Friday, July 17, 2015

Saying Goodbye: Sometimes, It's Really Easy

In Wednesday's blog, I got a little misty.

If being a father has done nothing else, it's exposed me for the easily manipulated, overly sympathetic, bleeding heart that I am. I'm comfortable with this.

From this to "holy terror" in a flash. 
And part of the reason I'm comfortable with this can be explained by what follows below: a total recognition that toddlers, my son included, are not merely sweet, innocent little Smurfs, who just want to spend time with you basking in mutual affection.

They aren't merely miniature dispensers of love and devotion.

Sure they doddle around, wearing impossibly cute outfits, saying the cutest things imaginable, in the cutest voices imaginable. Then, in a flash, they turn on you and do the unimaginable.

To wit: recently my son was seated in the back seat of our car. We were at a stop sign when a fire truck, sirens blaring, screamed by us.

As it passed, my son exclaimed: "Fire truck! Daddy, to the rescue!"

I have no idea where he heard this (a theme that's been emerging with alarming frequency of late) but, his delivery, his tone and those words were magic, just funny and incredibly cute.

Great right? But, it wasn't a day earlier that I was talking him off a ledge because I had the nerve to offer him either a juice or chocolate milk for breakfast.

Daddy's sunglasses? Yep. The boy knows
what he's doing here.
One moment he's in my arms hugging me, then I suggest something to drink and he hits the switch. He's crying, flailing, contorting and, in the midst of this fit, he bonks me on the head — twice and hard.

I set him down on the ground because we "Don't hit Daddy," and he proceeds to stomp his feet before continuing this charade by rolling onto his back.

Of course it's not just the eternal juice-vs-chocolate milk question that sets him off.

It could be going to this park versus that park, or strawberry jam versus syrup on his waffles, or Gold Fish versus Teddy Grahams.

Sometimes, it's washing his hands after going to the potty. Other times, he's happy to wash his hands.

Logic is optional so there's no consistency as to what might set him off.

I'm sure doctors, child psychologists and other experts would tell you that this is merely the child expressing him or herself. For any number of logical explanations, the child is frustrated and unable to articulate this frustration and it's all perfectly normal.

Yes, yes, it's all perfectly normal. That'll make you feel better when you're standing in your kitchen at 7:15 a.m. with apple juice running down your leg and pooling on the floor because the placid child in your arms spontaneously turned into Lewis Black.

And it'll feel perfectly normal when it's 7:30 p.m. — a time when you're usually getting them ready for bed — and the kid hasn't eaten dinner and is showing no interest in doing so.

I'll assume that, if you're a parent you've encountered these scenarios or variations thereof. I'll further assume that on these occasions you were only too happy to drop that kid off at day care. And I'll assume again that, as you drove away, you turned up your stereo and thanked God that your kid was now someone else's problem, if only for a few hours.

When a kid freaks out, I like to believe that we're all human and all those sugar-soaked, cute moments and those tearful goodbyes, go out the window. You just need a break.  

Lewis Black. The boy's muse. 
In fairness to the boy, he's never been a regular freak out guy. It's always been a rarity and it's becoming rarer. As his vocabulary expands and his ability to articulate grows, he's throwing fewer fits. So I've been trying to adjust with him.

Just the other day, he voiced frustration when I offered him a Hershey's Kiss or a Dum Dum (that's a kind of sucker).

He stomped his foot and conveyed his displeasure. Borrowing a move from Mrs. Blackwell's playbook, I said nothing and shot him a death stare.

After a moment passed he calmed himself. Then, I dug into my playbook and added perspective to the situation.

"Son," I said flatly, "there are children starving in war-torn Somalia who would pry an AK-47 from a dead relative's hands and shoot another man for ONE Hershey's Kiss — you're being offered three."

At that moment the boy looked at me quizzically, then extended his hand, took the Hershey's Kiss and ran off to play in the other room.

It sure is great when you really reach them.

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