Yesterday was our first day back from vacation, a vacation where I tried and failed to get work done, so re-entry is somehow doubly hard. They tell you, the people who tell you things about parenting, that “transitions are hard.” Isn’t this true of everyone, for our whole lives?
Last night, H. wanted to sit in the car in the garage in the stifling heat. So we sat there. For one song on the iPhone, and then another. Then I moved the phone, thinking… well, thinking I would get us out of the hot car. And she flipped. She demanded to be left alone in the car. She is three years old, and she is constantly being told that she can’t have things, that she must move over here and stop eating that and eat something else or put on this article of clothing. So I generally try to give her things that she wants badly. I know that that effort on my part –to give her what she wants – is controversial. You think, before you have children, that we live in a world that is accommodating to them. And then you have children, and you realize that allowing a child to be present is generally perceived as accommodating. Once they are present, they are expected to feel grateful for being allowed to be present and to keep that shit under wraps.
Anyway, I looked around the garage and realized that I could not, in fact, leave her alone in there. For one thing, it was getting desperately hot. Sweat was already dripping off her forehead and upper lip. For another, here are things I could see within easy reach: a ladder, industrial chemicals, a tricicyle, a delicate automatic garage door system. So, no staying in the garage alone. Which is what I said, “I can’t leave you in the garage alone, honey.” Which meant that H. then spent 20 minutes screaming about wanting me to go away, and then after I wrestled her out of the garage into the air-conditioned house, she spent 20 minutes screaming that I had to move away from the door to the garage so that she could go back in there alone.
I can hear people tsk-tsking and shaking their heads at this. I’m sure, whoever you are, that your child would never even think to demand such irrational things and if she were shaking with sobs about something so patently inane as wanting to suffocate herself in the garage that you have a look or a Navy-Seal-Team-Six command that would immediately elicit obedience. So, bully for you.
But I just sat on the floor, trying to explain calmly and with respect why I wouldn’t let her go past me into the garage. At some point I called P. and asked in a shaky voice if he might be able to get home a little faster. And then finally, the spell broke, and she lifted her arms to me, still shaking with sobs, and asked for a glass of water.
Thing is, I know how she feels. Transitions are hard.