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Testing, testing

June 2, 2008 - Betsy Bethel
I've always been a good test taker. Show me a multiple choice quiz and I'll show you a 90 percent or above. Essays? No problem. In fact, they're my forte. I even love trivia game shows and board games — always eager to prove I can measure up.

But this recent round of testing I'm undergoing is not so fun. After a day with Emma on Saturday that sapped my energy, boggled my mind and pulverized my emotions, I told a friend, "I'm tired of being tested." Emma is testing my limits, and the exams are getting harder every day.

If I were being graded on Saturday's Mommy performance, I probably squeaked by with a 70 percent.

At one point, I could feel my face actually contorting in anger as I tried for the fifth time to get her to stay strapped in her car seat. I think I scared my daughter to death.

I had pulled off to the side of I-470 at the 214 exit because she got her arms out of the straps. The plastic breast piece was at a right angle to her rib cage. All I could think about was getting into an accident and my baby getting cut in half.

I turned off the car, put the hazards on, got out, went to her side and put her arms in. She's a lot stronger than you'd think a 2-year-old could be. It was a struggle. She was screaming. By the time I got around to my side again and started the car, she had her arms back out. We did this crazy dance five times. That's when I felt my face and voice change to the point even I didn't recognize it.

She was terrified. All she wanted was to hold me. I took her out of her car seat and held her for a few moments. I told her I was sorry I yelled. I asked, after a minute or two, if she was sorry for disobeying. She said she was. I explained to her again how we needed to go home to take care of the dog, and if she didn't sit safely in her car seat we would have to stay on the highway.

"We need to go home. Benny would miss us if we didn't come back," I said.

"Oh. Home? Where's home?" Emma asked, sniffling.

"Just down the hill and up the river a bit," I said.

"Oh! Down the hill? OK! I sit in my seat. I be safe," she squeaked.

In she went without a fuss, and off we drove down the highway, with her chattering away as if nothing happened and me feeling like the worst parent that ever lived.

This was the worst of the three tantrums we endured Saturday.

I know an important part of Emma's self-discovery and development at this age involves figuring out her boundaries. I know I have to set up boundaries for her safety and so she understands the importance of obeying. If I don't set limits, she'll never learn there are consequences to misbehaving.

So, I continue to set limits. And she tests them. And tests them. And tests them again.

I have a competitive spirit, and as I write this, I'm feeling it kick in. Just like during a school exam, I can't let the pressure get to me. I'm going to keep calm, take deep breaths and do what's right.

I'm going to start acing these Emma tests. Because if I fail one, I fail her.


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