Chinchillas, bad days, and a need to whine

Let me preface this by saying that I love my children. I play with them, I teach them, I discipline them, I love them unconditionally. But there are days when I doubt everything I’m doing as a mother. I guess we all have those days.

Saturday was a day for errands and I took Anna and Charlie to PetSmart to buy some dog food, dog shampoo, and new toys for Charlie. We wandered around the store and made small talk with the employees. Charlie scared the cats sitting in the adoption windows so we went to visit the birds and lizards. Our trainer was working so it was nice to catch up with her. Another employee showed Anna the chinchillas they have. I didn’t know anything about chinchillas… but boy, are they cute! Of course, Anna starts asking to have one. After ten minutes staring at these cute little creatures, I told Anna we could look them up on the computer at home to get her redirected (not with any intention of ever getting one of course). She behaved well through the rest of the trip, so I made good on my promise and we looked up chinchillas and watched some cute videos on YouTube. She started getting pretty agitated about having one so I came up with what I thought at the time was a good idea. I told her we could find a plush chinchilla online and she could do extra chores to earn enough money to purchase it. Brilliant, right? She thought it was a great idea and started working immediately while I shopped online. I found one through Amazon for just $4 and by Sunday afternoon, she had earned the money. So I clicked “buy” and then the wait began. Estimated delivery date is next Tuesday, May 25th.

We explained to her the process… someone at the store has to find the chinchilla toy, put in a box, call UPS for a pickup, UPS processes it, puts it on a plane, then they check it in here, then they deliver it. I empathized that it’s hard to wait. I thought this would be a good lesson in working for what you want and being patient for the prize.

I think I made a mistake.

This poor child is obsessed. She can talk of nothing else. Literally, every conversation is about the chinchilla. It got so bad yesterday that we set time limits with a timer. Wait 20 minutes, then she could talk about it for two minutes, then wait another 20 minutes. The day was endless. She is so obsessed that it kept her awake last night. It was the first thing she talked about this morning. I sent a warning (and apology) email to her team at school letting them know what this is all about. I was nervous picking her up today.

But Dominic comes out first. When I got to school, Mrs. S (the new substitute teacher that is filling in while Dominic’s teacher has her first baby) was holding his wrist with one hand and his backpack with another. Uh-oh. I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. She didn’t say hi, she didn’t introduce herself, she just handed him over with a “He had a very bad day today. I wrote you a note.” I stammered an apology with a questioning look and she said that he hit other children all day, had bit another student on the way out of school, and was basically a bully all day. I was genuinely surprised and told her that he doesn’t behave like that and I would talk to him. He starts crying, saying that he doesn’t want me to take his DS away (which of course I did).

Then I turn around and there is Anna with Mrs. M. She thanked me for the email about the chinchilla and said that it wasn’t a big problem but Anna did not have a good day. She was sent to Room 300 (the quiet room, kind of like in-school suspension for kids with issues) after destroying her math teacher’s room. She missed a good chunk of time, math, recess, and specials, but was able to turn it around. Anna asks me if the chinchilla came while she was at school and when I say, “no, sweetheart” with sympathy in my voice, she starts crying.

Two kids crying as we walk to the car.


I hate these days. When we got home, I sat them on the couch and asked who wanted to go first. Dominic started making excuses and I got that firm, that no-nonsense, mommy-means-business voice and said, “Stop! Biting is never acceptable behavior. Hitting is never acceptable behavior. You have to control your anger, even when provoked. You won’t get everything you want when you want it (the cafeteria was out of ketchup which triggered one of his meltdowns). Remember the anger scale we made? You can’t be at a 5, ever. You have to be at a 2. Use the tools we talked about. And take responsibility for your actions.” In a very small voice, he said, “Okay, mommy.” He is going to write apology notes to the student he bit, the students he hit, and to Mrs. S. I told him if he has another day like today, that his DS would be taken away for a month. That got to him. Then Anna talked but I don’t really know what triggered her outburst. She said she was happy about the chinchilla and started throwing things and that it was an accident. I picked up a pillow from the couch and very dramatically threw it across the room. I said throwing is never an accident and that was unacceptable behavior. They are both grounded and have their favorite things taken away for the day.

So the perseveration continues. Now Anna wants me to check email every two minutes to see if the chinchilla has shipped yet. I explained the concept of the tracking number and so now she wants to see if it’s on its way. If I’d known what her brain would do with this, I would’ve paid for expedited shipping.

So tomorrow is a new day, right? Thanks for letting me whine.

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