3.22.2007

About Arsenic Hour

For one, I think the time between 4 and 6 p.m. with small children is aptly named - it's been a regular occurrence here since Cal was about nine months old. However, I'm never quite sure if it's called that because Mom wants to take arsenic, or because she wants to administer it to the children. Maybe it's both.

Up until recently, arsenic hour at our house has meant an increase in naughty/destructive behavior, general whiny/crabbiness/tantrumming (both Mom and children), and usually culminates in either a minor injury, a moderate mess of some sort, a major altercation between small boys, and one or all of us crying in frustration. All while trying to get dinner on and waiting impatiently for Dad to get his hiney home. (Arsenic hour always makes it seem like he's running terribly late, even when most of the time he is not.)

Lately, though, this wonderful time of day has taken a new turn in the Code Yellow household. For the boys it has turned from whining, crying, teasing, tantrumming - typically sad/mad/ornery/pent up "negative" behaviors and emotions - to laughing, howling, tickling, making up nonsense words and sounds, asking and answering any and all questions in googoo munchkin voices, giggling hysterically, running and screeeeeeaaaaaammmmiiiiiiiinnnngggg intermittently as they make a circle through the living room, through the kitchen, back to the living room, and so forth.

All of this new behavior still has a tendency to result in a minor injury or moderate mess, but for the boys it seems to have achieved a feverish level of incoherent hilarity that they enjoy a little too thoroughly. Thinking sad thoughts will not bring them down, and serving tea on a floating table near the ceiling is not an option around here. (Mary Poppins I am not.)

Honestly, I've been starting to picture it in terms of stereotypical tipsiness - there's the angry mean kind ("Don't ask her on a straight tequila night"), and the happy-go-lucky kind ("Prop me up beside the jukebox"). Only in this case, it's pure preschool endorphins causing it all. And I am feeling a new kind of frustration as I try to decide which kind of silliness is least likely to turn me toward arsenic if Dad doesn't show up at the door. Now.

Night before last I had to slow Calvin down and physically take him (giggling and stumbling and poking at me) up to his room to unwind. He wasn't being "bad" so to speak, just wired to the point of throwing, bashing stuffed animals, laughing like a hyena, causing Henry to hyperventilate in giggling hysterics to to the point that he was slipping and tripping and falling every two seconds (still laughing through all of it, but the kid is covered in bruises!) - all of it was just a little more than I could excuse. And although I (actually quite calmly) explained that he wasn't in trouble, that he just needed to relax and choose something quiet to do for a few minutes, Cal of course lost it and cried disconsolately on his bed.

Before I knew it, Henry had taken his manic giggling self upstairs to taunt and play with Calvin, not wanting his own "high" to end so abruptly, I presume. I went up to get him and bring him away so that they couldn't buy each other any more rounds, and he said in the most earnest munchkin voice he could muster through chortling and while dragging himself from my hand, "But Mom, me naughty! I need to be upstairs, too! Wif Calvin!"

Last night, David got to witness the whirling dervish of fun gone mad since it didn't quite kick in until bath time. I was trying to tune it out in mock lethargy and meditations on arsenic, but the annoying factor was quickly becoming too much, even though David was valiantly dealing with the incoherent imps who were unabashedly mocking his efforts at reason and calm.

Then I remembered a few choice moments from my own childhood when my sister and brother and I were being extremely silly - come to think of it, it was in the hours after school, right around the time Dad arrived home from work - yep, arsenic hour.

We were having the time of our lives acting totally nonsensical and my dad was trying to get us to do something reasonable like finish dinner or get ready for bed. Running, giggling, feeding into each other's antics, tipping chairs, mock fighting and chasing...

Everything Dad said or threatened was deemed positively hilarious, and we had some insanely funny comments (or bodily function noises) to make in response. And then he - very forbearing and patient man that he truly was - would finally get really mad. Spanks were had all around to bring us down from the ceiling, and then I distinctly remember thinking in my child brain, "Why does Dad have to be so serious all the time? Isn't laughing and being funny better than crying?"

That is the newest question of parenthood for me. My only conclusion is that now I know exactly how my dad felt.

11 comments:

Morning Glory said...

Loved this!!

Real said...

So, my Calvin wants lunch and I told him that he'd have to wait until I finished this story about another 4 year old boy named Calvin. He thinks it's a funny story. He also wants to know how old Henry is (to see if he's the same age his own little brother) and whether or not your new baby will be a girl (like his baby sister).

Loved the post, by the way. I've never heard it called "arsenic hour" before but I definitely know what you mean! Very appropriate.

No Cool Story said...

So that's what it's called. The funny thing is Arsenic Hour does not go away during the teen years. Fair warning.
About realizing your own childhood and you parents dealing with yours and your siblings own "arsenic hour": I had one of those a few months ago, I was turning into the super serious mom, who like that mom?, not me I can tell you that :)
It's tough CYM!.

When I read the title I thought of "Arsenic and Old lace".

WV is pbdbbqd. WHY?! and why me?

Theresa said...

I've never hear it called Arsenic Hour, but that is very appropriate! My girls didn't get that goofy until AFTER supper, and then of course YOU KNOW what happens when you get too rambunctious on a full belly! YUCKKKK!!!! My grandson, he's just goofy ALL the time. He's ready to romp, giggle, and destroy at all hours of the day.

Gabriela said...

Glad to know someone else is suffering during the pre-dinner hours. My husband and I can't decide which is worse-our boys fighting like cats and dogs, or teaming up. Both can get pretty ugly. :)

erin k said...

Ha!
(I Just found you via Bub and Pie)

Funny how Husband being two minutes late getting home feels like two hours...

erin k said...

oops. I should say via Toddled Dredge via Bub and Pie...

Babystepper said...

I always get upset when Daddy is late. Poor man. It's not like he wants to be away from home longer. Arsenic hour is a reality here, too, in both forms you describe. I had a parenting book that said the key was not to let arsenic hour turn into sherry hour. Not a problem here, but funny, nonetheless.

megachick said...

never heard it called arsenic hour, but certainly felt it. i would much rather have the goofy, giddy version than the angry tantrum version, though. i think i could tune it out much better.

Nicole said...

We're having it too. Giggling, crazy sisters who won't listen to a word we say (well, the two year old--the 7 month old listens, but she doesn't understand). They just look at each other and start laughing. I'm not sure what's going to happen when the little one can talk too.

An Ordinary Mom said...

I just found some buried treasure! For whatever reason my Bloglines account never informed me of your last new posts. I am glad I read this. I so understand arsenic hour. it is from 4 - 7:30 in our house. My daughter isn't too bad, but my little man is horrendous. Maybe it is boys.

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