three books

I feel like this week is slow.  I’m stuck in amber and it’s a monumental effort just to get from bed to work to bed again in the cycle of day.  Sounds bad but I don’t intend it to.  I like slow.  Gives me time to think; feels like more hours in the day; makes me more productive.

Keaton apparently had some mega-fit, a fit to end all fits if you hear Sharaun tell it, Monday afternoon just before I got home from work.  Sharaun described it as topping the Disneyland tantrum.  That scar is still pink and puckered on my brain.  I was there for the Disneyland tantrum, I can vividly recall the delirium and the madness and the emotion.  I know how bad Disneyland was, I lived it.  And like veterans of America’s so-called “greatest generation” will spit on the ground and call us young folks “soft” and “pampered,” having weathered that tempest of awful behavior I think I know a thing or two about fits and their relative severity.  So for this fit, which I’ll call the grocery store fit, to best that… well, hell… that would certainly be something.

I mean I believe her.  She has no reason to exaggerate.  We have no contest of parenting one-upmanship whereby she’d be chalking up another mark in her column or anything.  So I can only take her on her word – this must have been a humdinger of a fit.  Part of what scares me, though, friends, is that I think we’re still just getting started here.  Disneyland, while still my high-water mark, will no doubt be eclipsed in time by something else; something that much worse in it’s own time.  And then again something else.  And again.  I don’t mean to say that I expect our wonderful daughter’s behavior to be a runaway truck or anything, a white dwarf compacting its way to nova or something… I only mean to say I’d be silly not to expect additional potholes on this road.  Things always seem seem worse in-the-moment and not-so-bad after the blessing of years; maybe I just mean to say that eventually all  passé  “old fits” will in time be replaced  by some nouveau “new fit.”

Sharaun pegged the epicenter, the Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, as a denied ride on the outside of the shopping cart.  Apparently this is a sometimes treat that she grants on some type of special occasion at one certain store… something about a carpeted area where she allows this sort of risky cart-ride if the whim hits.  Wherever that special place is, it’s not the grocery store parking lot and Sharaun told Keaton as much in answer to her request.  Like the tiny sunburst an errant rock makes in your windshield; like the long, thin lateral lines that appear in a snowdrift; a series of tremors at the base of a volcano – Keaton’s initial displeasure was but a harbinger of the coming storm.

OK so again I wasn’t there and I don’t know how bad it really was.  I’m trying to pretend I was though; trying to write like I was or put myself in her place or something.  I think they call it “identifying with your subject.”  Or, I imagine they’d call it something like that in journalism school or creative writing.  We were both there for Disneyland, and Sharaun swears this grocery store thing was worse, so I think I can somewhat accurately place it on the scale in my head.  I just do that and try to write from there, as if I were part of it when it actually went down.  Were I truly present I could likely flesh out this story with personal anecdote or some details about the parking lot or the shopping cart.  Instead I resort to cheap paragraphs about how I’m writing about it having not experienced it.  There; good.

Anyway the storm came and Sharaun called it nearly unbearable.  A screaming, crying throw-down against all things holy the whole trip through the store.  “Everyone was looking,” she moaned, tortured by the retelling.  “I restrained myself,” she said, “But I kept thinking, ‘Oh, if David were here he’d spank her right in front of all these people.'”  Boy, I didn’t realize I’m that heavy-handed.  This Disneyland thing really has marred my reputation. I swear violence is my absolute last option.  My spanking hand does not have a hair trigger.  But still, I fear she may be right in her thoughts.  Worse than Disneyland, and all the more “public” to boot?  Yes sir I may indeed have spanked her right there… although I can already tell you that in the alternate universe where it was me at the grocery store and I did spank her, it didn’t help a lick and, in fact, made things quite worse.

She did, in the end, restrain herself.  She continued her shopping undaunted.  Went right down the list anyway amidst Keaton screaming her head off and thrashing around in the cart.  For that I’m infinitely proud of her.  A small victory maybe, but I like to think at least one or two of those people looking on – even while mortifying her and very likely causing her to question her very mettle as a child-rearer – I like to think at least one or two of them did so as their backs straighten in solidarity.  “You do it, fellow parent.  You don’t take that.  You go right on with your business, go right on shopping.  Do what you need to do and let the kid bawl and whine.  With raised-fist I’m with you.”  I tried to explain this notion to Sharaun but it was lost in the rawness of her embarrassment.  I did tell her though that I was proud of her for not giving up on or rushing her errand because of it all.  And I really am.

Oh and the punishment.  Poor Keaton.  Never before has the toy room simply been “closed.”  I mean, it’s the room with all the toys.  For an almost-four year old what else is there but toys?  I found this all out upon arriving home that night… Keaton’s eyes still red and puffed from tears and Sharaun screwed up tight.  She got three books.  Three books and that’s it.  She didn’t even get to pick them, I’m sure a final rankling indignity in her eyes.  Three books and everything else was sealed off in the toy room, entombed.  The doors stand closed and the light is off and the blinds are drawn.  I heard about the punishment from a huffy Keaton before I heard about the reason for it from Sharaun, she caught me at the door on my way in.  “Wow,” I thought.  Sealing off the toy room… this must be something big.

Two days without toys or TV.  Three books and that’s it.  Yeah I’m proud of my wife.  She’s doing a great job with that girl and I’d be hurting without her consistency.


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