The Crazy Train
The busy street between the house and the school is the new water’s edge…
C (screaming): I don’t want to hold your hand!
Daddy tightens his grip on her wrist as they walk down their street toward school.
C (close to the top of her lungs): I don’t want to hold your hand, Daddy! I don’t want to hold your hand!
D: You aren’t holding my hand, Cory. Fisher is holding my other hand, and I am holding yours with this one. Forcibly. And I am not letting go. It’s time to go to school. Now, things would go better, if you would just try to calm your body and calm your mind, Cory. Screaming doesn’t…
C (reaching with her free hand to try to rescue the held one): I don’t want to…HOLD…YOUR…HAND!
D (keeping the held hand away from her free one): It’s time to go to school, Cory. You can’t miss the bell.
As she keeps screaming, “I don’t want to hold your hand, Daddy!”, Daddy presses forward, using his fingers to pinch her free hand the next time that it tries to wrench her held hand free.
C (crying out dramatically): You hurt me, Daddy! You hurt me!
D: Stop trying to get your hand free. You are going to school. It would be better for you if you calmed down.
F: Yes, Cory. Calm your body, okay?
C (loudly so that every neighbor within three houses would hear, if the hearing aids are in yet): But, you hurt me, Daddy! You did that on purpose. You pinched me!
Daddy stops and kneels down in front of Cory’s wild eyes, his grip on her wrist not loosening one bit. “Listen, Cory. I am sorry if that pinch hurt. But, despite multiple warnings, you jumped on the crazy train this morning. I told you not to get on it, but you did. I’ve told you time and again, when you feel yourself getting too tired, just tell Daddy, or at least try really hard to listen to Daddy. But, you didn’t. And here we are. Your bell rings at 8:15, and you have two choices: you can either calm your body and calm your mind and go to school or you can keep screaming and crying and when we get to school, we will drop Fisher off and you and I can walk back home. And, you can stay in your room all day. You won’t see Mrs. Powell. You won’t see Danny. You won’t see your other friends. You decide.” Daddy stands back up and keeps walking.
She cries. Reason lowered her volume a bit, without solving the problem. She cries. And cries…until the crossing guard comes into sight, at which point, the crying stops abruptly. The guard lifts the STOP sign and says, “Good morning!”
D: Good morning!
F: Good morning!
Cory is quiet. Once on the school grounds, Fisher drops Daddy’s hand here and there to gesture or run for a bit. Daddy loosens his grip on Cory, but suddenly her own grip tightens back. Tears dry. Shoulders drop. Daddy stops, bends down, hugs her, and says absolutely nothing.
The hug ends and within minutes, Cory is laughing on the swings, calling out to Daddy to watch how she can pump her own legs now and go “so high, right, Daddy?” Daddy sits and watches them for fifteen minutes. A sense that domestic politics ends at the water’s edge is hard-wired into Cory; so, Daddy had intentionally taken them to school early. Fifteen more minutes at home would have been fifteen minutes lost to conflict and chaos. Thanks to the others around the school grounds — the crossing guard, drivers in their cars, kids arriving on their bikes, parent volunteers, teachers readying rooms — those fifteen minutes were much better spent.
Hardly a morning of award-winning Daddy parenting skills…not many books on the subject recommend the strategic pinch. But, thankfully, the crossing guard, those drivers, other kids, fellow parents, and teachers readying rooms all passively reached out and did what Daddy could not do: gently splash enough water on the girl to knock her off that crazy train.