Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Don't Do It

This morning started out fairly well: coffee with peppermint creamer; the girls playing checkers on the iPad and then creating some sort of secret project in Jemma's bedroom; Annie helping me make homemade cranberry sauce and giggling about every pop! the berries made; sunshine and playdates and bread-making ahead.  Jason had headed off to an early meeting, and I felt like a pretty great mom, if I do say so myself.

Then I pushed my luck and dared to leave the house.  Why not, I thought, go to the library and exchange books and movies so we'd have brand-new, fresh ones for this weekend's road trips?  And, because it's sunny and because we're eco-friendly and fit, why not walk there?

Big mistake.  HUGE.  The girls fought the whole way there about who should be carrying the books and about how many movies we could check out and who would pick them.  They fought while we were there over who got to check the items out, then fought about who got to push the automatic door-opening button on the way out, and I abandoned thoughts of running into the grocery store for the single thing I needed.

Worse, Jemma began to cry the minute we stepped out of the library's doors on our way home.  "I don't want to waaaaaaaaaaaalk!" she wailed.  I tried optimism:  "It's so short! We'll be home in five minutes!"  I tried cajoling:  "How about you race Annie to that pole?"  I tried mirroring:  "You're tired.  You don't want to walk.  I hear you saying you wish we had driven."  Still she wailed, and I tried tough love:  "Jemma, I don't like to listen to you cry.  I'm going to walk ahead and I'll wait for you when you calm down."  She wailed some more, Annie and I walked ahead, and then she started calling for us.

"Wait for meeeee!" she cried desperately.  "Mommy, wait!"

Aha! I thought.  "I'd be happy to wait for you if you're done crying," I said, pleased that my plan had worked.  We were almost halfway home; we'd just have to make it a block or two more.  Annie and I stopped and waited the few seconds it took for Jemma to catch up with us.  As soon as she did, she started having a fit again.

"I don't want to waaaaaaalk!  I'm tired of walllllllllking!!!" she trailed along behind us, then sat smack down on the sidewalk and screamed, much to the amusement of the college-aged neighbor and her mother out for a morning walk.  So again, Annie and I walked a little ahead, trying in vain to outrun the screaming, and again Jemma called for us to wait, and again she ceased crying right up until the second she finally caught up with us.  Don't do it, I thought, don't do it, don'tdoitpleasepleaseplease and "WAAAAAA!"

We finally made it home and I marveled that in less than an hour a place that had been the setting for such an idyllic morning had been populated with a four-year-old screaming about nothing, a mother with a tight-lipped mouth slamming peanut butter on the counter, and a seven-year-old who used the opportunity to sneak off with the iPad again.  It reminded me of a passage that made me laugh with recognition in When Did I Get Like This? by Amy Wilson:

Me: What kind of bagel would you like, Connor? We don't have any raisin, but we have plain and sesame.
Connor: Why didn't you get me raisin?
Me:  They didn't have any.
Connor: But I really wa-anteddd . . . rai-sinnnnn . . .
Connor: (breaking down) Why couldn't you - just get me - a - raisinnn - baa-aa-gell . . . I wanted - it - so - MUUUCHHH AHHHH . . . .

This is the point where I bodily carry/drag him to any part of the house in which I cannot hear him, or at least will hear him only faintly, banging his fists on the wall and crying out to the gods that this "always happens to" him. I am not sure if ostracization is the correct disciplinary technique here, but I am sure it is better than the Saying of Things Mommy Might Regret, or worse.

After a while, silence.  Connor reemerges, sniffling, clearly attempting to function rationally.  I, modeling coolheadedness, act as if nothing had happened.

Me:  Hi, bud.  Are you ready for breakfast now?
Connor:  (lip quivering) I am.  But, Mommy.  Really.  I just have to ask you one thing.
Me: Don't do it.
Connor: Why didn't you-
Me: I'm warning you.
Connor: - buy me a -
Me: I'm begging you.
Connor:  - raa-hay-hay-zinnnn BAAAAAA-GELLLLLL . . .

Later, I find the patience to build a Lego house with them, we bake rolls together for Thanksgiving, and we sort Annie's laundry in quiet peace.  But that moment on the sidewalk, when I was loaded down with library books and movies (for them) and Annie was furious at her coat (that I bought her) and Jemma, almost five, was determined to ruin what could have been a perfectly pleasant quarter-mile walk, I fantasized for a minute or two about being the mom of the college-aged daughter.  For the love, Jemma.  Just stop crying.  Don't do it.

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