(With Grateful Gratitude to Martha Slaughter)
Babe, what are you doing?
Writing thank you notes, bud.
You said that I should watch Little Guy so that you could take a shower.
I decided to write thank you notes instead.
Are you ready to take back the Little Guy?
No. I haven’t taken my shower yet.
When are you going to take a shower?
It’s not a big deal.
You got me on false pretenses.
I did not.
Come on. You definitely false pretensed me. Admit it.
I was suckling Natasha Kinsky too.
Suckling? You were suckling the baby?
I was. And then I decided to write thank you notes.
Couldn’t you have done that at the same time?
I don’t think so.
You read while you are suckling. You could written thank you notes.
Not very easily.
If you really wanted to you could have.
How do you think Little Guy is doing with his new sister?
You are changing the subject.
I always notice. I notice that you are not ready to take back the Little Guy.
Do you think that he is a little less jealous?
Oh yes. Definitely. Natasha Kinsky was crying earlier this morning and he figured out how to help.
He did? How did he do that?
He went over to her and jammed a crayon into her mouth.
Oh no. Did he really?
Oh yes. Funny thing it actually worked. She was so surprised that she quieted right down …
And stopped crying?
… for at least three seconds. Then she began to shriek. Well, maybe it was not shrieking. It might have been caterwauling. Sometimes it is hard to tell.
So you don’t think that he is over being jealous?
Sweetie, he will be jealous of the amount of her pension. It is not going away.
How do you know?
My brother and I are 18 months part. Little Guy is even closer to Natasha Kinsky.
And you are jealous of your brother?
Get this, when I was out at my folks house last Thanksgiving I was prowling around the attic and I found a card that I wrote to accompany an anniversary present I gave to my parents when I was nine or ten years old. It said “From Jay and Not from Jack.” I had underlined the “Not” about five times to make it totally clear that Jack was not in on the gift.
Do you think he would actually hurt her?
We just have to distract him. We can always lure him away.
I would use a plate of waffles.
Waffles. You are so right. What is with him and waffles?
The other day I caught him eating the waffle box.
He was not.
He was. He ate up all the waffles and then he got the box out of the trash and he snuck into the other room and he began to eat the paper. By the time I noticed he had gnawed right through the middle of it. You should have seen his face when I found him. He looked like he had been caught having sex with a heifer.
What did you say?
I said Little Guy, you are not allowed to eat waffle boxes from out of the trash.
I don’t think he really did that.
Of course he did. He is partially goat.
Don’t put down the Little Guy.
I don’t put down Little Guy.
You call him “Toadstool”.
That’s just cause he says “Bye Zero” when I leave for work.
You are a Zero.
Thanks babe. I don’t think that a boy ought to call his Dad “Zero” until he is at least 15.
Just don’t put down the Little Guy.
You are worried about the Theory of Cognitive Dissonance?
What is the Theory of Cognitive Dissonance?
Basically, if you call a kid “Stupid” he will tend to be.
That’s some theory. Does it work with husbands?
I call you “Helpful” and you start to pitch in around here.
Oh man that is a bad rap. I am totally pitched in.
It’s been six weeks since the faucet in the bathroom started to drip.
Oh come on. That’s plumbing.
You don’t do plumbing?
You know the rules; I do light carpentry. Strictly light carpentry.
What exactly is light carpentry?
Good question. Many people have no idea. You are lucky I am here to explain. Some people find examples to be helpful: carrying firewood into the house from the woodpile. That’s classic light carpentry. Changing a light bulb that requires climbing a stepladder. Light carpentry.
How about a dripping faucet?
Nope that’s a whole other league; that’s union work. You can in get in deep trouble with the union if you encroach.
I like how you can say this stuff with a straight face.
Yeah, it’s pretty impressive, isn’t it?
By the way, you are on duty when I go to yoga.
When is yoga?
So that’s why you aren’t having a shower. Your just stringing me along. You have got me down for hanging with the Little Guy until you are back from yoga.
Oh Man, that’s a long time. I have had the Little Guy all day.
It is 9:30. He didn’t get up til 7. That’s only two and a half hours.
What’s happening with Natasha Kinsky? Is Margery coming?
Sorry. Marjorie couldn’t fit us in. You’ve got double duty til I am back from Yoga.
Oh that’s great.
A nice chance to bond with the babies.
But then it is your turn. Right?
I will be on after yoga.
I am holding you to that.
* * *
Hey Babe. How was yoga class?
Good. What’s up with Little Guy?
He is walking around in the kitchen with a whole bunch of little animals in his arms. His face is streaked with tears and he is snuffling.
Yeah. I am letting him walk it off. Get it out of his system. Natasha Kinsky is sleeping like a baby, by the way. Give me some kudos.
Walk what off?
He had a tantrum… Can we go back to the kudos.
Oh no. What happened?
Well, we were hanging out in the kitchen. I was reading the paper. Little Guy was in hunter-gatherer mode. He was walking around picking up those little dwarfs that we got from Benny and Alice.
The Disney ones?
Yeah. He was rounding them up, but there are seven of them and he couldn’t get them all in his arms at the same time. Each time he picked one up another would fall out and he was getting very frustrated.
Did you help him?
He was in hunter-gatherer mode, Babe, he didn’t want my help.
Great. What happened then?
He got more and more frustrated. Although he did figure out that he could hold a dwarf under his chin in a pinch. It was a pretty funny sight. He had one in his mouth and one under his chin and he had all the others in his arms. Problem was he couldn’t get past six dwarves at one time. And when he tried to bend down for the last one he couldn’t keep his balance and so he kept falling down on his butt. And then he’d drop all of them and he’d have to start over again. His face got very red and he got very mad about things.
Then what happened?
Well I felt bad for him. So I got the idea that if I slipped one of the dwarves away he be able to pick up the rest and he would feel better.
How did that play?
Really bad idea. He became Smaug.
Remember the dragon in the Hobbit? He had a cave full of vast treasures and all he did was lay around on his bed of riches with one eye slightly open so he could survey his larder and if anyone were to disturb so much as a teacup he would know in an instant and would burst awake from his torpor breathing fire and causing demolition and destruction.
That was Smaug?
Actually that was Little Guy when he realized that I sneaked one of his dwarves away. You should have seen it. It was breathtaking.
He had a tantrum?
Oh that doesn’t begin to capture it. He was crying and bellowing. He turned as red as Clifford, that big red dog. And then he did this new thing. He started to stamp one foot like a bull pawing the ground before starting to charge.
He is a Taurus.
Tell me about it.
Did you give him back his dwarf?
I didn’t think that I should give in to a tantrum. I told him he should chill.
Oh no. You decided to talk him down? How did that work?
Not so well.
How long before you gave in?
About three minutes. He was getting so red in the face that I was worried that he might burst.
And what happened then?
Well here is the thing. By that time he had gotten himself so worked up that he couldn’t really get calm. He was pawing the ground and bellowing and he had this big red face and he couldn’t quite get his breath and so I thought he ought to just walk it off.
And that is what he is doing?
How long has he been walking it off now?
I haven’t timed it.
Good Lord. Couldn’t you come up with another strategy?
Oh man, I tried. I picked him up and I soothed him and them I sang him “Summertime” and even that didn’t work so I figured that maybe he ought to walk it off.
I don’t know that that was the best approach. Did you try a juice bottle?
Babe, the Little Guy has to learn how to walk it off. You can’t give him rewards when he behaves that way.
Let me ask you one thing. What have you been doing while he has been walking it off?
Listening mostly. Every couple of minutes I sneak in to see how it is going.
Why don’t you try giving him a waffle.
I just said: I don’t want to reward him for having a tantrum.
Bud, he is only seventeen months. He hasn’t done anything wrong.
Besides he already ate all the waffles and the waffle box too.
They start to throw tantrums around this age.
Actually I read that they start around two; Little Guy is precocious.
They are very natural.
Your mother said that you had terrible tantrums.
I used to hold my breath until I passed out.
That didn’t really happen, did it? You always hear that but I didn’t think it actually happened.
Bull. I am a Taurus too.
I am surrounded. A Chorus of Taurus’s. Is Little Guy is going to hold his breath until he passes out?
I hope he doesn’t try.
If he does, you have to deal.
Bud, with Natasha Kinsky on the scene, you are going to have to pick up more of the slack with Little Guy. Are you up for this?
We better get a lot of waffles. He is awfully determined. Listen: he is still bellowing in there. I can’t believe he hasn’t waken up Natasha Kinsky.
I hate to tell you this but I think you need a new strategy in dealing with the Little Guy.
I think my strategy is fine.
Except that it doesn’t work.
Doesn’t work yet. Over time, however, it will work like a charm. Little Guy is going to be a good family citizen.
Do you believe that you just said that? A Good Family Citizen.
Dreadful, was it?
Yup. Besides, half the time, you are no model family citizen.
But I really am serious. You can’t let a kid with a temper tantrum run the family.
Its just machismo. You think he is testing your willpower.
That’s exactly what he is doing. He’s used to getting his way with you and Margery and when I try to lay down some rules he goes into tantrum mode and as soon as he does you give him whatever he wants.
If you haven’t noticed, he is still out there pawing the ground and bellowing. I haven’t given him anything. The problem is that your stupid strategy ISN’T WORKING.
But other than that, what’s the problem?
Don’t you think that that is enough of a problem?
You just have give these things time, Babe.
* * *
Where are you going?
When will you be back?
It’s a tournament. I am hoping to be gone most of the day, but if I lose I first round I will be back at 11:00.
You need to take the Little Guy for an hour.
You have to. I am taking Natasha Kinsky to the doctor. I don’t want the Little Guy to go; he always gets sick from the kids in the waiting room.
Come on. I can’t take the Little Guy to squash. He is impossible.
I will pick him up on the way back. Probably be there by 10 or so.
Oh no. I can’t take him. He is incorrigible. Can’t we call your mother?
It won’t kill you. I will be there in an hour, hour and a half tops.
* * *
Where is Little Guy?
He is in his room.
How come you are back already? I stopped by and couldn’t find you.
I lost the first game.
Oh too bad. Who did you play?
I thought you beat him.
Who would have thought you could forfeit a squash tournament because your child was too loud.
Oh not really.
Really. Little Guy wanted onto the squash court and when I dragged him off he went deep into tantrum mode. Did the whole Taurus business. Turned deep red and it looked like his head was going to burst.
How did that go over?
It didn’t bother me. I am used to it. It wasn’t even as bad as the one with the dwarves this morning.
How did other people react?
Freaked out. All the other games stopped and they made me go and calm him down. I kept saying that he is always like this and they said I should take him out for a walk.
Tim called a forfeit?
Oh not at that point. It was only after I came back from the walk and Little Guy started screaming again.
They tossed you out because he was screaming?
No actually I think it was when he stated hammering on the glass door of my court with a vacuum attachment. I told him to cut it out but he didn’t think that was an important instruction to follow.
So you got the boot.
That’s pretty much it. Tim appreciated the assist.
You are taking it quite calmly.
Thank you for noticing. I didn’t want to over react when I chose his punishment.
You say that like it is a bad word.
It is a bad word.
You are not seriously going to suggest that he should not be punished for ruining my squash game?
He is 17 months, Bud. You don’t punish a 17 month old.
Of course you do.
Don’t worry. It was all done very fairly. First we had a trial.
You had a trial?
I did not think it fair to punish him until he had a trial.
What are you talking about?
I gave him a chance to speak in his own defense. He tried to claim that he should be excused from punishment because he doesn’t like squash, but that did not work. On cross, I exposed the fact that he had begged to go squash and had, indeed, made a solemn promise to behave. He did not want to concede the fact, but on cross I cracked him like a walnut.
Oh god. What moronic punishment did you impose?
I had to make him see the importance of keeping his bond.
What did you do?
Well you know those dwarfs?
The ones from Benny?
Yeah. Well I used them to show him the consequences of his bad behavior.
I can’t even imagine what you are going to say next.
I used one of the dwarfs for an object lesson.
What does that mean?
Well. I took the big one – I think it was Dopey or Grumpy – away from Little Guy. I deprived him of his dwarf.
And that was the punishment?
Yes it was. And I should probably confess that I treated him with disrespect.
You disrespected the Little Guy?
No. The dwarf.
What are you talking about?
Nothing dangerous. I just disrespected him….
How did you disrespect him?
I dipped him into that stew you had on the counter.
You did what?
I gave him a little swim in the stew. It was a perfect punishment. No violence of any sort. Just some disrespect to a plastic dwarf. And you will be pleased to know that I had washed off the dwarf in advance so it didn’t ruin the stew.
Good lord. How did he react?
Oh, Little Guy was not happy. You’d think I had dipped Little Guy in boiling water.
You are really a moron.
The punishment fit the crime.
He probably thought the little dwarf was a person and you were drowning him. Or cooking him. He will be marred forever.
I doubt it. And even if so, maybe it won’t be a bad thing. Maybe he won’t go ballistic the next time he goes to the squash court.
You are a moron…
* * *
Come on. Give me break. Talk to me.
Really. Speak to me. I am sorry. You’ve been giving me the big chill all day. I said I was sorry for dissing that dwarf. I didn’t realize that you would see it as such an affront to standards of the day.
You are a moron. Really you are. You have to use your brain from time to time. How is this boy going to learn how to behave if his father is a moron.
Well what do you think I should have done?
What would have been wrong with a Time Out?
Time Out? What a joke. He doesn’t care about Time Outs. He gets up as soon as you put him on the step. He thinks they are funny.
I don’t have any problem. I just put him on the stair and I hold his hands and I tell him in a firm voice that he can’t do what he was just doing.
Oh sure, that would have worked at the squash court.
You have to get him before he gets to that stage. He only has a tantrum because he is frustrated; you want to deal with that feeling before it turns into a tantrum.
But don’t you get it? Preventing his frustration means giving him what he wants. You don’t have any discipline issues because you always give him what he wants. That’s why Little Guy is such a problem.
He is not a problem. You are the problem. You think you are a hotshot lawyer, but you can’t outwit a 17th month old.
I agree with that. But at least I don’t just give in.
Bud, this is your issue. The little guy is fine with me. He is fine with my Mom. He is fine with Margery. The only time he is not fine is when he is under your charge. So you better get with the program.
There isn’t a program. That’s the point. He just does what he wants.
Oh there is a program. You just don’t get it.
* * *
What are you doing?
Sewing like with a needle and thread? What are you sewing?
You are sewing a toga?
It looks like you are sewing with a handkerchief. That’s a small toga.
It’s for the dwarf.
The one you cooked?
I did not cook him. The stew was on the counter for about two days. Trust me it was not hot.
Why are you making him a toga? Are you trying to get back on Little Guy’s good side?
Nah. He is fine. He seems to like the idea of cooking up a dwarf every so often.
Then what is the toga for?
I am trying to get back on your good side.
So you are horny. I get it.
Well you can forget it. I don’t feel like having sex.
Fine, fine, but I am having problems with the stitching. Can you help me here?
No way, bud. Stitching up a dwarf’s toga is Light Carpentry.
Aww, babe don’t be that way.
Yup. It’s definitely Light Carpentry.
– Jay Duret