When I told the younger one sitting in the basket of the shopping cart that he should stop eating small bites from all the apples in the bag, his response was swift. His blue eyes, partly masked by his sweeping long blond bangs, stared coolly at me as he cocked his arm back and casually chucked the apple full force across the produce section.
“Hey buddy,” I started in quietly, afraid of other adults around me hearing, ”you had better get it together.”
“YOU better git it togefer.” He retorted without so much as a beat.
I lowered my voice and got in closer, this time out of a little fear of him.
“Santa is watching you.” I said looking at my angry, but still cute child.
“UUUGGGGHHHH! I Hate Santa!” He screamed from the shopping cart.
The parental “ace in the hole” tactic of the holidays has proven surprisingly ineffective against this fierce child.
Almost to the day the younger one turned 2 ½ officially, you could see the change take full shape. I had really never been hip to the idea of a child turning crazy around this age because, to be frank, the older one has always seemed a little crazy. However, his “rotten moments” have since proven nothing compared to his little brother.
In fact, the older one has also had to quickly learn to identify the signs of an upcoming explosion of rage from his little brother. Gone are the days when he would sit in love and joy with the baby, cooing and comforting him. Now, with one eye over his shoulder, he plays with his legos in secret. He has learned that when he tells his brother to leave him alone, fat and angry hands will untimely demolish everything he has created.
I stared in full shock at the small child. Hate Santa? Where do you even go with that? I tried desperately to sell the fear that parents can own at this time of year.
“What?! You better not say that, he will not bring you anything! No toys!”
“I DON’T CARE. Know what I’m going to do every-guy? I going to get you hot coffee on your head and melt your fat hair off at Christmas time. And I’ll give Santa a Nerf gun and he will get so happy to me I will get toys so there.”
This, one time sweet and snuggly child, had suddenly become a 36 lb mental patient, and so far none of the usual parenting tactics were working.
Normally, you can plan for a child who is going to start to get tired or hungry when you are out running errands. Those simple and daily needs are easy to catch before the tantrum trigger gets pulled. But suddenly you find yourself staring at your angelic gift as they take out a table of folded dress shirts in the department store all because you would not let them yank a new wallet out of it’s display box. And the first time it happens, you stand there next to the sales associate and stare with equal parts embarrassment, and total fear.
“Ok.” I said, trying to contain my anxiety. After all, I had a cart of groceries I could not afford to abandon, as well as several employees watching from behind their pallets of new stock. “I guess I will just have to call him and cancel your Christmas.”
He exploded in tears. I had won; I waited for his out stretched arms to hold me in apology. The begging of not to call. The remorseful ‘I love yous’ to begin.
“I HATE YOU DAD!” He screamed through his sobs. He then started to quickly and efficiently unload several items over the side as if he were bailing a rowboat.
My wife has recently begun to petition other parents of children that they should legally be a way to ship off your child from the age of 2-2 1/2 to about 3 ½ years old. At first, I thought this to be such a cruel thought from an otherwise caring and devoted mother. However, frantically picking items back up and putting them in the cart, I was beginning to see the logic in the idea. I began to feel empathy for Hansel and Grettel’s parents, and wondered if the story was wrong about the children’s ages.
After getting things situated, and pushing the cart, and crying child away from the area, I did the only thing I had energy for. I ignored him. I went about my shopping as if there was no child wailing away in the basket. I took my time, compared prices and even looked at a nutrition label. And as quickly as he started in, I heard a sniff and a sigh, and then nothing.
“I done crying now Dad.” He said it so plainly, just to let me know.
“Good.” I said fearful of saying anything to light the fuse back up.
“I mam happy now.”
“That’s great. We’re just about done here.” I said as went down our list to make sure we had gotten everything we needed on it, and included one last impulse buy: