I’ll say this for two year olds: they know how to do the drama up right. They’re like little Norma Desmonds – minus the makeup, marabou, and pet monkey (though Lily would ask for the latter in a New York minute if the idea ever occurred to her).
One morning last week, Lily woke up at 6:30 a.m., which is about 30-45 minutes earlier than usual. We got her dressed, fed her breakfast, and she asked to watch “Sesame Street.” I let her see it for a while, warned her when she had only five more minutes left of TV time, and then turned it off. Despite the warning (which is usually effective), Lily cried and begged for more, saying, “Again! Again!” I said, “No,” and she weepily stumbled away from me toward the couch, where she grabbed one of the large pillows, pulled it down onto the floor, and then flung her little body onto it for a good, long sob. (In these moments I wonder whether instead of being a little critic-in-training, Lily will end up on the stage herself.)
After a few minutes of what is clearly trumped up whimpering – you can HEAR the effort – she went quiet, and her breathing steadied. She’d fallen stone asleep while splayed tragically on this big, red pillow. (By the way, in case you’re wondering, this had never happened before, and it felt like Christmas morning for this mommy. I grabbed the New York Times and read for a while, quietly cleaned up the kitchen, and retrieved my book from my bedroom to read a chapter or two before she woke up. There’s nothing like having stolen time you weren’t expecting fall into your lap. This may, in fact, be my idea of heaven.)
Lily’s also a big fan of the melodramatic reunion. Because she’s the Norm Peterson of Sunny Day Care, staying until closing time each day, we tend to rendezvous with Joe as he’s coming home from work. Often, Lily and I will turn the corner at the end of our block, and she’ll spot Joe’s car in our driveway. Joe will stand there in his suit, waving, and Lily will yell, “Run to me, Daddy!” And then she sprints toward him and he does the same, finally catching her up in his arms and spinning with her.
It’s as if Sandra Bullock and Julia Roberts rom-coms had played on a constant loop in my womb, teaching her that this is how we always greet the ones we love.
But on the same sidewalk where this romantic, almost-daily reunion takes place, there are also, sometimes, tragic breakdowns. If I’ve said “no” to something, or physically prevented her from doing what she wants – you know, like stopping in the middle of busy, rush-hour Farmington Rd. to check out a couple of rocks – then she’ll crumble in a heap and cry on the sidewalk, as dogwalkers and cyclists pass by, looking concerned. In these instances, I just want to shrug and tell them, “She’s two.” But I also have to refrain from cracking up, since I remember, as a child, being frustrated by adults not taking me and my feelings seriously.
Besides, there’s always time to laugh with Joe about it later (which we do regularly).
As I stated in a previous post, the good stuff of parenting always has a dark side, and this is true of toddlers’ propensity for high drama. Sometimes it drives me up the wall with its irrationality, while at other times, I’m utterly charmed and amused by it.
I don’t tend to get sucked into it myself, but I nonetheless get to participate at times. On the walk home from daycare last week, Lily spotted a gigantic puddle in a parking lot. At first, she walked through it, doing about-faces to do this again and again. Soon, though, she started jumping all the way through it, saying, “Jump with me, Mommy!”
So I did. (Fortunately, Mommy was wearing Crocs, which I think should become the official, durable shoe of motherhood, hideous though they may be.) We held hands and jumped across, drenching our lower bodies.
“My shoes are wet, Mommy,” she said after a while. “Take them off, please.”
I had a pair of her sandals in her daycare bag, so I yanked off her soaked tennis shoes, rolled her disgusting socks off her feet – and then watched her run barefoot back into the puddle to start jumping again.
I started to say, “No, let’s put on your sandals,” but I stopped myself. Nothing in the puddle was going to hurt her feet, and even if the water was filthy, we’d been in it up to our ankles already, anyway. What difference would it make for her to have her shoes on?
So I joined her and jumped in the puddle again, realizing that parents’ first instincts can be irrational, too.
A man getting in his car nearby commented on how much fun it looked like we were having, and a woman at Lily’s daycare told me, the next day, that she’d seen us playing as she drove away, too. “We should all play in the rain and puddles sometimes,” she said.
True. But unless you have a kid that gives you a nudge in that direction, we tend to forget just how fabulously fun it can be.