Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Matter of Time

We are headed home from North Jersey.  I hear on the radio that the Turnpike is a mess.  Having already spent an additional half an hour on the Parkway behind a five-car pileup, it seems like a good idea to take an alternate route.

That, of course, is trafficked too.  Apparently, I’m not the only one with this idea.  We’ve been in the car for two hours already, and will be at least forty minutes late for dinner.  Sophie is being a trouper.  Sick of reading, she’s got her headphones on and is lip syncing to Kidz Bopp.  Every now and then she shouts out, “I love this one!” jarring me out of my own podcast reverie.

Then, all of a sudden, we have an emergency.

“Mom!  I have to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW.”  How is it that there is never any fair warning?  That she goes from perfectly comfortable to explosive bladder in a split second?  As a teacher, I could hold it for seven hours straight.  I’ve got sphincters of steel.

I was planning to stop off at Whole Foods to pick up a piece of fish on the way home.  Perhaps she could hold it until then.  It’s only about five minutes down the road.

“Can you hold it for just another couple minutes?”

“No!  I can’t!   Mom, could you just pull over?  I can’t wait another second.”  Of course, there’s nowhere to pull over.  We are surrounded by industrial parks and grassy shoulders.  We are not going to make it to Whole Foods.  I’ve got to hope that something comes up soon before she soaks the backseat.

Ruby Tuesdays appears on the horizon.

“Look!  There’s a place!  Go there!”  Alas, another detour.  Such is the life of a parent.  You have to go with the flow.

I pull over.  Here is the true challenge.  Getting her from the car to the stall without incident.  Sophie has a Pavlovian response to bathrooms.  Just seeing the toilet sends her system a message.  I have been the victim of classical conditioning before.  It’s particularly irksome when it happens just before she sits down.

But this is not one of these times.  She whoops triumphantly as I breathe a sigh of relief.  We won’t be slinking out of Ruby Tuesdays, leaving a puddle behind.  This time.

I check my watch.  It’s twenty minutes later than the last time I checked.  We are never getting home.

Sophie pops out of the stall, adjusting her belt.

“Wash your hands, please,” I instruct, drying off my own.  She walks towards the sink, but gets stuck in front the full-length mirror on the wall.  Pop music is being pumped into the bathroom, and Sophie starts to gyrate.

If I weren’t in a rush, it would be cute.  I might even join her.  

“Sophie!  It’s not time for dancing!  Please wash your hands!”

She acts like she hasn’t heard me, giving a couple more revolutions of her hips before I bodily usher her over to the sink.

“Hey!” She says, “You don’t have to push me!”  Uh, yes, I do.

She squirts some soap on her hands and immediately rinses it off.

“Soph, you’ve got to rub your hands together,” I squirt her again, despite the fact that now we’ve been in the bathroom at Ruby Tuesdays for almost ten minutes.  She sings as she washes her hands, saunters over to the paper towel dispenser, and proceeds to meticulously dry off her hands.

I hold open the bathroom door, “Let’s go.”

“Mom?  Why are we rushing?”  It is a good question.  To get home five minutes faster than we would otherwise?  What does it really matter, now?  Why am I stressing myself out more in service at arriving home at an arbitrary time?  Why don’t I just text Kevin and tell him:  I’m going to be late.  Really late.

I do.

“You want to go out for dinner? Meet at Zinburger?”  Kevin texts back.  The thought has not occurred to me.  I have been so consumed with plan A, with getting back On Time to Make Dinner, I never considered that there might be another, more gentle way.

“Yes.  Thank you.  That would be perfect.”  I type.

The sun is setting.  We get back into the car.  The road opens up, I release my grip on the wheel, turn on the radio and together, Sophie and I just enjoy the ride.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Reasons My Daughter is Freaking Out

This post was inspired by the book, Reasons My Kid Is Crying, by Greg Pembroke who captures frustrating yet funny parenting moments through well-captioned photos of unhappy kids. Join From Left to Write on April 15 we discuss Reasons My Kid Is Crying. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Tantrums at six look at lot different than they did at two.  For one, they are far more verbal.  Whereas a toddler will throw herself down on the floor kicking and screaming bloody murder, a six-year-old will engage you in a lawyerly argument about what an awful parent you are, how maligned she is, and how, after she is done haranguing you, she may never speak to you again.


At which point it takes everything in your maternal power not to say

In my dreams

But the one thing that remains unchanged is the endearingly irrational reasons she is having a tantrum in the first place.  Here are a few of Sophie’s from the past couple weeks:

  • I sang Let It Go wrong and now we have to start all over again.
  • I told her it was time to take a shower.
  • She wasn’t allowed to have Oreos and Marshmallows for dessert.
  • I asked her to do her homework, and handed her the wrong sheet.
  • I put broccoli in her eggs.
  • I wouldn’t let her wear the same pants three days in a row.
  • I asked her to put her jacket on when it was 40 degrees and raining.
  • I took her out to lunch and to see a play, but she just wanted to be home with daddy.

If I was to snap a picture of Sophie in one of these low moments, I think she would bum rush me and break my iPhone. I’m not going to try it and find out.   I’m not stupid.  Besides, I wouldn’t want to.  What might have gone unnoticed at two, would be humiliating at six.  The sense that I was mocking her would only thrust her more deeply into her angry and injured position. 

To be fair—if someone did that to me, I’d flip out too.  (Despite what I may think, my reasons for throwing a fit are no more sensible at 43 than they were at 6—we want what we want and sometimes our desires defy all rationality.)

If there is one thing I have learned in four years of meltdowns, it is best to let the storm rage and blow over.  To avoid stoking it with words or attention, making it a bigger deal than it already is.

In these moments, I find it best to take a step back, appreciate the absurdity of the moment and laugh, but silently and to myself. 

Join me.  What’s one of the reasons your little one flipped out recently?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Protecting the Family Jewels

My poor, poor husband.

He never learns.  You would think that pain would be an awesome teacher.  But he seems to have amnesia for suffering.  The way women who have multiple children do.  Night after night he grabs Sophia and tickles her mercilessly and night after night he winds up bent over, his brows screwed up in pain, gasping, “Just give me a second!”

I plan to get him a cup for Christmas.  The man needs protection.

This is how it goes down:

Sophie says something like, “Daddy!  Don’t tickle me!” with a twinkle in her eye and her dimples as deep as two holes going all the way to China.

He says something like, “You mean I shouldn’t do this…” wiggling his fingers menacingly at her.

She then shrieks with delight and begins running in circles around the partition that separates the dining room from the kitchen from the living room—like an excited puppy.  He takes off after her and within two strides is upon her.

The screaming is earsplitting.  I’m usually in the background saying things like,

“Can you guys please take that somewhere else?”
“The shrieking.  I can’t take the shrieking.”
“Kevin, do you remember what happened the last time you did this?”

All to no avail.  Kevin picks her up like a sack of potatoes, throws her onto the bed or the couch, and sets to tickling the daylights out of her.

You have to understand that Kevin has been waiting years for this opportunity.  He used to torment me in this way, back when we were dating.  I hated it.  HATED it.  I view tickling as a form of inhuman torture akin to waterboarding.  In fact, if anyone ever wanted to get information out of me, all they would need to do is wiggle their fingers in my general direction and I would spill my guts.

I’m that much of a wimp.

I used to try to fight back, but Kevin has about 80 pounds on me, so it was often a losing battle.  Finally, we agreed to draw up a Tickle Treaty in 2000.  Fourteen years later, neither of us has broken the treaty, which means that Kevin has been having to do something with his sadistic impulses.

They have been bubbling and brewing and building for those 14 years.  At last, he has met the ying to his tickling yang, because she loves it.

Until she doesn’t.

This is when I call out my final warning, “Somebody’s going to get hurt in a second.”

Sophie laughs and giggles and thrashes, her limbs go flailing and she looks something like the Tasmania Devil from Looney Toons.  It’s all fun and games until, eventually, she starts screaming for him to stop.

This is when he should stop.

Of course, if he does stop, she begs him to start all over again.

But if he doesn’t stop (because he knows this, because she’s still giggling her irresistible giggle) invariably Kevin gets a swift kick to the groin.

I have to bite a hole in my tongue to keep from saying, “Now what did I just say?” in the teacher voice that makes everyone want to punch me in the nose.

Instead, I shake my head and throw up my hands.  As Kevin rolls around in agony, Sophia is already taunting him, “Daddy….you can’t get me….”

And out of nowhere, Kevin gets his second wind and goes for her underarms.

I slip into another room.  It’s better if I don’t watch.