I’ve been spending a lot of time in time out lately, and, for the record, I’d like to proclaim my innocence.
I have done nothing wrong.
Unlike SOME PEOPLE, I do not bite. I do not hit. I do not refuse to give up empty fruit squeeze containers to my mother, who is desperately pleading with me to do so as a children’s museum docent makes her way over to us to point out the sign over our heads:
Absolutely no food allowed outside of the cafeteria.
Most of the time I am very well behaved. Oh, every now and then I lose it when CERTAIN PEOPLE are not moving fast enough in the morning. Or are, in fact, dawdling ON PURPOSE when I am trying to get out of the house to make it to work on time.
And sometimes I become irate when A PRESCHOOLER WHO SHALL REMAIN NAMELESS yells a command, demand or reprimand at me when I am driving. Or worse, chucks something into the front seat.
“That’s dangerous. We could get into an accident.”
“No. YOU’RE DANGEROUS,” comes the voice of opposition, “YOU could get us into an accident.”
“Well I might if you don’t SETTLE DOWN.”
“No. YOU need to settle down.”
“Sophia, I’m warning you.”
“I’m warning you! Don’t talk to me. Don’t LOOK at me.”
I look at her in the mirror, raising my eyebrows in a way that I hope communicates: back down now.
“I said DON’T LOOK AT ME! Don’t look at me! I’m going to put you in TIME OUT.”
Funny. I was just thinking the same about you. Actually, that’s not true. I rarely put my daughter in time out. It’s true that sometimes I suggest she go upstairs to CALM DOWN. But she only get’s thrown into the pit of despair when she’s aggressive.
Like the other day at the children’s museum. As I tried to wrestle the fruit squeeze container, which had been drained of every last atom of organic bananas and peaches, she sank her sharp little incisors into my right pointer finger.
“YOW!” I cried out. Several parents and their small children turned around to see what all the fuss was about.
“YOU DO NOT BITE!” I snarled and marched her over to the closest corner. What a mistake. It was laden with electrical wires, steps leading to a door armed with an alarm, and, I think, a pile of rusty nails.
“SIT ON THIS STEP AND DO NOT MOVE UNTIL I SAY SO.” Bent her head down and charged me. I lifted her back onto the step and try to body block her escape.
“Get out of my way, Mommy! I’m not in time out! You are!” We had a growing audience and she was clearly enjoying performing for the crowd.
“That’s it,” I say, my voice a low growl. “We’re leaving.” She kicked off her shoes. I picked her and the shoes up and carried her towards the front door.
At the coat rack, I handed Sophia her pink buffalo coat (“I won’t wear it! It makes me look like a buffalo!”) “I’m not putting on my coat,” she sang provocatively.
“Stand in the corner,” I hissed. I whipped out my phone to call my friend, Nan, who we had met her for a playdate, for backup. She was the reining queen of therapeutic holds at the school where we both used to work. It took a few seconds for her to arrive. I felt relief that I didn’t need to speak. Didn’t need to be embarrassed. She asked one question, “What do you want me to do: the hold or the jacket?”
“The jacket.” She jumped in, swiftly acting.
“Don’t zip it! Don’t zip it!” Sophia protested, as Nan expertly maneuvered her into the buffalo coat.
Then, she zipped it. I love this woman. “You want me to help you get her in the car?” she asked, her toddler waiting patiently at her side.
“No, thanks. You guys have fun. I can take it from here.” I carried Sophia out to the car, fettered her to the carseat, and closed the car door on her screams. “I'm not in time out! You’re in time out Mommy!”
Yes. I was taking a little time out. FROM HER.
Many hours later, after the incident was all but forgotten, Sophia and I were chatting. I explained the concept of New Year’s resolutions to her. “Many people see the New Year as an opportunity to make a fresh start,” I say. “A chance to improve something about themselves. What do you think? What’s your New Year’s Resolution, Soph?”
Sophie looked thoughtful, tilted her head in an endearing way, and replied, “to be nicer to you Mommy.”
So she was sorry.
“What’s yours?” she asked?
I met her halfway, “to be nicer to you too.”
We smiled at each other for a moment, in mutual understanding. Oh, I knew it would soon be broken, but in that moment, her recognition of wrong-doing and her good intentions were all that I needed to hear.
Happy New Year!