, waiting for rescue heroes." he replied, as if I should have known all along.
And there they were, two naked-as-a-jaybird babies underneath their Little Tikes Cozy Coupes.
I grabbed the babies and handed them to a much more subdued Peanut, who took them and garbled, "SIDE! Sleep. Baby bed. Sleep." Then she walked back to her room, tossed the babies into her crib, reached for me and said, "Bed. Nigh Nigh'. Kiss." and settled herself in bed.
This day I have lost my cool so much, but for some reason was able to keep it together for Peanut tonight. I very easily could have put her in her crib crying for "SIDE!", knowing that in a few minutes, she was going to stop crying and fall asleep anyways. It was so much nicer to work with her, and to really listen.
I tried it with Bjorn next. He started to throw a fit about wanting a hockey bear I had taken from him as a punishment for not listening. But as he broke down sobbing, screaming, "I want my bear! I want Mike Smith!", I didn't send him to time-out for his tantrum as I normally do. I just grabbed him and hugged him.
"Shhhhhh. I know. I know, Bjorn." I said into his sobbing shoulder. "But Mike Smith was taken away because you wouldn't listen to directions. You can have him back tomorrow if you begin listening. Why don't you get ready for bed now and I'll meet you in your room so we can read together."
He continued crying quietly into my shoulder for a few seconds and then looked at me, eyes glistening. "Ok, Mommy. I will listen more tomorrow."
And just like that, he went to get ready for bed.
And my blood pressure didn't skyrocket. My pulse didn't race. My voice didn't raise.
I know this way won't work every time. I know there are times - more often than I will able to count, or want to admit - when I will lose my cool. But tonight, twice, I was able to calmly, patiently and effectively turn a situation around. It's a start.