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.***