About time

            When we were in college, a group of about twelve of us was planning where to go to get some food.  Since most of the people in the group were men living in J’s house, we probably could have just cooked there, if we had been able to locate the kitchen through the stacks of dirty dishes and across the moat of mysterious sticky substances on the floor.  This not being the case, we needed to decide on a restaurant, preferably one where the entire group could eat for under $40.  As always seemed to be the case when this particular group got together, there were 72 opinions and everyone had a voice.  One place was closer, one place was cheaper, and one place had 25 chicken wings for $2.  After twenty minutes or so of negotiations, I snapped.  “We could already be sitting down and ordering by now.”

            “Uh, oh,” J’s roommate said.  “Emily’s getting hungry.”  Indeed, I was, and my blood sugar was dropping.  And, since this young man had spent innumerable Saturday evenings in my company, he knew the warning signs, which feature but are not limited to crankiness, irrationality, and outright bitchiness.  The time had come to chose a place and get me some calories, fast.

            So it is that I have come to recognize myself in my son.  Benjamin could get out of bed in the morning and happily play for twenty minutes before breakfast, although he starts screaming once he sees the food in preparation, unable to wait three minutes once he knows sustenance is possible.  Zach, on the other hand, needs to eat.  Fast.  When he was younger, we gave him milk the moment he got out of bed, on the principle that he could not last through a diaper change, walking down the stairs, and breakfast preparation.  He has since given up milk in the mornings, which is a story for another time, and he has replaced them with temper tantrums.

            Zach is so hungry when he wakes up that something is bound to set him off.  If we are lucky, it does not happen until we actually get down to the kitchen, which means we can ignore him and get food on the table.  Sometimes, however, it happens before he even gets out of his room.

            This morning, he came to wake me, as usual, cheerful and snuggly, which is how it always starts.  Then, we went back into the room to get Benjamin, and the trouble began.  In the time Zach had been snuggling with me, the clock had progressed three minutes, a phenomenon with which he is quite familiar.  This morning, for some reason, the change in the clock was devastating.

            “I want it to be seven-zero-zero,” he demanded.

            “Zachary, that is not what time it is anymore.  We snuggled, remember?  The clock got later while we were snuggling.”

            “I want it to be seven-zero-zero!”  He began that dramatic screamwhine perfected by some three-year-old a few millennium ago and since handed down, one child to the next.  I suspect that Maimonides, Shakespeare, George Washington Carver, Galileo, and Sir Walter Raleigh all employed similar tactics when they were three.  So, I took his brother and left the room.  Benjamin wiggled out of my arms the minute he saw a box of trucks ahead, and I spent the next few minutes corralling him into the bathroom for a diaper change, which was where Zachary found us once the hysteria had subsided.

            His heart was still racing, his eyes were ringed with read, and he was trying to hold down sobs.  I had finished lassoing his brother and applying a fresh diaper as he played with a cement mixer, so I turned to Zach and pulled him into my lap.

            “Are you OK now, baby?”  Whimper.  “It is hard getting so upset like that, isn’t it?”

            “I don’t want the time to ever change,” he pouted.

            “It’s hard knowing we can’t control everything, isn’t it, babe?  We can’t make the clock say what we want it to.” Actually, we can, but that is sort of cheating.
            “I want the time to go back to where it’s supposed to be,” he whimpered into my chest.  And, although I knew that it was the low blood sugar talking, I had to admit he had a point.  It must be so devastating to realize that time marches on, stopping for no child, and that it is out of our control.  That, no matter what he does, he will continue to get older, day in and day out, and that, after cuddling in my bed in the morning, he is three minutes further along the road from babyhood to independence.  I want to catch time, to keep our moments together, really, I do, but as an adult I understand the impossibility.  Zachary, caught off guard, rages against the forces of time and nature, knowing all too well that so much of the universe is out of his control.

            “Would you like oatmeal for breakfast, boys?” I asked as we walked down the steps.  Zach, who is just now coming to learn that eating helps his horrible mood take flight, replied, “Yes, oatmeal” while Benjamin cheered “RAIDEY!”, which is his way of asking for raisins.

            As he ate his oatmeal, Zach came back to himself, laughing as Ben played funny tricks with his napkin.  Blood sugar, he is learning, is perhaps the one thing he can control.

22 responses to “About time

  1. I had to laugh at your comment about Maimonides et al. Diminutive One’s therapist regularly tells me that “There’s not a famous person out there who wasn’t a complete pain in the ass as a child.” Not that your Zachary is a pain in the ass. Just meaning, that bright children often have character traits that are terribly challenging when they are children, but which translate into success as adults.

  2. Time does march on, doesn’t it? My Tractor turns 3 tomorrow. 😦

  3. i appreciate that you can see zachary’s rages as railing against feeling out of control. while s was falling apart after our move, i think i knew that about him, in theory, but i did grind my back teeth & pray for time to march on– well past that stage….

  4. Oh…the scream whine early in the morning.

    I think that low blood sugar is possibly at the root at some of our early morning tantrums and, as you note, that’s something that we can fix.

  5. Too bad about swapping out the morning milk in favor of temper tantrums. Milk seems easier to digest.

    We had a few temper tantrums from my daughter this summer, and it was this amazing revelation to me when I realized that they always happened when her meal schedule was disrupteed. I’m also not the pleasantist person to be around when my blood sugar drops.

    And, oh. I feel for Zach about the frustration about the passage of time. The clock and calendar mock me daily with their taunts about all the things I should have gotten done.

  6. We have similar discussions about the Dictator that is time here. Lucy would like to keep growing up (because she can’t wait to be a ten year old “teenager” whee!) but she wants her cat never to age. Sometimes when we talk about it, although my voice remains calm and Mother Reasonable, inside my head I’m shrieking at the unfairness of it all.

  7. The one thing that reconciles me to time moving on and children going up is that they are so much more fun, interesting, amusing, lovable now than before. Were they cuddly and wonderful (and poopful and noisy and demanding) babies? Oh yes, but now they are intelligent teenagers who I not only love (madly) but LIKE (almost all of the time!). No one ever told me it was this good.

  8. Wow, I’m kind of excited (in my own odd little way) t0 to find that I’m not alone with the plummeting blood sugar thing.

    My husband has, through years of rather unpleasant trial and error, learned to recognize the early symptoms that indicate the coming of If You Don’t Feed Me In Sixty Seconds I Will Get Medieval Up In Here.

    Bean always has a handy supply of milk as well. Protein is key. 😉

    Poor Zach, not wanting time to change. It’s hard to be little sometimes.

  9. I’m the crankiest person when I need to eat. My husband can confirm this.

    The paragraph about time marching on was great. And your patience is admirable. Lucky boys.

  10. When Zachary said, “I don’t want the time to ever change.” I said to my screen, “Me either sweetie, me either.” What an insightful little lad you have there – low bloodsugar and all.

    This is a sweet post

  11. Ahhhh, the passing down of the screamwhine… so that’s where they get it!

  12. My two daughters can live happily without ever eating, apparently, and if my son misses so much as a cracker at snack time, WE KNOW IT. (my oldest child is very, VERY picky, too – I don’t think that pickiness happens necessarily because of how kids are raised!)

  13. I can so relate to this post… and yes, your calmness is admirable.

  14. I’m completely the same way, as are both of my kidlets. It’s hard when you REALLY can’t control yourself, and you can hear yourself being quite insane, yet can do nothing to stop it.

  15. i’ve had the conversation about time not changing many many times with my kids. the other day the five year old and i were talking about how he would some day be 41 and he said “then we’ll be the same age!” it was so sweet. and so heartbreaking.

  16. My grandfather, who just turned 80 has always been this way. In fact, my grandma carries snacks in her purse for him and it became a joke that if grandpa was getting cranky, hand him a granola bar.

  17. Have mercy get the boy a snickers!

  18. When the blood sugar drops and the stomach is complaining of hunger, the mind will automatically turns nasty and impatience kicks in. I think that’s how we are all wired…

  19. That’s funny. Same issue here. Every time the mini has a tantrum it’s related to hunger, but the problem is she stubbornly will not admit she’s hungry even though we all know she is and she calms down miraculously after eating it. I never got it until the husband said at every time repeatedly “you’re just like your mother! You both need food! And then the poor guy has to go feed both his bitchy women”. Suddenly I had that a-ha moment (“Holy sh-t! Am I really that bad?”)

    Unbelievable, what happens to some of us when we’re hungry.

  20. Oh you did so well with the tantrum. Took me right back to when my son used to throw a fit because it was nighttime, not daytime, or Monday, not Saturday. I remember it was always something impossible to do anything about, which foxed me at the time, but I see how right you are when you talk about the misery of not being in control. There are still days when I could have a tantrum about that now 🙂

  21. My daughter likes to take a snackoutside, while walking .. as soon as we get home she forgets she was hungry. I guess she believes food is tastier outside

  22. It has always been, ever since the Little Mister was born: wake up, change diaper, eat (first it was nursing, then it switched to the bottle). He’s been sleeping 10-12 hours straight at night for months now, but in recent weeks he’s been “starving” when he wakes up. My happy little “never cries” baby screams until that bottle is in his mouth. The obvious solution is to give him the bottle before I change his diaper…but I’m never quite awake enough to think of that before I already have the wet diaper off. *sigh*

    And time, it just keeps going. The Little Mister will be nine months old tomorrow. How is that possible??!