So, here’s a quick little anecdote about how parenting can go kind of sideways at the drop of a hat. I’m hanging out with my kids this morning and the bigger one is feeding the smaller one yogurt and then they both start reading books, which is a pretty cute way for a 1 and 3 year old to pass the time immediately following breakfast. Well, next thing you know, I’ve turned my back and the little one has torn up a book. The reprisal was swift and brutal. The older one doled out a little mystery justice and by the time I got into the room, the younger one was in tears and no longer on the couch (interestingly, she was still tearing up the book, which had somehow been jettisoned with her).
So, this is when I have to stop what I’m doing, pick up the baby, calm her down and scold the big one for mangling his sister (none of this is uncommon). I put her back on the couch and he immediately starts trying to stuff her head into the corner betwixt the cushions. Shit’s turned on me at this point. The happy stasis that once existed has been replaced with mild hostility inversely proportionate to the distance between subjects. Yogurt is everywhere.
Once again I gather the baby. Once again I begin to explain that the baby is not to be stuffed into things. However, I’m interrupted as the big one screams ‘Dad, I want to eat!’ and takes off for the kitchen. I yell ‘Hey, come back here!’ I yell “don’t open the refrigerator.” I yell “Close the fucking refrigerator for fucks sake you godless heathen!” and finally, I just bellow his name. This is the point where my tone changes from ‘hey buddy, you and me have to get our shit on the same page” to “you must start listening to me, or there’s gonna be some shit going down.” He hesitates in the door of the refrigerator and then hastily pulls out a carton of grape juice, slams the fridge and smiles at me and says “dad, I want this.”
Okay, so a quick review for those of you who don’t have kids. Here’s what I’m dealing with: 1) A crying baby, who’s now inconsolable thanks to repeated, sustained attacks 2) a violent repeat offender 3) at least three acts of direct insubordination 4) a sense of unearned entitlement that our perp should know better than to flout because A) he’s been repeatedly told not to go get into the fridge without asking and B) He NEVER gets juice from me. Maybe his grandparents buy into his bullshit, but not me. He has gotten juice from my hands exactly zero times in his life, so this series of events, while seemingly innocuous, or at least nothing more than mildly irritating, are actually a culmination of insubordination that reach their apex by completely laughing in my face and suggesting that I no longer have the power to deny him juice.
I realize that this sounds crazy. It is. Having kids makes you a fucking nut. It’s complete torture. And it’s not torture because they’re bad. Kids aren’t bad by and large. They’re fun as shit. It’s because they have no patience or worldview and therefore take up every single second of your life for the entire time you’re awake. The whole time anyone that’s a primary caregiver is with a child, they’re thinking exactly one thing and it’s this: “can I just get one fucking second please? Just one? Just ‘one-one thousand’? I’ve had to pee for two and a half fucking hours and I still haven’t brushed my teeth and there’s that sticky shit you spilled all over the floor that’s just attracting flies and yes goddamnit I’m right here to wipe your ass and give you a fucking cheese but would it be possible that I just get ONE FUCKING SECOND PLEASE??(paraphrased)”
However, the very first second you’re away from them, it’s even worse. You miss them so much that it just kills you inside. Especially once they get to a point where you know they miss you back. At first, a baby is like a dog. Sure, they’re happy to see you when you get home, but you don’t really get the impression that they’re wasting too much energy missing you when you’re gone. The missing them is tied into their helplessness and your innate desire to protect them but ultimately it’s a little bit theoretical. But once you can talk to them on the phone or hear tales of them crying because you’re not there, that’s just the absolute worst. SO there you go. Having kids is torture. Being with them is torture, being without them is worse. Mathematical fact.
But anyway, to get back to this kid standing there holding the juice, I found myself in a position where I had to somehow exemplify how his bullshit would not stand, man, and I was also fuelled by frustration and of course, the irritation that is part and parcel with having a crying baby in the room.
I’ve had lots of success before with throwing things ‘in the garbage.’ I took his binoculars (which he loves) and threw them in the trunk of the car after he threw a tantrum in some dorky indoor playground café. I told him they were in the garbage and he’d never see them again (I gave them back about four months later on his birthday) and it was unbelievably effective. Throwing things in the garbage, in my experience, is much more successful than getting angry and giving time outs and shit like that.
Anyway, I grabbed the juice from his hands and held it up to him and said, “you want this? No way. You want to see what happens to what you want when you don’t listen and you go into the fridge without asking? You’ll NEVER get this juice, man.” Then, since the carton was almost empty, and I estimated that it wouldn’t break, I opened the back door and tossed the juice outside, onto the porch.
BUT, I didn’t count on it being windy and the carton catching the breeze. Next thing I know, I’ve just tossed a carton of grapejuice three floors down to its death on my neighbors porch. My kid is crying (as it was, admittedly a slightly more brutal example than I wanted to set) my other kid is crying and all I can think is, ‘wow, if any of my neighbors are out on their porches right now, I’m gonna get a call from the CPS sometime today for hurling things off the porch while my kids bawl inside.
Then the hookers arrived and I shit my pants. Cool morning.