Thursday, December 6, 2012

Toddler Sarcasm

One of the many things nobody tells you before you have a kid is that certain simple tasks, such as exiting the house at a prescribed time several mornings per week, become exponentially more challenging when you must propel out that door in the company of a small child.

This doesn't apply only to infants, though when the Grape was one and a half, I'd congratulate myself if we managed to get outside to walk the dog in under forty-five minutes. It was a very snowy winter, which meant Lila the Dog needed mushing boots. Not because we were training for the Iditarod, but because whatever budget cuts the City of Boston maybe implementing, they salt the sidewalks with near drunken exuberance.

Wussy pants Arkansas Dog can't abide salt, and I couldn't push the stroller (and/or drag the sled) and carry eighty pounds of canine. And the Grape, while not adept at running in snow boots, fought like a pissed off Tazmanian Devil whenever I tried to wrestle him into his snowsuit.

Getting myself, and the Grape, layered and bundled for subzero cold, without either of us breaking an immune-compromising sweat, while simultaneously applying mushing boots to Lila in a timeframe that didn't allow her an opportunity to remove them before propelling outdoors, was a feat I began practicing in November and perfected sometime around March. Yes, I'm still kind of proud of that. And yes, I was always a sweat ball by the time we made it to the patio.

Exhausting? Yes.

But ultimately easier than what I face this winter: copious helpings of toddler sarcasm and meltdown, served up on a roughly alternating schedule.

The Grape doesn't like doing things on any schedule but his own. I get it. I'm kind of the same way (hence I work for myself). But some things, like school drop off, wait for no tot.

Roughly three out of four mornings, my sweet angel throws a monster tantrum over one or more of the following: getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing hair and/or leaving house. My position is simple: I should not need to pin the screaming, flailing child between my knees to get a shirt on his person.

He flails, he wails, he throws his body onto the floor in a cartoon-like matter that's so over the top it would be funny if he weren't my kid. He protests, for exactly half the trip, that he DOES. NOT. WANT. TO. GO. TO. SCHOOL.

Then we make the turn onto Dartmouth Street and he sees the school, three blocks away. He wipes his tears, whips his halo out of his coat pocket, places it firmly about his head and gleefully cheers, "My school! I. LOVE. SCHOOL!!!"

I've tried every carrot and stick known to modern, progressive, retro and regressive parenting.

Nothing works.

And then, about once a week, the Grape is an angel about the morning shuffle.

This morning, I mentioned at breakfast how happy I was that he was being good. I piled it on, told him Santa was happy, too. We went about the rest of the routine in an organized and peaceful fashion. As were about to leave the house, the Grape asked, "Aren't you going to put on make-up?"

Evidently my kid is embarrassed that his mom doesn't look like a fashion plate at drop off.  I bit my tongue, resisted the urge to inform him that most mornings I don't have time to do much more than brush my teeth because he's such an $#*@ demon child.

Then, as left the house patio, and we weren't even discussing the morning's behavior, the Grape comes out with, "You're welcome."

"What?" I asked over my shoulder, as I locked the door.

"I was good this morning. You're welcome."

I'd laugh it off it weren't part of a pattern. For weeks, we've been trying to get one decent, wintery snapshot of the Grape and his dog to print on holiday cards. Obviously this is a time sensitive task. After staring hopelessly at the photo library on my laptop for something serviceable, I decided all the good shots were too summery.  R. and I tried, three weekends running, to get the Holiday Picture. We chose times when the Grape was well rested, well exercised and armed with a full belly.

Three weekends in a row, he lost it as soon as the camera came out. The Grape hates having his picture taken. (He loves viewing photos of himself, and to date he apparently isn't smart enough to realize one must take the photo before looking at it.)

He scowled, he howled, he frowned and he grimaced. If he had possessed the vocabulary to tell me where to stick the camera, he would have done so.

ME (smiling, calm and bright in face of meltdown): "Santa wants a nice holiday photo. Don't you want to send Santa a nice holiday photo?"

GRAPE: "Santa gets a lot of mail."

What the f--- am I supposed to do with that? After an hour of begging, bribing, threatening, and crying (yes, me, too), I seriously contemplated sending out our Happy Holidays message with a photo entitled: Meltdown Next to Dog Butt.

I decided I could send that to friends, but perhaps not to elderly relations with whom we correspond once a year.

We went indoors, consulted the calendar (already December), and regrouped. We tried again, and finally the Grape decided to play along. Our 2012 card isn't anything to write home about. It won't win any design awards. Most of my friends won't believe it represents almost eight hours of effort over several days.

When I showed the Grape the proof, and told him how happy Santa and I were that he cooperated for such a nice, cheerful holiday photo, he shrugged and told me, "You're welcome."

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