Congress is in chaos. The situation is barely more reasonable at home.
Yesterday before dinner Jay walked into the kitchen and announced, “For my cold special treat I want pumpkin ice cream.”
“Your what?” I said.
“My cold special treat,” Jay said. “Everyday I get one special treat and one cold special treat.”
I admired his attempt to make his request seem reasonable by introducing a previously non-existent category of treat.
“First of all, you don’t get a cold special treat everyday,” I said. “Second of all, you don’t get any kind of special treat everyday. That’s why they’re special.”
The words were barely out of my mouth when Jay switched demands. He spied a container of donuts on the counter that we’d bought together the day before.
“I want a donut,” he said, feverish like a puppy, and grabbed the carton.
It was the fourth time that day Jay had asked me about the donuts and I was annoyed to be having this conversation again. I strong-armed the donuts out of Jay’s hands. He crumpled to the floor, flat on his back, legs kicking. The tears came fast.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “But one little boy who weighs less than forty pounds and has been alive for only four years cannot shutdown this entire family.”
“Please,” he said desperately, beginning to gasp for air. “I want a donut.”
“We are not going to talk about this while you are throwing a tantrum on the floor,” I said, and walked out of the room.
An hour later it was bedtime. All the screaming and crying had worn Jay out and he fell asleep quickly. I watched him for a minute, calm and still on the bed, and my heart went out to him. The poor boy can’t help but get all worked up over nothing.
Wally did not fall asleep as quickly. After his lullabies he came out of his room three times. Finally Caroline applied A&D to his doorknob.
“Do you see that,” she said, pointing to the slippery knob. “Don’t touch it or you’ll get A&D on your fingers.”
Wally hates to get A&D on his fingers, but he touched it anyway. Then he cried out, “Mama, I have A&D on me.”
After a few minutes we went in to clean him up. While Caroline wiped off his hands and cheeks, I got out a bubble lock for his doorknob. Wally has defeated this in the past by pulling it apart, but this time I wrapped it in three layers of masking tape. I turned off the light, laid Wally in his bed, and closed the bedroom door.
A minute later I heard him batting at the door lock. His voice rang out with a statement as absurd as his brother’s invocation of the cold treat. “I don’t need this tape,” he said, pathetically, over and over again. “I don’t need this tape.”
Upstairs in bed, Caroline and I smiled at each other. It took Wally a long time to accept that he wasn’t going to get his way. He kept spinning the lock, crying about the tape.
“Won’t you even negotiate about this,” I think I heard him say. Then, finally, he curled up at the base of door and went to sleep.