Tantrum (Warts and All)
I was recently asked to pick Caitlyn up from school and to take her to the day care. I was the chauffeur if you will. When Adam was three or four, I often had to take him to preschool in the morning. If you didn't get there by 9:20 (or some such random time), then the gate was locked and I had a toddler for the day at my office. It only happened once or twice and that's all it took for me to be on time, because there is nothing for a toddler to do at my office, and it is a long and miserable day for both of us, but look at me digressing.
So I know that my ability to drop off a four year old is not very good, but I also know that the consequences of not dropping the four year old off are dire, indeed. Then LIGHTBULB (that's a line from "Despicable Me"--what a cute movie), what if I kept Caitlyn and took her to see a movie--ha, what fun. No drop off drama, just fun, fun, fun. My kind of afternoon. In the back of my mind the alarm bells were going off--the excitement will be too much and a meltdown is inevitable, but I reasoned with myself--Self, how bad could it really be. She's four. I can certainly take a four year old down if I have to. So naive. Superpowers beware.
We went to see Toy Story. On the way to the movie (which is next to my office, which is upstairs from a Disney Store), Cait asked if we could go to the Disney Store--"just to look". I said, "No, we are in a hurry to get to the movie." She started to whine (but only half heartedly) that she didn't want to see a movie, she just wanted to go to the Disney Store. I was able to distract her (probably with candy or a drink or a promise of "later"), but all was well, we made it to the movie on time and she sat nicely drinking her "dr. pepper". [There was no dr. pepper, but that is all she wanted so I asked her to point it out. She pointed to coke, so I got a very small cup and put some coke in the small cup. She seriously and deliberately took a drink to test it and declared that indeed it was dr. pepper. See there Aunt Kathy was the obvious meaning of the look she graced me with.]
The scary parts of the movie were not scary to her and the touching moments completely escaped her four year old mind. She took away from the movie that there was a wonderful large stuffed animal (I think his name was Logo) and Woody and a girl Woody and Buzz Lightyear.
We still had an hour before we needed to go home and I had one more thing to pick up from my office. The Disney store was practically on the way and Caitlyn was eying every store at the mall for her next conquest. So, and I know what you are thinking--don't do it, don't go there, danger, danger, danger Will Robinson, but you had to see that cherub face light up with delight--yes, I was mush and we went to the Disney Store.
A year or so ago, at Disneyland, I purchased a Cinderella dress for Caitlyn at a cost of $80 or so--very pricey toy that she outgrew within days of the purchase. We went to a lot of trouble to make it bigger, but there is no further room for expansion and the dress has been hidden away to avoid world war III. Gone but not forgotten is the title of this saga. Caitlyn wants that ball gown and we are now entering the place where they sell that ball gown. I am surprised and almost giddy with relief when she does NOT make a bee line for that gown.
I am delighted with her expressions of pure joy to be in the most wonderful place on earth surrounded by the most lovely creations on the planet--Disney toys! Isles and isles of wonderful, magical treasures to be savored and hugged. Yes, imagine the cutest child on the planet--the apple of my eye--hugging all the toys she picked up. A little buzzer was going off in the back of my mind--screaming danger, danger, but the warmth of completely blind affection was just too loud for me to hear.
After going up and down every single isle twice, Caitlyn picked up a Jesse doll from Toy Story and I thought, I can handle that. It was out of place and so Caitlyn returned it to its proper display. Pretty soon, she was traveling all over the store, taking things that were out of place to their proper display. What a great way to spend an hour I thought as I started to tire from my fifth and sixth circuit around every isle of the entire store. I'm just going to find a place to sit down I told Caitlyn. There was only one seat and it was outside the store. Every person will have the moral question of whether to become a kidnapper when faced with such a delightful child, so I was concerned about losing sight of her and therefore I sat down and got right back up when she left my line of sight. By now I was ready to leave and I knew that the only way out was to buy the child a toy.
Let me say right now that I am not the only person in this boat. The child has more toys than any royal princess and gets new ones all the time. It is the most gratifying thing in the world to buy her a toy because she becomes so delighted and she stays enamored with said new toy for days and days--it being the new most wonderful thing in her life and you put it there--really fantastic feeling--heroin almost.
It is the end of the month. I'm not exactly rolling in dough at the end of the month. I'm not really rolling in dough any day of the month. We have soo much stuff in our house that cannot possibly ever be used. Any toy is going to be land fill fodder and it is completely irresponsible of me as a citizen of this world to contribute to the destruction of the planet in this manner. I'm very tired at this point and I know that defeat is eminent, but I rally for a last gasp. "Something small" I tell her, "we can buy you something small." We've picked up a little camera that clicks at least three times and the little white dog from Duchess and the Tramp has been hugged every time she is within ten feet of it. Woody is addressed whenever she is in that part of the store, so I have some reasonable belief that "something small" is within the realm of possibility.
Remember that Cinderella dress--yes, so did she. Only she wants a Tiana wedding dress. They have a Tiana doll wearing a wedding dress and Caitlyn wants a Tiana wedding dress. They don't have a Tiana wedding dress. They have a mint green, looks like a fairy costume reject Tiana ball gown in two sizes--extra small and larger than Caitlyn is tall. I didn't look at the price tag, but we're talking high end of the cost spectrum--up in that $80 range. "Honey, they don't have it in your size." Let me digress here a moment to remind you all that I am so stupid--I know this even as the words leave my mouth. Logic has no place in this dilemma and yet I bring it out thoughtlessly. "No," I say. "Pick something small," as I drag her toward the small toys by the check out. She breaks away from me and runs back to the Tiana gown--"This is small" she yells. Logic. I knew, knew, knew that was a bad idea.
"No," I say as nicely, yet firmly as possible. "Let's go" and I try to take her hand. She runs away screaming toward the back of the store. Now I follow rather slowly. I don't want this to escalate and I'm pretty tired by this point. Calmness is the key, I am telling myself. I've lost her from my line of sight and I start to eye all the other people in the store--does any one look like a kidnapper? I find her in the back of the store by all the stuffed animals. She's pulled down several large stuffed animals and thrown herself into the pile to sob. Wow, I'm impressed at her fast ingenuity. Several people glance at her screams and loud sobs, but no one gives her attention. Each time she sees me, she takes off running. She is constantly on the move--back up and down every isle. So it is time for a tactical retreat to the front of the store, so that she can't leave.
The problem is that I don't trust my fellow human beings not to steal my greatest treasure--yes I have an unreasonable fear of kidnappers. So anyway, there I am, near the front of the store--trying to look over the isles and catch a glance of her without spooking her and trying to eye all the other people for potential kidnappers. And there's no place to sit down. My bones were singing, I'm too old for this, but my eyes were sharp. Keep sharp, I warned my eyes over and over. This went on for a good long time. At one point she caught sight of me and she screamed and ran. A worker said to her, are you lost and I yelled out "No, she just has a very stupid Aunt." Finally I catch sight of her climbing up a shelf to get something. This is my chance. I quickly move in to scoop her up. She gets down fast enough to get away, but she's clutching a large Cinderella dress up doll package and I quickly grab a corner of it. She'll go where ever that package goes.
I look at the price. $24.95. Lots of little pieces. But it does have a nice looking doll. She really likes barbie dolls and this is a really good looking doll. For Christmas or her birthday or anytime I just want to make her smile--this IS the perfect toy. And it's on sale. The little pieces can be lost and the doll may have a much longer shelf life of utility. Yes, I am thrilled to buy her this toy (that ends up only costing $14--pretty good sale). However, I didn't just fall off the turnip truck yesterday. Getting this toy after almost an hour of struggle is rewarding this bad behavior. How do I save this situation. I don't have much time and I am somewhat limited in my options (being old and tired as it were). She finally allows me to pick her up in the checkout line to buy the toy and I say to her. I will buy the toy but you can't have it today. You have to be punished for running away from me. I will buy it, but you can't have it until tomorrow.
She's happy to agree and then tells me that she will hold it in the car and that only she can play with it when she gets home. No, it will stay at my office, because you cannot have it until tomorrow. She catapults herself out of my arms and we both have a death grip on the toy. She has all the strength in the world and she will fight me to the death are the vibes that she is throwing off. She allows the toy out of her grip for the 45 seconds it takes the clerk to ring it up and to put the toy in a bag and then she grabs it. I keep a grip on it as well, but she won't trust me anymore to pick her up. I am the enemy. She wants her toy and she wants it now. Since I won't let go of the toy, she is forced to follow me to my office, crying quietly the whole way, "I'll be good, from now on, let me have my barbie." I don't know why she was calling Cinderella, barbie, but she did consistently. Mattel, you might want to bring an action against disney for that one, but I digress.
One of my law partners was still in the office and stopped in to say hi. He complimented Caitlyn on how cute and nice she was and I said, just wait five minutes. We are going to leave without that toy and she's going to be screaming. No, he said. And I said, I'm sorry in advance. When it was time to leave, the screaming commenced and the death grip Caitlyn had on the bag became all consuming. I needed to hold my ground, but it was difficult to weather. One of the other lawyers finally came to the door, hoping that a new face would be a distraction, but Caitlyn was too far gone to be distracted.
Now we were very late. We had to leave. Giving up the battle was the only strategic option. "We'll leave the toy in the car overnight and you can have it tomorrow" got her to come with me to the car and to quiet her screaming and crying. She was calm in the elevator, but she still had a death grip on the bag. "I'll hold it in the car" she said as we went down the elevator and I was grimly silent. I opened the car door and she got in, letting go of the bag. I put on her seat belt and put the toy in the trunk. She whimpered, "nooooo, I want to hold the bag" but it was clear she had finally tired of the fight as well. I distracted her with talking about what she could do to show me that she was being good, so that she could have the toy tomorrow. I tried to discuss the movie we had seen about the toys that needed good homes with children who will play with them. She went off on a tangent that she was giving away all her toys so that Matthew and Madilyn couldn't play with them. I tried to point out to her that was not nice, but she missed the logic completely and repeated it several times to prove (by repetition) how good she was.
We got home and she stomped into the house--I am the enemy. She complained loudly to every adult in her path that I wouldn't let her have her barbie. She was entreated upon to eat her dinner and she was distracted by the babies being tied to the dinner table so that she had a clear shot at playing with her toys without their interference and that was the last I saw her that night. I left for my meeting and returned late after she was asleep. I was told that she was fine, after I left.
At 6:30 a.m. the next morning, she was banging on my door, the sleep still heavy in her eyes, demanding that I get her toy. It is tomorrow. I told her she had to show me that she was being good. She stomped out of the room to complain to the other adults, screaming "I'm being good" all the way. I heard her mom tell her to get dressed and get ready for school to show Aunt Kathy, you are being good. In record time, she was dressed and hair brushed back on my door step telling me in a belligerent tone--"I'm being good, give me my toy". I put on my shoes and got my key and opened the garage and opened the trunk and got the toy.
I looked at the excited beautiful child who had magically replaced the surely, mean, warrior. I allowed myself to feel the joy of giving her the toy, she so desperately longed for and for a moment--no longer than a second I had the fleeting expectation of an "Oh Thank you, Aunt Kathy", but it passed. The ecstatic child grabbed the toy and ran off to open it delighting other adults with her glee. Aunt Kathy is in the dog house.
The next day, she showed me the doll solemnly trying to lobby my support for her unhindered access to the small shoes that are a choking risk to her baby twin siblings, but my vote was not for sale and I was quickly marginalized and demoted to not worthy of her attention.
Just say no and accept the dog house, be the dog house, life is the dog house. Words to live by, Yanni.