I Made Two Boys Under the Age of 6 Cry
and then I really really needed a margarita. Why stop with two tykes when I could spread my destruction far and wide across the planet?
Sometimes parenting is sunshine and unicorns and a chorus of angels from above. Other days it’s gruesome and primal and makes you think that new genres should be invented to describe your days–horror + comedy = hormedy? Pathos + slapstick = slapthos?
Making two boys under the age of 6 cry definitely fell under slapthos. And when I mean I made them cry, I mean I was directly responsible.
A few weeks ago, HB was out of town on business and I decided to take the Unreliable Narrator to the playground after school.
We went to Shane’s in Griffith Park, our usual hangout. We played happily in the sand with the toys we’d brought from home: his Home Depot talking shovel and a scoop plus blue & orange buckets. The UN incorporated another child’s temporarily abandoned castle mold into our play. I should mention that shane’s is mostly Latino immigrants and crunchy Silverlake/Los Feliz parents from nearby, with a few folks who aren’t regulars, and we usually all co-exist in peaceful harmony, with everyone abiding by the unwritten Law of the Sand Pit: if your kid’s abandoned toys lie unused in the sand, it’s ok for other kids to play with them but upon returning or needing to go home, they must be relinquished to the original owner.
The UN was filling up the castle mold with wet sand when from out of the blue a little boy appeared and he pounced on the UN & tried to snatch the sand mold out of his hands (“That’s mine! Give it back!”). So of course the UN held on.
The little boy, who I’ll call MC for reasons that shall be clear soon, started yelling and saying “that’s mine, he’s trying to steal it, give it back” etc etc. I tried to calm MC down as I simultaneously explained to the UN (and by extension to the MC) that it was ok to play with sand toys no one was using but it was time to give it back to its owner because he needed it now. (The UN is usually fantastic about giving toys back and observing boundaries, but then usually some parent is saying, “Kiddie, we’re leaving in 5 more minutes. Go ask that little boy for our bucket back.”) The UN shook his head no and held tighter to the toy.
These are the times that try mother’s souls and why “Use your words” is like the mantra we hope guides us back to tranquility and global harmony among all peoples, blah blah blah. And MC was a child who’d already shown that he didn’t know what “use your words” meant.
Of course the situation escalated with the other little boy demanding in increasingly agitated fashion and the UN balking more stubbonly. I could see tears welling in the UN’s eyes every time MC made an attempt to grab the mold.
About this time the MC grabbed the UN’s blue bucket and claimed it was his and that my son had peeled part of the label off. (The label was indeed peeled off but the UN did that because it was his.)
Finally I talked the UN down and gently pried his hands off the other kid’s toy as the UN burst into tears and kept saying “I don’t want to” and the other boy kept threatening to walk off with our bucket. When Manipulative Cryer saw he had the mold back he started to walk off with the bucket anyway and I was damned if he victimized my son twice so I grabbed on to the blue bucket (all the while prior having verbally asserted that he was mistaken & it was ours) and a tug-of-war ensued while I was trying to comfort the Unreliable Narrator with one hand and literally wrestling with the Manipulative Cryer, who was using both hands and most of his body weight to hold onto our blue bucket, his legs windmilling around with the effort of trying to pull it away, and willing fake, scarce tears from his eyes, augmented with much sobbing and screaming of “Mine! Mine! Mine!” (MC knew that bucket was not his. He was holding it hostage til he got his mold back. Then he decided to take it home with him out of spite.)
And I kept saying “Little boy, where is your mommy/daddy?” and the shit sat down in the sand and started bawling. More howl than real tears. I guess he figured having lost the battle he could at least win the PR war.
Sorry, kiddo. I cannot be shamed. Your parent should be, though, because you shouldn’t be unsupervised like this. And I cannot parent you to civility in the few minutes’ contact I have with you.
So now I’m surrounded by 2 sobbing tear-stained kids but at least I’ve got our bucket back. And probably every parent in the park is rubbernecking at this real-life 5-car toddler pileup on the emotional highway and I am dying for the equivalent of CHiPs to come by and say “Move along, this is none of your fucking business. As you were.”
Clearly, it was time to go.
Finally the MC’s dad appears with a teeny tiny tyke (usually the worst behaved older kids of 6 are that way because of the younger sib). He gets his brat the MC and only half-concerned listens to MC’s gibberish about the bucket. I felt the need to clear our names before we left. So I tapped him on the shoulder and said, “I’m sorry your kid’s crying, but the blue bucket’s ours.” Luckily he concurred. And the crowd of rubber-necking parents of toddlers finally dispersed. WTF? Take your schadenfreude elsewhere.
The UN sobbed angrily in the car for a long time then we went home. Boy did I have a headache.
Then when I emailed my away-on-business, I’m-hobnobbing-and-snorkeling-at-a-fancy-yet-geriatric-resort-slash-corporate-
Retreat-complete-with-stupid-corporate-games husband about the whole disaster, not only did I wonder why the fuck I needed a PhD to have a day like that (I didn’t), but how stupid it all must have sounded to HB. Nor was I all that sympathetic to his claims that he was working hard advancing his career (and maintaining our standard of living) by “saying and doing all the right things to impress all the right people.”
Let’s face is, corporate America is no picnic, but at least everyone’s continent and you have the consolations of free coffee and the veneer of civility conjured from stupid “company-togetherness” games, plus free phone, photocopying, and faxes.
And if parents who work in an office are the least bit honest, they’ll confess that a tiny but very real reason they pay good money to childminders (or have stay-at-home spouses) is in part to NOT experience days like that one.
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