11:25 AM EDT, March 30, 2010
So, this farm, it had chickens. And recently my daughter, Nora, has learned how to make a chicken sound. Sort of. As much of a chicken sound as an 18-month-old can make, anyway.
That is first and foremost why I stopped at this farm off 495 in Massachusetts as we were driving home from a short vacation recently. It was just me and her, as my husband had to stay home to work, and those trips can be challenging. Nora's good in the car - she sleeps a lot - but at a certain point she basically lays down the law and says something along the lines of, "Listen, I'm strapped in back here and I want out do you HEAR ME?" except that the sentiment pretty much manifests itself in crying.
Anyway, we had a few more hours until we'd be home so I decided we would stop at this so-called farm that was basically just a country store and, truthfully, the only animal they had was chickens, but whatever, we both could stretch our legs and I could get a badly needed coffee.
When we got there, though, I realized that the farm had ice cream. Nora has recently learned about ice cream, which she calls "ammi," and when I say "learned about," what I mean is that she's tried it a couple times, and has determined that ice cream ("ammi") is the most wonderful thing in the world, and if she is having her ammi and she should be separated from it for even a millisecond, hell will ensue, she is totally not kidding.
This reaction is what I should have been thinking about when I noticed that this place had homemade ice cream, but what I thought instead was, "I should get Nora an ice cream. She's such a good girl and this will be a nice memory I can talk about when she's older - that time we stopped at the farm on the way home and I got her a vanilla ice cream."
It started out like a nice memory should, with me buying her a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a cup and us settling on a wooden bench outside because it was such a nice day. With Nora digging into her ice cream with the little plastic spoon - she's only recently learned to use a spoon, not very well, but well enough to get the job done - and then smiling at me like it was the best day of her life.
Of course, since she's 18-months-old and doesn't get things like, oh, physics, her method of eating the ice cream involved her pushing the cup farther and farther away from her body with each spoonful until I realized it was going to fall off the bench. I reached for the cup to keep it in place, but I had totally forgotten about the fact that this sweet little child, who was having the best day of her life and all, does not allow people to touch her ice cream under threat of death. And as I reached she panicked and grabbed the cup, holding it up in the air as far away from me as she could manage and yelling at me. She'd snapped.
I tried explaining to her that if she held it like that? At an almost-upside-down angle? It was going to fall out of the cup, but the thing is, she also doesn't understand every single word I say, and my argument meant nothing to her. Besides, she was beyond persuasion at this point and, try as I might, I could not, under any circumstances, hold that cup of ice cream for her so, yeah, exactly, you saw it coming. As we struggled for control the cup flew through the air and landed on the ground in a little bed of mulch.
Nora's eyes filled up with tears faster than I thought humanly possible and she let loose this scream from the depths of her soul. In the insanity of the moment - which yes, did involve plenty of onlookers - I dove for the ice cream cup and surveyed the damage thinking that maybe, somehow, the ice cream could be saved. Just a little bit of mulch on top, I could scrape that off, no big deal. I'm not kidding you, I might have, had it not been for all the other people around. I was more worried about their reactions to me feeding my daughter ice cream that had landed in mulch than I was about her ingesting a little dirt.
So because I didn't feel like inciting people's stringent views on sanitation, I picked Nora up, strode over to the trash can and threw the ice cream away. She was being ridiculous - wailing "AMMI AMMI AMMMMMMMMMIIIIIIIIIIIIII" - but she was also breaking my heart. She loved that ice cream so, so much, and I do understand that toddlers don't have the rationale to deal with such a situation the same way that adults do. I whispered to her that it was ok and that I was sorry that had happened.
As I've discussed in previous posts I don't know the best thing to do when confronted with a tantrum like this. On his parenting Web site, Dr. Sears writes that frustration tantrums (as opposed to tantrums thrown because the child knows the action will get him or her what he or she wants) require empathy. This was certainly a frustration tantrum; Nora had just lost something very precious to her because her mother had tried to mess with it. But I also felt that beyond my comforting her, she needed to deal with it. Get over the ammi.
I felt that way for about two or three seconds.
Then I marched up to the counter, with her yelling for ammi the entire way, and I bought her another one.
A few minutes later, as I was buckling her into her carseat - since I'd decided that she could totally eat her ice cream in the backseat even with her mediocre spoon skills, I didn't care - I asked her, "Nora, do you love me?" in sort of a joking, I've-been-defeated tone. Now, despite the fact that she doesn't understand gravity or the logic of letting adults reposition her precarious cup, she has truly been advancing in her comprehension skills as of late. I didn't think she'd respond, but what she did was, she leaned forward - cheeks still wet with tears - and she went, "mmmwaaaaahhhh." That's the sound she makes to indicate she's kissing you, whether or not her lips actually make contact.
I welled up, I couldn't help it, and I know, I know, that this is the typical pat ending to such a tale of danger and destruction. My baby had a tantrum but she still loves me. And yeah, I did want to tell you about the part where my daughter reverted back from being a monster to an adorable child who I love more than life.
But most of all, the moral of the story that I'm really trying to get across is that, as a parent, you are not always going to know the right thing to do. So sometimes, screw it, just buy your kid another ice cream.