Nothing. Not so far as I can tell.
There are times when I fool myself into thinking I might have a clue about this parenting thing. Just one or maybe two.
For example, my husband will do something tricky like pretend to put another cupcake on my daughter's plate when she's screaming that the one that is right there in front of her is no good at all, not like those other ones, those blue ones that only SEEM to look the same over there on the serving plate. And she will fall for it and stop crying. And my husband will say to my mother: "I learned that one from E..."
I will feel so proud of myself. Like wow. I hold the secrets to making my irrational children happy.
On an evening such as this, my children will charm the pants off of every other adult in the room, chattering up a storm, saying all kinds of precocious and adorable things, hugging and consoling each other about some cute fear.
J. and I will remark on the way home "Who were those kids? They were nice."
But then there's the next day. Those same children will inexplicably morph into children that cry for absolutely no reason other than the straw is not sticking out of the cup at the right height.
And I will suddenly be the mother that can't remember that this is the child that needs the water put in the sippy cup before the juice, not the one that needs it poured on top of the juice.
I will be unable to figure out if my son is crying because he didn't get his own red slush from Sonic, or because he has a bad teacher this year at preschool.
Everyone will cry all day long. Not even because I am the one who is tired, or bored of playing dinosaurs and babies, or missing an adult to talk to. Because those things happen too. I understand on those days that I'm the one that's a wreck, and I yelled too much or put off paying attention for a little too long and upset the order of things. Helped to create the general sense of chaos and dismay that color our days.
It's the days that I'm willing to go along, willing to console and empathize, create diversions and projects and we STILL have a bad day that confound me.
I know. They are bored, tired and frustrated themselves. It's no easier to be four or two than it is to be thirty-six. But can't we sometime, sometime, coordinate our schedules and have our good days and bad days together?