Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
Write Phil at phil.bencomo @ gmail.com
by Derek Smart
My daughter had one of those nights last night - those of you who have/had a four year-old will know what I mean. She's tired because she'd been up late the night before, and she's hungry because she's four and often just decides that playing is more fun than eating, so she's got what's known in the business as a hysteria hair-trigger. It's the sort of thing where the difference between hot cocoa and chocolate milk can cause an emotional Chernobyl. In case you're wondering, these sort of shenanigans are exactly why children evolved to be cute: it's nature making sure they survive.
During one of her bouts of passion, she had taken a basket full of her various hair dressing items - hair bands, combs, little scrunchie things - and one-by-one flung them about the hallway as a statement of general displeasure. We've learned that the best way to handle these situations is to just walk away and let her complete her cycle of rage. Approaching her merely inflames things, both because it reminds her who she's mad at, and because it gives her the belief that, having clearly engaged us in the process, she is mere moments of psychological assault away from getting what she wants.
As time has gone on, and our ability to ignore the fireworks has become more robust, these fits have become shorter, simply because she's not gotten the attention she so clearly wants from them. True, in the beginning she's really angry, but as the show winds down, you can hear her trying to keep it going, pushing herself to cry just a little bit more in the hopes that someone will come and give her reason to ramp up again. Eventually, she comes to you and apologizes, or at least asks for a hug.
Of course, there's often a post-apocalyptic mess to deal with, like there was last night, and one must make the delicate decision as to whether she will be made to do the deed as is her just dessert, or whether you'll be sucking it up and handling it later in the interest of Peace In Our Time. It's a critical decision, one that has the potential to make or break your entire evening, so it's important to stay level-headed, important to keep your wits about you so that you're able to assess the situation on the ground and make a clear call about the relative likelihood of beginning the cycle anew; because the truth is, we've found there's little or nothing to be gained in the way of a 'life lesson' by cracking the whip when the child is this young, and despite the apologies and affection, the fact is they're often still waiting for any reason to re-light the flamethrower.
Such was the case last night, and after taking an appraisal of the damage, both physical and spiritual, realized that the pile in our primary walkway was best dealt with by a neutral party after all was fully quiet, that enforcing a level of responsibility would not so much instill a sense that actions beget consequences, as reintroduce fuel to a mound of smoldering kindling. These are the hard choices that come the way of parents. You want to teach your child to be a good citizen, but sometimes they're simply not open to the lesson. The trick is being able to strike that balance and sense when you can teach, and when you should back off. Last night was very clearly the latter.
So once we'd put her to bed, I began watching my recording of the ballgame, and by the time the third inning was complete, it was safe to assume that she was asleep and settled. I paused the DVR, went into her room to retrieve the basket meant for the items in question, and got to tidying.
It's in moments like these, where I'm essentially alone, performing some relatively mundane task, that I'm most likely to begin talking to myself. In full sentences. Out loud. In fact, I am so committed to this mode of thinking with volume that my ideas come out in a conversational tone that implies I will eventually answer in kind, perhaps to agree, perhaps to offer a counter-point. Either way, it's likely disturbing to stumble upon.
No one did, however, and on this occasion the single-sided-exchange turned to what could be expected in the 4th inning. I noted that each team was starting their second time through the order, and each would send their 3-4-5 hitters to the dish. The more I thought/spoke, the clearer it became to me that, much like the moment I had faced earlier, the outcome of the game very likely rested on what happened in these next few moments - specifically, over the next six outs. Each team was sending their best hitters forward, each having seen what the opposition had to offer, and whomever emerged from this battle with the fewest scars would likely be victorious.
Not in the least bit earth-shattering as conclusions go, but as it turned out, undeniably true. While the Cubs got their pound of flesh in the form of an Aramis Ramirez two-run bomb, the Astros got the walks the Cubs failed to draw throughout the evening, and when Hunter Pence got a hold of a tasty offering from Ryan Dempster, they had two pounds and the game well in hand. Although the free passes set up the Salami, it was that one pitch, that one mistake, that sealed the deal.
Sometimes the kid can clean up her mess, and sometimes you have to do it for her. Sometimes you escape the loaded bases, and sometimes you give up a Slam. It's all about the choices you make and the things you do, and how well you recover when they turn out to be mistakes. Last night we gave my daughter a pass and got a nice evening in return. Ryan Dempster let a fastball come back over the plate and gave up four runs. Tonight, something different will happen, because it always does, and when it does, here's hoping that we all make the right choices, that we're up to the challenge, and that everyone gets a nice night out of it.