My three-year old daughter, Violet, is on the floor; she’s a wild wind of Goldfish crumbs and apple juice.
Her eyes: little sinking rowboats, endless tears collected in the pails of her eyeballs and thrust over the heaving stern of her lids.
It’s a meltdown.
It’s the last train down to Tantrum Town.
Our mornings are typically smooth. We rise before dawn, before the roosters and the cow milkers and the sun, or even the idea of the sun. We glide into the kitchen, holding hands in the “darken” as she calls it, and I wander over to pop some lamp-light on and splash some water down in the Mr. Coffee.
I give Violet breakfast and keep listening for her little brother, Henry, and soon enough he joins the morning jam and we are all sitting there ping-ponging between some CNN and some Neverland Pirates, or whatever.
Things go real good for awhile.
Then, around 10 AM, well…Violet is gushing sobs out now, and here I am, once again, in the middle of something so massive and so immediate, and yet it is something that I have absolutely no idea how to handle. One second, I am gingerly trying to coax her away from the kitchen table, and up the steps for “Tub Time”: fully aware that the Witching Hour is upon us.
The next second she is lying on her back on the kitchen floor: screeching/her tiny lips curled back like a sleeping squirrel on the roadside, framing her sweet gappy choppers. Big drops of hot rain come plopping down out of her stormy face while I try to talk to her calmly, like an idiot.
“Hey honey, what’s wrong? Why is my baby so sad?” I ask her.
She responds like a mob guy having lit cigs pressed into his neck fat.
“Didn’t you like your snack, sweetie? Didn’t you like your Goldfish and apple juice?”
Seriously, dude? That’s the best you’ve got? Didn’t you like your Goldfish? That is so weak, I know.
But still. What else can I say?
Air raid sirens are going off.
Carpet bombing comes rolling across the kitchen: BOOM-BOOM-BOOM- the shrill whistle of the next one falling, and then: BA-BOOOOM!
My kid is kicking the floorboards and clawing at the air and for a second or two I start wondering if this is gonna turn into something evil, like one of those horror flicks where some toddler’s eyeballs start flipping around and turn deep red and next thing you know: there is a new sheriff in town.
I circle Violet a little trying to say the magic thing, but I’ve yet to nail it.
“Would you like a Sharing Sticker?,” I try, desperate for the power of the bribe, and that seems to work for a sec. She evens out, a tired thunderstorm slipping out of town. We head over to the microwave, where I keep the sticker stash.
I’m a fool.
I have like 30,000 stickers: Mickey Mouse, butterflies, alligators eating pizza with Jack Nicholson. I’ve got them all, for times like these.
“Here”, I offer. “Pick any one you want.”
Swans. Honey bees in tuxedos. Goofy doing aerobics. She looks through them, and passes.
“Dinosaurs?” she says, peering up at me through her mist.
My heart sinks. We are fresh out of dinosaurs.
I try to stall, but it’s useless.
And then, it is what it is. A good kid with a bee in her bonnet. And a Daddy with a stack of stickers worth less than anything in this world.