Or, given my dubious ability, I suppose I should represent myself as a partially exhumed knitter. In any case, I attended a presentation tonight from Chicago’s Franklin Habit. In addition to being an exquisite technician, Franklin is scathingly funny. Read about Franklin and his roommate, Dolores Van Hoofen, at http://the-panopticon.blogspot.com. Follow Dolores’ tweets, or baas, as it were, on Twitter.
… a site that takes me completely out of reality. I found myself in Old Long Island last year. It’s a blog containing fascinating histories of historic old homes around the North Shore. See where Jay Gatsby lived, and enjoy.
However, I’ve decide to share it so others can learn about a progressive disease that claimed the lives of two of my beloved pets. See “How to Manage Chronic Renal Failure in Cats,” published today.
Why am I here? And I don’t mean that in any remotely existential way.
Had a new client approach me for a rewrite of an article on how to deal with tantrum-prone toddlers. Sure, I said, having been through that particular experience. The story he handed me was pretty good to begin with. Logical, matter-of-fact advice. No violence. I rewrote it, added a bit of deadpan humor (hey, I’m a ghostwriter) and submitted it.
Here is the version I would have like to have sent:
After your first child is born, your life is utterly transformed. You witness the miracle of birth and, after a few months of colic has subsided, decide not only to hold off on selling Junior on eBay, but that you quite love him.
You believe you have the perfect child after all. He smiles all the time, pukes infrequently and the diaper content is manageable. Then, he nears the age of two. Your angelic creature is replaced with an entity that is altogether different. From the netherworld. One of Dante’s lower rings. Where in the hell did he learn to scream, “I hate you Mommy,” bite, hit and kick simultaneously? And what is with that 360-degree head spin, anyway?
Your sweet baby is gone for good. Your darling has entered the age of tantrums. Here’s the situation: The babysitter calls in sick. The contents of your refrigerator consist of a few dustballs, aging catnip and eggnog from 2006. A grocery run is inevitable. You jam the toddler into the car seat. He’s ticked off already because you’re taking him away from his favorite episode of SpongeBob. You get to the store, and the whining begins when you refuse to put him into the big plastic kiddie car that steers like a Sherman tank.
You make the crucial mistake of cruising past the toy aisle as you stock up on diapers. Mental note: Talk to store manager about this unpardonable act of merchandising cruelty. Sweetheart spots something he WANTS NOW. No matter that it made of 200 1/2-inch-big pieces, most of which he will want to taste, or the cat will swat under the refrigerator. Never mind that the item will take up most of the area the shopping cart. And yes, you could nab it for half off retail on Amazon or someone’s upcoming garage sale, if you really wanted the damned thing.
No sweetie, you chirp, and move along.
No, love. The cart moves faster.
A swat to your knuckles. You feel the tiny Nikes jutting into your solar plexus.
The ominous silence, then his face turns the color of that merlot you feel like having when you get home.
A few moments later, it’s banshee time. Wailing like you’ve never heard before. He kicks some more, leans forward and delivers a bite that Robert Pattinson would envy. You start getting The Look from the other shoppers. My, what a bad parent. Letting that kid go on like that. Door’s that way, lady. At this point, here are your choices:
1. Ask the store manager to go on the intercom and ask if there is an exorcist in the store. In the meantime, try to out-yell your progeny, remove his teeth from your forearm and shove him back into the kiddie seat in the cart.
2. Buy the frigging toy. He’ll get what he wants, and you can go home to that nice glass of merlot.
3. Ignore the little demon. Let him scream until he loses his voice.
If you guessed number 3, you are absolutely right. In all seriousness, I did ignore the tantrums from my own daughter when she would throw major hissy fits, and she is now a perfect child. Well, almost.
By out-screaming your child, you may be showing him who’s boss, but you’re also teaching him that she who yells the loudest wins. We don’t need that. Goodness knows there’s enough of that attitude in the town where I live.
By caving in and buying the toy, you’re teaching Junior that bad behavior yields big rewards. This doesn’t usually work in real life. Just look at Tiger Woods’ endorsement roster.
When you ignore the tantrum, you’re sending a message that you just don’t buy that crap. It will take a few tries, but your little darling will soon wise up and move onto other tactics, like asking Daddy instead.
The inevitable disclaimer: You will get through this time in your child’s life. I guarantee you will look back on it and laugh. Love every day with that kid. Time goes by like you wouldn’t believe.