The Meltdown

"Alright everybody, we are going to let this happen."

I can feel the collective moan from the ten people behind me waiting in line.  I don't think they like my announcement.  The breeze their sighs make pushes past me and I'm pretty sure I can hear some whispered "shits" carried on that wind.  I get it, I know that they are frustrated.  Some mothers, probably some fathers, a few kids--all waiting in line behind the kids and I, all waiting to check out.  They just want to pay their money for the little trinkets, hand cash over so they can get their new clothes placed in a bag and they can be on their way.

But no one can because Bacon Hoss is losing his shit.  Defcon 1, Red Alert, full on biblical meltdown right there at the cash register.  Hands slapping the floor, his back arched, butt lifted up--the kind of meltdown that people will refer to by the season and the year.  Old men will meet down at the feed store, they will hear a tractor rumble outside that is loud and obnoxious.  That will jolt their memories and they will say to each other "Boy howdy, ya'll remember the meltdown of summer 17?  Jesus Lord, God Above!  That was a biggun, wasn't it!"  Then everyone will nod their head over the shared experience while making the sign of the cross.  

This isn't just my problem anymore, boy howdy no.  This is OUR problem.  This is our shared experience, the event that forever bonds us.  We will all send Christmas cards to eachother for the next ten years.

I could have told my four-year-old yes, yes he can have the toy.  I could have backed down from my previous threat, made just 5 minutes before.  But I told him, I freaking told him.  "If you hit your sister again, you can't get a toy.  I don't care if it's only a buck.  You hit, you get nothing."  Maybe he thought I was joking, good old funny dad always making the jokes.  I do joke but this is too big for jokes.  This isn't just about getting a toy, a little misbehavior.

No, this is about his future.  This is about showing him that popping your sister in the face with a plastic golf club is going to have consequences.  What happens if I let this go?  Then he thinks he can get away with it all the time.  He goes to elementary school, beats up some kid for his lunch money.  He enters high school, carjacks someone for a joyride.  Pretty soon, we've got a 25-year-old tweaker running around the town snorting whip cream cans for thrills.  So no, we can't crack.  I have to stay firm.  WE have to stay firm, all of us waiting in line.  Bacon Hoss has gotta learn.  But also, he's pretty much just being a butthole.

Like I said, this isn't my choice anymore.  It's something that WE have to do.  All us mom's and dads waiting in line to check out.  All ten of them back there.  We have to be strong.  We have to show a good example.  We have to stick to our guns.  Sometimes it does take a village to raise a child.  And sometimes it takes just ten of us saying "fuck it," and letting the temper tantrum happen.

Bacon is still screaming on the floor.  I'm just watching him.  He hasn't slowed down at all.  He's hitting notes and octaves that shouldn't be possible.  White flakes drift down from above as the popcorn covering on the ceiling is vibrated off.  I'm worried that the glass cases next to us will shatter and all those two dollar plastic earnings kept inside will melt.  He's using his legs to now turn in little circles, his gray cloth shorts bunching up.  His hands tear at his t-shirt, snot runs down his face leaving little snail trails to the floor.  If this was an Olympic sport, he would win a gold.  Hands down, no competition at all.   Even the Russian judge would love him.  

I just look at my kid, arms crossed the classic Dad pose.  The one that says "You done with this shit yet?"  After three kids, I have perfected this.  All dads have.  During the birthing class in the hospital, this is the last thing they teach you.  While your wife talks to other moms all the dads in the class get together and we practice together until someone cries.  That's how you know you've got it down pat.  I turn to the cashier, smile, and hand her my debit card.  Bacon thinks he trying to embarrass me.

I'm beyond being embarrassed.  This isn't even the worst things my kids have ever done to me.  We got a long way to reach that threshold.  My oldest once pulled down my swimming trunks at the pool because she wanted to climb up for a hug and that was the best hand hold.  No Bacon, we got a long way to go for me to be embarrassed.

I pay for our clothes, our trinkets, whatever junk I have let the other two kids with me pull off the shelves.  I am tired and my wallet hurts.  I usher the older two kids towards the door with a big sweeping motion of my arms.  They've been through this before with me, they know the drill.  I actually step over Bacon and head for the door.

He stops crying, no more whimpers.  He's thinking to himself "Did you see that shit?  He just stepped right over me like I wasn't even there."  I'm walking slow, not a hurry in the world.  I hear him get to his feet.  He screams "wait!"  Little plastic soles of his shoes smack against the plastic linoleum on the floor.  His face rams into the back of my leg, almost pulling down my cargo shorts.  That would have been embarrassing.  He should have started with that rather than the tantrum.  I turn around and pick him up, letting him bury his face into my t-shirt and I can feel his snot transfer smoothly to my chest.  Gross, but it's a comforting move and that what we are doing now.

"No more fits?  Right?"
"Yes, Daddy."
"And you won't hit your sister anymore?"
"No, Daddy."
"Say you're sorry to your sister."
"Like you mean it."
"I"m sorry sissy."

I look back at the others in line.  There's probably a few smiles on their faces if I looked long enough.  If it's from them being happy I'm leaving, or the total fathering victory I have just achieved, I don't know.  I nod at them.

Good job team.  Well done.  I'll be back at this same department store tomorrow and then we can all give the birds and the bees talk to my daughter.  That should actually get embarassing.


No comments:

Post a Comment