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Parent-Teacher Conference (or "Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean he's not out to get me.")

"You're doing a great job with Quinn - he's a sweet, precious child. I'd take him home with me in a heartbeat!" John and I must have looked bewildered, confused, and more relieved than we should have when we walked out of the parent-teacher conference. We'd gone in prepared to hear about how Quinn needs to learn to control his emotions, to share, to negotiate, to ask and not demand, that he screams and yells and stomps his feet entirely too much, that he really acts more like a two-year-old than an almost four-year-old; a part of me almost wanted to hear these things so I could commiserate with his teacher. I know, right? Man, he can be such a brat sometimes! GEEZ. Well, I'm glad it's not just me! Ha! Ha! Ha! Instead, his teacher looked at us like she couldn't understand why we were clutching the edge of the table in anxiety, and later, why we were slumped over and smiling gleefully in extreme surprise and relief to hear that "Quinn is friends with everyone" and that even though he is strong-willed, when he's told to stop a certain behavior, he always does, without fail.

I've lived constantly on the edge of anger with Quinn for the past few months. He goes from one extreme to the other with me, and I think my personality requires more stability or warning before loved ones decide instantaneously to flip a switch, in Quinn's case a switch that I think must be labeled, Loving and Gentle / Demonic and Horrifying. Because I'm the adult in the relationship and because parenting my older child hasn't exactly been a cakewalk, either, most of the time I'm actually able to overcome my own selfish personality quirks and deal with his bipolar behaviors without stooping to his level. There are times, though -- times involving sleep deprivation -- when I stoop.

Last night, like almost every night for the past several weeks, I woke up to the sound of Quinn turning on his CD player, followed by his yelling some unintelligible demand from the top of the stairs. You see, I'm the lowly servant who must come running anytime his highness screams for me angrily. So I did. I ran up the stairs and asked him what was wrong, but I couldn't understand his answer, so I figured he needed to go to the bathroom, and guided him that way. The switch, which had only been halfway activated prior to my mistake of suggesting he empty his bladder, now flipped fully to the Demonic and Horrifying side, and he stomped/marched/pulled against me and growled/screamed I DON'T NEED TO GO TO THE BATHROOM NOOO NOOO I DON'T WANT! TO! GO! I had been half-asleep before that nonsense, but now thanks to my bleeding eardrums and pumping adrenaline I was awake enough to be just as demonic. I told him through clenched teeth and my last effort at seeming remotely sane that we'd have to change his pants because his pull-up had leaked (probably waking him), and he growled/screamed again I WANT MY RACECAR PANTS I DON'T WANT TO CHANGE MY PANTS GRRRGRRRGRROOWOWOWOW. At that point I stomped out of the bathroom and left him there to cry in anger over the Injustice of the Wet Pants. When I came back, John was trying to talk some sense into him and looking at me like, has this house gone crazy? but all I did was hand Quinn the pants and take deep breaths. He put them on and I told him in a not-very-nice voice to go get back in his bed and to be quiet, Bryce was miraculously still sleeping. As he walked back to his room he turned around and looked at me with every intention of scorching me alive with the flames of hatred shooting out of his eyes. I followed him to his room and he climbed into his bed, turned around, and held his arms out for me to hug him. HUH? Oh, right. The switch. It's back on Loving and Gentle. I bent down to hug him and said, "Quinn, you do not yell at me and dad, and not only that, but at night, you have to be quiet because everyone else is sleeping. You know that!" He whimpered something nonsensical as his head sunk into his pillow like, "I just didn't want to change my pants and I just didn't want to go to the bathroom and that's so because."

The interactions between us in the middle of the night are almost always some version of that experience, which makes me flinch in fear and anticipation of the agony every time I hear him wake up and wail something from upstairs. By the next morning, after losing the requisite extra hour or so of sleep (and that's if Bryce doesn't also wake up for something separately, like he did last night when he tapped me on the head at 3 a.m. after I'd finally fallen back asleep and said, "my cat blanket fell off my bed. I straightened up the other one really neatly, but my cat blanket is on the floor."), I'm not full of eagerness to greet him, which is a result of a combination of issues: 1.) I am a mean, grudge-holding person, especially when it comes to losing sleep, especially when it comes to losing sleep every night for weeks for no real reason, and 2.) The kid is clearly manipulating me and I. don't. like. that.

It's not like I've never dealt with kids at night. Bryce still wakes up occasionally with various nighttime kid problems, but as I've established, even in the dead of night, he's very articulate about what he needs, and he knows that waking up anyone in the household is considered taboo, so he whispers, and he says please and thank you, and once the problem is resolved, he goes to his bed and covers up because I have to assume his brain is also telling him that we humans really prefer to sleep at night. For the most part, dealing with Bryce at night is amazingly low-key and low-maintenance. Dealing with Quinn at night is like fighting an absurd battle. As soon as you ward off one enemy, you're caught from behind by a completely random and unexpected one. Combat does crazy things to people, and I think I'm starting to experience PTSD - or just TSD, since this is still ongoing.

When Quinn's teacher told us about his sparkling personality and appropriate manners, even -- dare I type it? -- patience with particularly bossy classmates, I realized something: I'm not paranoid. My kid really IS trying to drive me to the brink of sanity. There is no other explanation. On the surface, he's saying, everyone else in the world has only good things to say about me, mom. I don't know what YOUR problem is. But in the dead of night when his impressed teachers are getting an amount of sleep acceptable to humans on earth, he's saying, bow to me mere mortal, for I hold your weak dying soul in my hands. And then he laughs maniacally. After changing his pants.

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