Yesterday, our playgroup visited one of our local nursings homes. The kids dressed up as princesses, ballerinas and football players. They sang If You’re Happy And You Know It and played Ring Around The Rosie for the residents. They handed out a combination of tissue paper flowers we had made at a previous playgroup and some real flowers. Julia played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the piano. The residents were delighted to spend the morning with the children. And the children were absolutely adorable; they were kind, courteous and mannerly.

I was so proud of my little girl.

Today, not so much. Actually, today? I checked her body for evidence that it had been invaded by some alien life form, because today, Julia was an extraordinary jerk.

At piano class, she was rude to her teacher. She questioned everything he told her. He’d say, “Julia, please play key G.” She’d ask why. And when he asked her to play something again she said, “I just did!” I was mortified and practically crawled out of the lesson on my hands and knees. I couldn’t believe she acted that way.

I gave her a firm talking to in the van after class. She agreed that she hadn’t behaved well and told me she was sorry. We decided she would write her teacher a note apologizing for her behavior.

With that behind us, we stopped at the store on the way home to pick up a few necessities. Julia didn’t want to ride in the cart, which I told her was fine as long as she stayed with me and didn’t touch everything. And so she ran away from me, touching everything she could get her hands on. By the time I caught up, she’d already grabbed an item from the shelf and disassembled it. I cornered her against the shelves in the aisle while I but the item back together and made sure it wasn’t broken. Then, I told her that she had to get in the cart and began to pick her up and put her in. She screamed, “NOOOOOO!” and let herself go limp until she was back on the floor, a stunt she hadn’t pulled in more than a year. It caught me totally off guard.

That was it. I’d had enough.

I took her hand, led her toward the door and said, “We’re going home.”

She ripped her hand out of mine and tried to make a run for it. I’m not sure how, but I caught her within about three steps. She screamed. She threw herself down. She kicked her legs. Everyone in the vicinity stopped to stare while I picked her up and carried her out to the van like a bundle of firewood while she threw the mother of all temper tantrums – a temper tantrum that lasted nearly the whole way home while I drove, stone-faced and simmering.

By the time we made it back to the house, I was still too mad to even think about disciplining her. We walked in the door and she asked, “What do we do now?” I told her that I just needed her to leave me alone for a while, until I wasn’t so mad. I told her no goodies or television – just go to her room and spend some time, which she did. She emerged about twenty minutes later with a drawing she’d made for me to help me feel better. She had attempted to write some words on it, but after “I love you” it was illegible to me, so she translated, “It says, I still love you, even when you’re mad.”

Then, she went to the kitchen and brought me a bowl of strawberries and a glass of water. She’d even washed the strawberries and pulled the green caps off them. She put them next to my chair and scrambled up into my lap. She kissed my cheek, patted my belly and said, “I love you, Mommy. I’m sorry I made you mad. Are you happy now?”

Well, after that, I knew I wasn’t mad anymore, but I was completely exhausted. And I’m about to add another passenger to this wild ride. How the hell am I going to manage it?