The wail erupted like the scream of a firehouse siren. “Nooo! No, Mommy, no! I don’t WANT Quinn to play with my toy! No, Quinn, no! Nooooo!”
Saoirse, I told her, calmly. Quinn’s playing with the turtle toy right now, and then you can have a turn.
So into time-out Saoirse went, except this time she was thrashing around like a caught fish on the deck of a boat, which reminded me exactly why we temporarily abandoned the time-out system months ago (yeah, I know consistency is key, but do you have a three-year-old?!). So I did what the nurse at the pediatrician’s office mentioned once and sat down with her, arms wrapped around her, for the duration of the three minutes. Oh-so easy, according to the nurse. “You just have to hold her,” she said.
Well. When your kid is the size of a six-year-old, and has muscles like some sort of ox on steroids, and she’s squirming around in your hold like a cat about to get its claws trimmed, and she’s screaming “MOM! This isn’t COM-fort-ble!!” you just have to silently curse advice from people whose kids are grown and thank your lucky stars the windows aren’t open so the neighbors can’t hear what sounds like a reason to call child protection services.
Three minutes is never so long as when you’re trying to contain a writhing preschooler on your lap once she’s gone all sweaty, unless–unless!–her younger sister spots what’s happening, grows instantly jealous, and breaks into tears herself, mouth agape, lower lip stuck in the most pitiful pout I’ve seen, staring at you with hurt in her eyes before she starts crawling over the three-year-old who’s occupying her mother’s lap, begging for a hug while I’m trying to reign in SK’s legs from accidentally smacking her in the jaw. Then, and only then, does three minutes truly seem like an eternity.
“HAS THE BUZZER GONE OFF YET?!” Saoirse hollers, two inches from my face, while Quinn wailed. Have you ever read John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany (if not, please do. You’ll never forget it, I promise)? You know how Owen’s always hollering in all caps? It was kind of like that, in my head. “HAS THE BUZZER GONE OFF YET?!”
And then, blessedly, the buzzer on the microwave sounded. Saoirse relaxed. Quinn got her hug, and I wondered if going back to work would really be a bad idea for me. I looked around the room, trying to remember what I’d been doing three minutes prior, when David emerged in the kitchen. He’d been upstairs on a call for work, hiding out from the wrestling match downstairs out of necessity (not sure clients would be impressed by what sounded like rabid tigers in the background), and now he was freshly showered, work bag and phone in hand, looking professional and handsome as he filled a mug with coffee. I knew he had a to-do list for the day as long as Santa’s naughty list. He smiled at me, sheepishly, kissed us all quickly, and hurried out the door.
“Okay, girls, bye! Love you! Have a good day,” he called, and locked the door behind him. By this time, the girls were playing together, looking through a basket filled with toys, talking softly. I took a deep breath, and went back to loading the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher.
Eh. Work doesn’t seem like so much fun after all.
It’s halfway through the first week of summer break. We’ve gone…