It’s public knowledge that toddlers are not known for their vast quantities of patience. Instead, the image is more of screaming, purple cries, stomping feet and/or thrashing on the floor. I often cover my face so I don’t get hit while Emile does his version of tilting at daddies. But he calms down quickly, at least, as I remind him of the obvious, saying “We don’t hit each other in this family.”
“But I want to,” is often his counter. And then there’s a discussion of why wanting to do something isn’t always a good enough reason to do it. At some point he will likely tack on a “But why?” and then we’ll have a whole new level of explanation to provide whilst ducking tiny blows.
Another tactic—I guess—is modeling the good behavior we want to see in him. Sometimes I tell him when I feel exasperated, but more often he notices my frustration and asks me what’s going on.
“Daddy just wishes the traffic light would turn green already.” “Well, I’ve been on hold for a while now and I would just like to resolve my customer service problem.” I’m sure a lot of this is over his head, but the point is that I’m talking despite my negative emotions, I’m digging a little deeper to continue being patient with an aggravating set of circumstances. That’s the lesson here, right?
We’re in Week 39 of Susanne’s pregnancy, and our patience at this point is thinner than a string of fibre optics carrying NSA eavesdroppers across the Atlantic Ocean. The baby is squirming, bonking Susanne from the inside, and throwing triple axels in a bid to become the youngest Olympian ever. It was several weeks ago now that mom redux started throwing her hips forward in a bid to maintain her center of gravity while walking, and now she’s just ready for a tiny human to emerge from her body. The cocoon is closing, kid. I whispered to her belly this morning, “Get out.” So far child number two ignores us as well as Emile does.
But part of the reality of being in Week 39 is that one’s partner should do whatever the person carrying the pregnancy asks for. No questions. If it’s a shoulder rub at 3AM, so be it. When Susanne and I walked into our local pho restaurant, I asked for spring rolls. Susanne LOVES their spring rolls. Or at least, she and I used to love them. We waddled in, found no empty tables, and decided to get our soup to go. Rolling with the punches, that sort of thing. I walked up to the counter to order. And the conversation quickly spiraled out of control.
“Hi there, what can I get for you?” Said in the hostess’s usual sing-song tone.
“Hi, how are you today? I’d like an order of the spring rolls.”
“Oh, we’re out of spring rolls.” (BTW, it was 1:15PM. They would be open for several more hours.)
“Well, could you roll one?” (I don’t know, maybe they were out of ingredients, or you know since they’d done this before…)
“I can’t do that.” (Also made no sense to me because I knew she was physically capable of it and had done it many times.)
“What do you mean you can’t? Are you too busy?” (I was genuinely confused.)
“We have shrimp rolls.”
“She’s allergic to shrimp, so we can’t have that.”
“So could you make a spring roll?” (Still genuinely confused.)
“Nope. But you could have a shrimp roll.”
“Uh. I already said we can’t eat that. So you’re unwilling to make a spring roll?”
“I can’t make any spring rolls until I’ve sold all of the shrimp rolls. Island’s orders.” (Island is the co-owner of the restaurant.)
“Let me make sure I understand. I could buy all of the shrimp rolls that we can’t eat and then you’d make a spring roll for us?”
“Or I could stand here and wait for random people to buy all of the shrimp rolls and then you’d make new spring rolls?”
“Exactly.” She seemed so happy that I finally understood.
“That is really unreasonable.”
“That’s how it is.”
I walked away from the counter, telling myself to calm my body like I tell Emile as he edges toward a tantrum. I looked at Susanne, my baby mama.
“They don’t have any spring rolls. What soup was it you wanted again?”
“Pho tai.” I nodded and went back to the counter. I had been gone all of eight seconds.
She met my eyes for an instant and then told me “Just a minute and I’ll be right with you!”
I stood there as the hostess put some vegetables on a plate and brought it out to a table. Fine. She ducked back behind the counter and filled a small bowl with peanut sauce. She stirred broth, opened and closed cabinet doors without inserting or removing anything from them.
Holy crap, she’s avoiding me, I thought.
“Excuse me,” I said, no longer trying to hide my annoyance. “Are you ignoring me? Are you actually pretending I’m not here?”
No more than three feet away from me, she continued to putter around, and didn’t acknowledge my question.
I turned on my heel and walked back up to Susanne.
“Really? What’s going on?”
“They don’t want to sell us anything but shrimp rolls.”
We went to a sandwich shop and had a great lunch. But as we headed out the door of the pho restaurant, the owner saw us and waved excitedly. “Hi!” she said.
“Hi!” I said. But I won’t be going back. I just don’t have the patience, and I need to be a good model to two kids now on finding ways to survive life’s irritations.