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Friday, January 16, 2009  

The China Syndrome

Most weekdays, Trash leaves the house around 7:30 in the morning, M. Edium likes to wake up and come downstairs to do the goodbye ritual, and then it’s my job to get him dressed, fed, and at school by 8:30. That went a little differently on Wednesday morning.

By 7:30 that morning, Trash was in the stratosphere, en route to Savannah via Atlanta for business. M. Edium has known this trip was coming for weeks; almost as long as we have. Before he went to bed on Tuesday night, we told him that we’d wake him up to say goodbye to Mom. Which we did, kind of.

But then, when it was time to get up, his first question* was whether he could say goodbye to mom. I had to tell him that he already had, and she had left. And from then on, he was inconsolable. Utterly.

“We’re never going to see Mom again!” he wailed tearfully.

I assured him that we would, and even though he didn’t seem to believe me, I had several tasks in front of me, not necessarily in this order:

1. Get him out of bed
2. Get him dressed
3. Get him to go potty
4. Get him to eat breakfast
5. Brush his teeth
6. Get him into his winter gear
7. Get him into the car
8. Get him to quit carrying on like the biggest drama queen at any mob funeral ever.

Of course he wanted no part of a single one of these. All he wanted to do was lie in bed and be sad. And/or asleep. Whichever. And no way were we going to ever be able to do two of them at a time.

What this meant in practical terms was that I dressed him in bed, then calmed him down from the round of hysterics that triggered. Then I got him out of bed, holding him as comfortingly as I could while he indulged in a fresh round of hysterics. I even let him have something for breakfast he never gets to have: “road crackers,” which is what he calls Club crackers because you can line them up like a little road. This morning, though, all he wanted to do was cry over them. I figured that as long as he was sitting there doing nothing, I might as well put his boots on him. Big mistake. The way he saw it, that was trying to do three things on the list at a time, and even though none of them succeeded, just the attempt was enough to send him into a shrieking fit.

I never understood why someone would tell a crying kid, “I’ll give you something to cry about.” The kid’s just going to be like, “Uh, I got something already, thanks. Hence the crying.” But I understood it that morning. I can’t tell you how much I wanted to yell at him to knock it off, quit acting like a baby, and get his shit together already. Even when he was raging sweet nothings like “I don’t want to be your kid any more” and “You’re the baddest dad ever” (I actually kind of appreciated that last one), I knew that I just had to keep reminding himself that he was acting like this because he missed his mom, and he felt like he didn’t get to say goodbye. Responding even a fraction in kind would be, at the least, counterproductive.

Plus I recalled having read, just a few days ago, the blog of another parent who was filled with regret after having snapped at his or her own child, and how I didn't want to have to deal with that regret myself.

Still, it wasn’t easy. He’s had meltdowns before – what kid hasn’t? But this seemingly endless series of them had me at wit’s end, plus his time-consuming histrionics were making me late for work. “Eat your breakfast.” “I have to pee!” “Okay, I’ll take you to the bathroom.” “Don’t put me down!” “Okay, let’s put your coat on.” “But I’m hungry!” “Then eat your breakfast.” BUT I HAVE TO PEEEEEE!!!

Eventually I got him ready and out the door, even though it involved a lot of counting, a lot of Hobson’s choices laid out for him, and, regrettably, a bit of gentle but firm manhandling. And when I dropped him off at school, he did that back-up-and-run-into-me-hug thing he does every once in a while that just thrills me.

And it was worth it, because when I picked him up that night, he said, unbidden, “I love you, Dad. I’m sorry we had that fight today.”

A fight isn’t what I would have called it, but I’ll take it.

Plus, knowing that I could keep calm even during that nightmare gave me the knowledge that I could do it again when the next morning came, and it turned out he was almost as much of a pain in the ass then.

* I’m counting this as his first question, even though his actual first question, “Is today a school day?” is one that he asks so often that it hardly counts.

posted by M. Giant 6:03 PM 2 comments


I can sympathize, so way to keep your shit together, if only just barely.

By Blogger Andy Jukes, at January 16, 2009 at 10:31 PM  

The unsolicited "I'm sorry" from a little kid is second only to the unsolicited "I love you."

By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 24, 2009 at 7:22 AM  

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