EVENT 1 – BOY
The kids have just gotten to an age in the last month, perhaps even the last couple weeks really, where they seem to be learning new words everyday. You can say, “Say this or that” and they’ll repeat it so long as it’s no lengthier than two or three syllables. When we ride in the car we practice all their words and sounds and noises and colors and names and numbers and I try to teach them mathematical equations but they’re just not ready for the pythagorean theorem yet.
It’s 9pm, we’ve been out of church for an hour and we’re all sitting in the drive-thru at In-N-Out. Jade and I had just gotten baptized on a whim at service and were having a celebratory salvation burger. While we wait in line, I turn around in my seat and start giving Rory a pop quiz. “What’s a snake say? What’s a donkey say? What’s a llama say? What’s a shark say?” WIthout hesitation he fires back the answers at an impressive rate. He says, “Ssss. Ee-ah! EEHH! Duh-nuh”. That third one is the noise I imagine a llama makes… sort of a growling scream and that final noise is the theme from jaws.
We sing the alphabet and I say, “Can you say A-B-C?” and he says, “Ah-Bay-EE!” and I say, “That’s right! How old are you?” and he says “TWO!” and it’s not the right answer but it’s close enough. I say, “Where’s your foot? Where’s your eye? Where’s your mouth?” and he points to all of them in order, repeating my words.
I turn around and sort of spontaneously, perhaps because I’ve got llamas on the brain, say, “TINA!” in my best Napolean Dynamite impression. Tina, of course, being the name of Napolean’s weird pet llama and again, without hesitation, Rory drops his voice down a couple octaves, just as I did, and he says, “TEE-NAH” and I laugh and I say, “TINA!” and he drops his voice even lower and says, “TEE-NAH!” and it’s just so totally ridiculous, so out of this world bizarre that I can’t help but crack up.
EVENT 2 – GIRL
I put Quinn in a time out, which means I place her back in her crib and tell her, before closing the door, that “Daddy will be back in a little bit to get you. You need to be quiet because you were having a temper tantrum and we don’t have temper tantrums”. I shut the door and there is a moment of silence… a very temporary moment of silence, before the ground erupts and the gates of The Abyss split open and all the noises from all the seven circles of Hell pour forth and I can hear them all screaming from the mouth of one tiny babe in one tiny room, the vibrations pounding and banging against the door and threatening to tear it down.
Rory stands by my side and I glance down at him, perhaps seeking advice and he just shrugs like, “I don’t know. You put me in there and I just take a nap until you come back”. I take a few hesitant steps back from the door, waiting to see if this is just a “phase” that will pass. Understandably, she’s probably upset that I just locked her in a box in a room all by herself. I would be too. If it were me, I’d shout at my captives, “I know you’re out there! I can hear you breathing! You let me out of here right now and then you make me some macaroni and cheese with some broccoli in it but not too much broccoli because the flavor can easily overshadow the powdered cheese taste!”
I glance back down at Rory, wondering if maybe I can read something on his face, like, maybe he’s channeling his twin somehow. He’s holding a John Deere truck his grandpa had purchased for him and he suddenly throws it down on the ground, probably testing it’s durability. It doesn’t break. Not bad. Bottom line; no channeling happening. Now, the truth is, I have no problem with letting my kids cry it out. I am 100% fine with just walking away and listening as their screams and wails slowly die into whispers and whimpers over the following ten to fifteen minutes. This is not a problem for me. But man… this time it sounds like something is wrong. It really sounds like she’s hurt. Maybe her leg is stuck between the crib bars? Her knee trapped and swelling up as I contemplate my next move?
I take a deep breath and then decide to just quickly… ever so quickly… poke my head in just to make sure that everything is okay.
I grab the handle, twist and push the door open. In the crib, Quinn rests with her mouth on the bar of her bed. She lifts her face away and snot and spit and tears make one long stringy web of mucus and liquid, connecting her to the wooden frame. Her eyes are puffy and red, her face covered in moisture. She looks like she’s just been hit with mace. She stares up at me; her father, her protector, her savior, her captor, her only connection to the outside living world and, spittle streaming between her top lip and bottom lip, she wails in a broken voice, “BLAAAANNNKKEEEE!!!”
I look down at her broken and battered spirits and I can’t help but smile… just a little… and only on the inside. Her blankie. Her item of total and complete security. The thing she drags with her through the dirt and through the puddles. The thing she sleeps with and eats with. In my haste to grab her and give her a timeout, I neglected to grab it.
Granted, timeouts aren’t a time of play or fun but there is also a distinct line between punishment and torment. I fetched her blanket, set it inside her crib and she immediately goes silent. I place my hand on top of her head and say, “Daddy will be back in a little bit to get you. You need to be quiet because you were having a temper tantrum and we don’t have temper tantrums”.
I shut the door and there is silence.