You know how it goes: one minute you and your kid are bonding over drawing a porcupine covered in quill-hearts, and then you mention something totally innocuous like, say, the fact that bath time will be before dinner (as it is every night) and . . . everything goes to hell.
There’s screaming and stomping and slamming of doors. Then barricading of the door. (At some point I should tell Zoey she needs to barricade it from the inside as opposed to putting a lot of stuff in the doorway on the outside of the door. She marvels at my super human strength every time I “get past” one of her barricades by, uh, stepping over it.) Then there’s the Full Body Lay Out Tantrum of Unhappiness (in case you didn’t pick up on it before) and the kid is on the floor kicking and banging her tiny fists while screaming some version of, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”
So that was us yesterday afternoon. We had reached the point of no return for the tantrum — there was no way I was going to be able to reel that sucker in. The best course of action was to leave Zoey alone and let it unfold. So I did.
I went to the kitchen and sat down to
watch Project Runway send out a few important emails. About 30 seconds later, Zoey stomps into the room, arms folded and eyes narrowed.
“Hi,” I say. “Do you want a hug?”
“No,” she sneers, “I WANT SOME TIME ALONE!” And she starts crying and kicking at the table leg.
“Okay,” I say. “Take some time alone.”
“I can’t,” she wails. “YOU’RE HERE!”
“Well, your room is a good place for alone time.”
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” And she falls dramatically to the floor to continue weeping.
I retreat to the living room. A minute later, just when Tim Gunn is telling Mondo to “make it work”, Zoey snuffles in and lurks in the doorway.
“Want to come sit on my lap?” I offer.
“NO.” She yells, “NO, I DO NOT. I WANT TIME ALONE AND YOU WON’T LET ME!”
“Zoey,” I say, “You can have time alone. Just go up to your room.”
“NOOOO!” She shrieks. “Because then I’m the only one up there!”
“Well,” I attempt to keep a straight face,”that’s what time alone means. You’re . . . alone.”
“STOP FOLLOWING ME!” she yells and collapses on the couch to kick and scream some more.
I retreat through the playroom into my bedroom. I am now behind two closed doors.
Two minutes later the bedroom door is flung open so hard that it bounces off the wall and slams shut again. From the other side of the closed door I hear, “I JUST WANT TO BE ALONE” (pause for sobbing) “and you slammed the d-d-door in my face!”
I take a breath. I clear my head. I take a moment, as parents all over the world do. I ready myself to be calm and patient and kind. I open the door.
Zoey is sitting on the floor, a plastic spider ring on each of her thin fingers. “Mommy!” she shrieks with joy, “Look what I found!” She holds out her hand and wiggles her fingers.
“Lovely!” I exclaim. “You know, those spiders might need a wash. You could take them in the bath with you . . .”
“Oh, Mommy!” Zoey stands and hugs me. “That will be amazing!” And with that she leaps across the room, twirls, and goes into the bathroom.
You know how it goes: one minute the world is a rough and lonely place and then you find some spider rings and can hold on a little longer.