Today I cried about a machine.
Lately, Charles has been acting out a ton. He doesn’t listen, endures time out after time out, smack on the butt after smack on the butt, and loss of privilege after loss of privilege, but nothing seems to make much difference. Our doctor said that he’s “pretty normal,” which I guess he is, and that “his brain doesn’t work yet.” Meaning that he can’t reason through his emotions and his actions like an adult.
Aside: I love that our doctor says stuff like that. It reminds me of Bill Cosby’s “Brain Damage” routine.
So because he is brain damaged, we have to reason for him, and keep explaining situations, helping him to master his reactions when things don’t go his way (which seems to be every minute sometimes), and being consistent with punishment.
For example, every morning Charles wants to do everything, all by himself. He wants to feed the dog, get the newspaper, make the coffee, make the toast, butter the toast, get the cereal, pour the cereal, pour the milk, pour the orange juice, et cetera. Some of these activities are not three-year-old activities and the others, well, if he got to do all of them our morning routine would last from 6:30 to 10 am every day. But when he notices that the coffee has already been made, or the dog fed, or the newspaper brought in, he enters complete and total meltdown: “I wanted to do it!” he’ll shriek in the most horrifically whiny voice you’ve ever heard. “No! I wanted to do it!!!”
Lately, the only cure is a time out. Removing him from the situation so he can cool off. Then we can explain that he doesn’t get to do everything, that once a thing is done we are not going to undo it just so he can make the coffee or whatever, and that he isn’t allowed to yell and pitch a fit all the time. Hoo, boy, I have this conversation every morning, it seems like.
In the evening, it’s a bit different. Charles acts a bit crazy, hyper and out of control. It’s as if he is grasping at the last bit of activity he can squeeze out of the dying hours of the day. Honestly, most of the time, when Tony and I work together on bedtime, he is pretty calm and only mildly annoying (“No! I want to put the toothpaste on the toothbrush!” “Mommy, I wanted to wear the froggy pyjamas!”). He works through the routine with what I imagine is the normal amount of toddler stalling and silliness until he actually gets into bed for stories, at which point he is relatively calm and most of the time goes right to sleep. But when I’m alone? Chaos.
Lately, he likes to run into Jamie’s room ahead of us, climb the rocking chair up to the changing table and lie down. This makes it difficult, of course, for me to change Jamie or get him dried off after bath or whatever, so I remove Charles, usually with force. This evening he did this little routine after bath, when Jamie was wet and in a flimsy infant towel (I don’t know why I feel the need to use those things, they’re so thin), and I shouted at him to get down, then removed him, as per usual. By this point, Charles had already lost two stories for splashing Jamie in the face during bath, so you can tell that we weren’t exactly on a happy path here.
Then he got mad at me (I guess he had reached the end of his rope, too) and picked up my Kindle from the shelf, threw it on the floor, and rocked the rocking chair over it. I heard a sickening crack. Then Charles got to feel a crack on his bare butt.
It was ruined. The screen was cracked. Never to be read again.
I haven’t been without that Kindle for almost a year. It was a birthday gift from my dad and father-in-law, and probably one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received. I love it. No, really. I love that machine.
It was white, and the older model with the full keyboard. It had wireless and 3G. I had all my books sorted into nifty categories. It had my name written in blue fine-tip sharpie on the back.
Tony, who had been working in the rain in the yard on the first chunk of a fence rebuild (awesome job for his first free weekend since February, right? Wait for it, he gets even sweeter before this paragraph is over), saw my distress, took the dead Kindle out of my hands, and left me to put the baby to sleep (since I’m the one with the boobs). Then, after a bit, I heard the garage door open and the car start. I assumed he was leaving for karaoke – we had made plans with friends, but we couldn’t find a sitter, so Tony is out without me tonight – but he came back. With a new Kindle.
He hadn’t even showered or changed before running off.
He said, “I’ve seen few things bring you so much joy as that book.”
I might’ve cried again.
It’s not as cool. In fact, it’s the base model, with the extra advertisements and “sponsorships” and no 3G and it’s black instead of white, but it’s mine. And as soon as it’s done charging, I can download that book I was in the middle of reading. And maybe this time I’ll learn to keep it far away from little fingers.