Sunday, February 19, 2012

In Which Mamma Fails to De-Throne a Small Despot

It has come to my attention that the Grape, at the ripe age of 2 1/2, is a little tyrant.

I've had suspicions of his despotic tendencies all along, but I've done a decent job of rationalizing them away. He is, after all, a toddler. In his view, everything he sees, touches or thinks about is his. All his. This proprietary disposition extends (among many other things)to toys, foodstuffs and other people's time.

Fine. The phrase "terrible two" clearly has roots in some universal truth. Toddlers stink at sharing and have only the faintest recognition of the concept of delayed gratification. Two-year-olds seem disinclined to take chances. Having or doing something NOW always trumps the abstract idea of having or doing something (even something better) at some hazy later time. Two-year-olds are the ultimate personification of the old bird-in-the-hand bit.

The Grape's powers have eclipsed his diminutive stature. It's time the little tyrant faced a coup d'etat.

This revelation came into focus Friday afternoon. The Grape was outside with the lovely granny lady who's helping us out while I recover from surgery. She's gentle, affectionate and indulgent to a fault. While I'm gimpy, she picks the Grape up from pre-school three afternoons a week and takes him to a playground or park so he can run around in the fresh air.

Nice, right?

Friday she was half an hour late getting home when we spoke by phone. The problem (which I could hear loud and clear) was that the Grape was throwing a full-on, screaming, thrashing, hurling self on the ground tantrum because he didn't want to leave the playground. The sitter, being new and generally a soft natured sort, was afraid to force the issue and wrangle his apoplectic little person into the stroller.

I had what I later characterized as a Captain von Trapp moment. "You are in charge!" I exhorted her through the phone. "You are the boss. He needs to understand you mean business." The Grape screeched a piercing shriek in the background as I cheered on his reluctant chaperone. "I placed you in command!"

I left unsaid that I don't indulge tantrums - ever, and I'm scared that during my period of cripple-dom, we're all veering into a bratty direction.

Then I asked to speak to the Grape.

Me: "Grape, you need to listen to Sitter. She says it's time to go. I know you've had a fun afternoon at the park, but you need to get in the stroller to come home and see Mamma. Right now. And I mean right now."

Grape: "Noooooooooo!!!!! I want the slide! One more time!" (Cue sound of sitter's phone hitting the ground with force.)

They made it home, a full hour later than the agreed-upon time, at which point the sitter confessed she didn't feel comfortable stopping the tantrum (i.e. disciplining her charge) because she's so new to our family.

And she was afraid that passersby would shoot her evil looks and perhaps even interfere.

When I frowned disapprovingly, she added that he was having so much fun. Which I get. But the little generalissimo had just cost me an additional hour of sitting time. More alarming: his tantrum had worked; he set their schedule.

I explained to a defiant little Grape that next time sitter took him to the park, she would count down the time until they had to go home. And if he didn't go quietly, she would remove him.

"Time out in the stroller!" I warned him. The sitter looked at me, wincing with uncertainty.

I thanked her profusely for her troubles, foisted a fistful of bills into her hand and wished her a restful weekend.

As soon as the door closed behind her, the Grape smiled his most disarming, don't-kill-me-I'm-adorable grin.

"No way time out," he said simply, then closed the matter. "I'm going to play with cars now."

We had company arriving. I had to figure out dinner. The tantrum, at an hour old, was too far in the past to address.

The little tyrant's rule lasted yet another day.

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