It started with a plug.
Just an ordinary bath plug, black rubber and some sort of metallic bit on top plus that ring thing you pull to remove the plug from the bath.
All part of the night time ritual - lovely warm bath, hijinks with bath toys, hijinks with peeeeenussss, too much splashing, sodden bath mat, wrapped in big coloured towel, mumpy, pyjamas, story, bed. However the crucial step missing from this list is the one where Tricky pulls the plug out of the bath. By himself.
This step was passed over because, stupidly as it turns out, I decided that the whole getting out of bath routine was taking way too long, it was late, last episode of The Wire (series 3) was waiting to be viewed on dvd, there had already been a fairly unpleasant experience the night before which was put down to toddler spending three nights in three different beds, I was tired blah blah blah...
So I pulled the plug myself and said...Right that's it, out you get, we've got time before bed for one quick...
...story was the word I was about to use but Tricky, indignant beyond belief that I had usurped his plug pulling duties, obviously assumed I was about to say nuclear meltdown.
So he did.
Sweet mother of god.
It was the return of the Screaming Tomato but a louder, heavier, screamier Screaming Tomato. One with teeth. And pummelling fists. And tactics.
My god, look at it! It's thinking! It can actually think!
As fast as we formulate a strategy, the Screaming Tomato formulates one back. A better one! With laser beams and rockets!
Throughout the screaming he kept up a running tirade of immediate demands and loudly disappointed observations of our parental methods.
I want water, give me water. WATER PEEEEASE (parent hastily fetches orange sippy cup of water) No, not water, no no no water. (parent quickly takes loathsome cup away) GIVE ME WATER! (parent rushes back with cup) Mummy hold! No, Tricky hold, NO, MUMMY HOLD WATER, HOLD WATER MUMMY! (parent holds cup to Screaming Tomato's lips, Screaming Tomato snatches at cup and flings it to ground.) Where is water?! Mine want water! WATER PEEEASE! MINE WANT ORANGE CUP. MINE NOT WANT ORANGE CUP. (Repeat several times until other parent appears to find toddler and mother on floor surrounded by several sippy cups in varying hues, none of which seem to be wanted. Action now moves to bedroom.)
We tried to ignore him, he screamed louder. We tried to calm him, it seemed to enrage him. We cuddled him, he slapped our faces. We put him in his bed and he stood up and jumped on the spot, all the while howling at the top of his voice.
At one stage, bizarrely, he told us he wanted to wee on the toilet. Alright, I said, thinking this change of strategy might break the circuit.
This has been a slow process, the toilet training, we have had success with wees for instance but not with poos. And suddenly, the tears stopped and Screaming Tomato suddenly turned into Angelic Aubergine, all winning smiles and shining eyes.
Mine not crying now, mine happy. Mine do wee wees and mine also do poo poos. They go plop.
C and I cowered on the tiles by his feet, almost weeping with gratitude.
Oh they do go plop! Yes darling, you're so clever! Good boy. Are you finished? You can push the button on the toilet, now. Wow. Clever clever boy.
But minutes later when he wanted to come off the toilet, there was no poo and within a minute there were no more smiles and we were tomato agogo and back to the MINE WANT WATER refrain.
At which point, in true B-Grade horror movie style, our brains exploded through our skulls.
Sheer exhaustion saw him finally fall asleep in his bed, we got to watch our episode (everything they say about this show is true) and then, a few hours later, it all began again.
Except now it was some ungodly hour in the early early morning.
And now it was time for the big guns, the MINE WANT CUDDLES routine. This is not toddler asking for the quick comfort of a loving hug. This is a demand for Mummy to squat on the floor by his bed and drape herself on him so that he can cling to Mummy's wrist or, even better, Mummy's hair, and Mummy shall stay like that until Screaming Tomato has dropped off to sleep, or better, ALL FRIGGING NIGHT.
I did resort to some stern speaking through gritted teeth, i did try and smack his bum at one point. I managed to not lose it completely because I kept saying, in my head, i will win this, I will, as I put him to bed yet again.
But man he was good. He was, as Omar himself would acknowledge, fierce.
And I tried to call SHHHHH from my bed and say in a quiet but firm voice SLEEPYTIME and eventually he wore me down to going over to his bed and patting him, and from there he got me down to the "cuddle" (but with intention of returning to bed) and then it was a slippery slope to allowing him into our bed until he fell asleep and carrying him back to his bed, and half an hour later when he woke screaming again it was game over, and he slept in our bed until eight oclock in the morning.
I know he's not posessed, I told Screenwriting Mummy, on the phone this morning after he was removed to daycare by his uncle.
At least I think I know that. But could it be autism? Or bipolar?
And I feel terrible just writing those words, but the truth is, last night and this morning that's how I felt.
Who was that angry toddler? What was going on? He was completely out of control. And what about the wierd Smiling On The Toilet routine. In retrospect that was what freaked me out the most because he seemed so happy. But I guess it did seem over the top at the time, happiness of the wound up, gleaming teeth, glittering eyes sort.
Screenwriting Mummy also has an angry toddler, slightly older, of the female variety, and she swapped back some of her own tales of Notorious Meltdowns. And we talked about all the changes in Tricky's life at the moment and also that maybe some sort of rapid development was happening. And then we also talked about how losing control of your toddler makes you feel like you also have no control over yourself.
He may be a screaming tomato, but he's my screaming tomato.
The thing is, I only get one go at this.
And I really hope I'm not screwing it up.