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LJ10: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting our time”
“Hi Honey, I’m home.”  Dawn paused in the entryway listening for her greeting to be returned, and quickly realized that this was not a time for frivolity.  Penny was lying in the center of the living room floor sobbing and muttering and Joan was sitting on the couch with an expression that could mean she was going to start crying herself, or screaming, or throwing things.

Dawn slowly walked over to Penny and knelt down next to her.  “Hey Pumpkin, what’s wrong?”

Penny started kicking at her without much energy and might have been saying words but she was crying too hard to make any sense of them.  Dawn reached out to touch her child and Penny started thrashing and screaming.  Dawn backed away to the couch and sat next to Joan, and Penny’s tantrum retreated to the limp sobbing that she had walked in on.

“So… how was your day?” Dawn asked.

Joan’s responding noise was somewhere between a groan and a chuckle.  “Penny’s been helping today.”

“With what?” They both automatically pitched their voices so their daughter wouldn’t hear.

“Everything.  She helped me make bread, speaking of which be careful in the kitchen, I haven’t gotten all the flour swept up yet and it’s slippery.  She helped fold laundry and put all the socks in ‘pretty pairs’ which isn’t the same as matching.  She helped water the plants, and pick up everything that wasn’t tied down to put away, and yell at the squirrels.”  Dawn looked confusedly at Joan who sighed, “I wasn’t yelling at squirrels at the time but she insisted she was helping me by keeping them out of our tree.”

“With Penny being so helpful everything took longer than I thought this afternoon and time got away from me a little.  I still needed to get our travel details together to send your brother before he left the office today.  I pulled out the laptop and Penny wanted to help.  I told her she could help by telling me a story or singing me a song, but she wasn’t buying it.   I even tried to distract her with the squirrels but apparently there are times that they can be in the tree and times they can’t.  I didn’t have time for Penny to help me, and I didn’t have time to wend my way to the end of an argument versus three year old logic.  I told Penny that she couldn’t help me with this one thing, but in just a few minutes we could find something else to do.  She threw herself on the floor crying and hasn’t stopped.”

“You copied me on that email; you sent it 90 or so minutes ago.”

Joan nodded.  Dawn put her arm around her wife and squeezed.

“You’ve tried all the regular tantrum breakers?”

“Yup.  Nothing worked, not even cartoons. She is tired from all the helping so she has to cry herself out soon.  I was hoping that you being a different mommy would work in our favor but ..”

“I’ll take Penny duty for the rest of the night.”  They sat quietly together for a few minutes, watching as their daughter finally seemed to run out of tears.  “One more thing Joan,” Dawn said, “you are a fabulous mother with huge reservoirs of patience.  Thank you for letting our daughter be helpful today.”

“Who knew this would be the phase that would be so difficult?”  They grinned at each other and both got off the couch.  Joan went to clean the kitchen and Dawn sat on the floor near their daughter to sing her a quiet song.  The worst of the tantrum was over, but Penny avoided Joan for the rest of the night.


In the morning Joan was in the kitchen having a cup of coffee when Penny came bouncing in “Mommy, I had a happy dream and –“ she stopped speaking when she realized it was Joan.

“Penny, I’m sorry about yesterday.  Sometimes mommies have to do adult things, and they have to do them without help.”


Joan took another sip of coffee, struggling to come up with an answer that wasn’t ‘because I said so’ and that a three-year old would still understand.  “When I have to do things without your help, it’s usually because they aren’t any fun.”

“Oh.  But I can still help with fun things, like laundry?”

“Yes, Pumpkin, you can help with the fun things.”

Penny pondered for a moment and whispered something into the ear of her teddy bear.  She held the bear’s snout to her ear and then nodded.  “Okay.  Can I have eggs for breakfast and tell you about my dream?”

“I would love to hear about your dream.”  Joan moved to the refrigerator and pulled out the carton of eggs.  Penny dropped her bear and ran over to the counter.  “Can I help break eggs, mommy?  It’s a fun thing.”

“Sure thing, Pumpkin, I would love your help.”

***Here's my entry for week 10 of Idol, other entries on the topic can be found by clicking here.  This is fiction, but I pulled a few of the details from spending time with the various children I know.***

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There was such a sweet tone to this, and I think it's a topic parents or people who spend a lot of time around little kids can sympathize with all too well.

Including details like deciding that sometimes it's all right for the squirrels to be in the trees, meaning that yelling at them is suddenly a non-priority compared to the current 'helping' effort...

Kid logic blows my mind - you know there has to be some reason in their heads why some thing is so vital, but as a grown up it's usually impossible to figure out.

I wanted to avoid angry this week, I'm glad sweet is how this read.

Oh, poor kid. She must have felt kind of worthless. And children panic when everything around them is out of their control.

Sometimes it's a no win situation. I will forever be astonished at how deeply small children can care about things that appear to adults to be inconsequential.

this was beautiful, as a mom of girls who LOVE to help I can totally relate, I do wish though that I had Joan's patience.

Thank you! I am not a mom, this was inspired partly after spending a lot of time with good friends of ours and their kids over a recent weekend. It takes so much energy and patience.

I enjoyed reading this, partly because our children did not "help" when they were little and hate to help when older, and partly because I just like to read stories about little children!

My nieces and nephews are big helpers, which I never want to discourage but sometimes, oof. Thanks, hopefully Penny actually sounded like she was three.

Aww..this was the cutest entry I read this week..loved the way the parents handled Penny..Good work! Loved it!

Thank you. I purposely wanted to find a gentler take on this topic, I'm glad it worked for you.

Neat to see both the mother-daughter relationships and the marriage relationship. Nice the way you switch between them.

Thank you. In my very first draft the parent coming home was Doug, and then I thought but it doesn't have to be a he and revamped.

This is so sweet, and so true to three year olds and mommies.

Except, I would have been curled up into a shell on that couch because there would excessive yelling.

Being a mommy is HARD.

Being a mommy is SUPER hard. I'm not, so I can go and visit friends with kids and be helped to play a game for hours because I don't do it all the time. I am amazed and astonished at all parents.

The turnaround from tantrum-fueled psychosis to reasonable negotiator is just another reminder that mentally and physically, kids are made of rubber.

Three year old logic is astounding to me. Part of the inspiration for this was our friends' son who wanted to wear a long sleeved shirt despite the fact that it was 80 degrees out and they were going to the park. His parents told him no, and he threw a 2 hour tantrum. Once at the park, in short sleeves, everything was fine.

I'm not a child person. I fear all that "help" would turn me into a lunatic! Very well-written.

When I go to visit I can get through being helped for several hours because I know I get to go home and leave the children behind. I don't know how parents do it.

Thank you!

This is very familiar to me. :)

Heh, my nieces and nephews are big helpers. Which is awesome until it's just not.

I'm glad this felt familiar, I was a little worried about these voices not being a parent myself.

I love this on 48 different levels, and Joan wins not only the patient award, but also the fucking brilliant prize. That "not fun stuff" was just a pure stroke of genius! Well played!

Thank you! I'm not sure any adult could be that patient in reality but it is fiction ;).

This was really wonderful. I am going to have to remember that 'not fun stuff' for my 3 year old helper! lol

Thank you. You'll have to let me know if it actually works, I got stuck there myself for a bit writing for Joan and it was the only thing I could think of. I'm a little afraid it could rebound once a child is ten ('I'm not cleaning my room, it's not fun'), but I'm not sure any of us think in long game terms with small children.

I'm a bit lat on this, but anted to tell you that I enjoyed it very much. It's so nice to read about home life with two women, which is rarely written. As a lesbian, I especially appreciate it.

Thank you for your kind words and for taking the time even after the vote to let me know you liked it. I'm glad.

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