Ah, no, Saint Augustine, you’re WRONG. What do you know anyway? You were the Bishop of Hippo! (True story. Hippo is in present-day Algeria.)
Ancient proverbs were meant to be changed: Patience is the companion of pain. For parents of toddlers anyways.
I often describe Max as the kind of kid who runs into oncoming traffic.
Into the mouth of a lion, who is also hungry. And rabid.
Into the path of stampeding buffalo, with hooves the size of grandmother’s knitting bag. (Mind you, this boundless energy has snagged him a sweet ass part-time job at the local Costco.)
So of course yesterday when my babysitter-aunt takes him for a walk and he is the toddler from Baby Utopia, holding her hand and prancing calmly alongside her, she has to call and tell me about it. I know he’s not all bad; he has his halo moments. And I was truly glad they were having such an amicable outing (mainly because I want her to keep wanting to babysit the little bugger). My voice said, I’m so glad he’s being such a good boy. My inner voice said, I know he’s saving the Turbo Ginger just for me…
So 5pm finally arrives and I rush home from work on this glorious spring day that just begs to be splattered in barbecue sauce. Max was in the backyard playing with daddy and doggy. I hand daddy the hamburger patties and he fires up the barbecue, leaving me to mind Max. But I need to go to the store to get a couple extra things for supper. And I am starving, so I will kill the last surviving panda bear to get to the place where they sell food in great quantities.
So I try and entice Max to come with me. Wanna go to the store with mama? Fake excitement falls on deaf ears on account of busy hands. He is holding a giant spade shovel, jabbing at the dusty horseshoe pit with all his mini might. To abandon this riveting work would be a fate worse than death. And that’s how it almost played out as I carried him, body and bones and stark ravin’ mad, back to the house to try and negotiate a plan to get my food-deprived ass (not!) to the store. And by the way, leaving him in the backyard unsupervised is not an option, as our backyard is more of a half-acre patch of grass carved out of some farmland, surrounded by a moat of stinger nettles, with a steep drop-off on one side that will land you among pointy alders and a secret village of evil dwarves. I had to go to the store, and he had to come with. No options.
Attempt #1: Hold mama’s hand and we’ll walk to the store together. Maybe mama will even buy you some Smarties over there!
Shag the Smarties. No go. He was determined to get back to the shovel. He tried to rip his hand out of mine, and when I held on tight he hit the ground flailing, his head nearly smacking off the pavement. My further attempts to negotiate were futile; he was in Turbo Ginger mode and I was wasting my breath. So I dragged him into the house and plopped him into the naughty chair.
Attempt #2: I tell Andrew to get his tricycle. (It has a handle on the back that I push; his feet can barely touch the pedals.) Ooooh Max, daddy’s getting your bike! Let’s go to the store on your bike! Yay!
His eyes lit up, tears receded like the Red Sea as Moses honed his mad skillz. Yes, he took the bait! But 20 seconds later as we were approaching the bike, he tried to turn the tables. He wouldn’t get on the bike; he wanted to push the fucken thing! But short stuff couldn’t reach the handle, so that simply wasn’t going to work. I tried to get him on the bike again. I even took off his helmet to see if that was half the problem. (Yes, I was willing to sacrifice safety for sanity, and potato salad.) But no sir. He kicked and screamed and I dragged him back into the house again, the bike parked at the edge of our country road. Back to the familiar spot: the naughty chair. (I should get a wooden chair and call it the knotty chair for added amusement. With a few discipline-enforcing splinters perhaps?)
Attempt #3: At this point I had resigned myself to NOT going to the store. Whatever we had in the fridge was a freakin’ cornucopia of deliciousness right about now. But here he comes again, wiping his tears with a dirty sleeve. Store, mama? Store, mama?
Okay sure, I’ll try this one more time, Max. I bend down to his eye level and say, extra clear: Now, are you gonna be a good boy and hold mama’s hand and never let go? Affirmative. We walk to the store without incident. We pass the neighbour’s doggy and give him a wave. We pass some ducks and practice our quacking. We walk by a couple irresistible puddles and he didn’t even try to jump in them. Could this be… sweet victory? At the store, I actually tried to let go of his hand a couple times in order to carry the groceries, but he would not let go for nothin’, so I made it work to stick to my agreement. He grabbed an orange out of the produce bin, his reward for being a good boy.
And he coulda had Smarties. Suckerrrrrrrr.