Today I was in my bedroom finishing up a brief phone call when I heard swooshhhhh, swooshhhhh coming from the bathroom.
About twenty minutes earlier, both my kids had taken those (rather large) plastic cups into the bathroom to bathe dolls in the sink. Ten minutes into it, my daughter moved on to other things and my son was still occupied.
I think parents are programmed with alert levels to help us survive the early years. We quickly qualify each crash and outcry to know when to listen and when to launch. Scratch “parents” — When I say quick I should really say “moms,” because, from across the house, I can scoop up a child mid-fall, console, and band-aid them quicker than my husband (who’s sitting right next to them) realizes they have even begun their initial descent.
Sure, mom alerts can misfire; they often do. Like the time I lost sight of my daughter at the park and in sixty seconds a full feature film played out in my mind ending with never seeing her again. Oh no wait, there she is on the swings. I’m pretty sure I lost years of my life that day. (God, I hate the park.)
Anyway, this time I didn’t react right away. The sound coming from the bathroom was like waves crashing against the shore. Swooshhhhh, swooshhhhh. I didn’t react right away. It didn’t sound dangerous. I just listened until the sound registered and I thought to myself, Is he seriously?
The sound was water. Not water spilling or water overflowing. He was literally standing at the sink, chucking full cups of water right over his shoulder like a salt shaker.
Chuck. Swoosh. Chuck. Swoosh.
“Jack, whaaaat are you doing?” I say. And he just looks at me like, What does it look like I’m doing? I pick him up and remove him from his lakeside perch and he gets mad at me.
Honestly, nothing leaves his hands without it launching into the air. He’s done with his bottle; he chucks it across the room. He finishes using a marker; he flings it off the table. He’s done with dinner; he just tosses it on the floor. This tendency of his, it’s independent of mood. He certainly throws things when he is mad, but otherwise, he’s a happy little chucker.
I take whatever he chucks away from him. The top of the refrigerator looks like Rikers Island for toys.
But he doesn’t really care, not enough to stop chucking anyway. The world is full of things to throw.
“If you throw something again, you’ll have a timeout.”
Chuck. Timeout. Chuck. Timeout.
After about the tenth timeout today, I looked him in the eye, very serious-like, and I told him if he threw something one more time his sister was going to get to watch something and he would have to stay right here with me.
He threw something.
“Okay, Jack,” I said. “Now Sara gets to watch something and you don’t.”
I took Sara into her room and put on the last three minutes of a Super Wings show and then left the room with Jack.
He cah-ried. “Mama, please. I wanna watch the movie.”
I held him and said, “No, Jack. I’m sorry but you have to stop throwing things.”
He sobbed and burrowed into me, the source of his comfort and his troubles.
“You have to stop throwing things, Jack.”
“But I don’t know how,” he sobbed.
And I believe him.
There’s something beautifully basic and profoundly satisfying about throwing things. Imagine for a moment a world where you got to throw things, anything you wanted, while someone just followed you around and picked them up. It would be nirvana. Sure they might whine about it from time to time, but whatever.
It’s so crazy to think about a time in life when you are limitless. The boundaries my son has are only those I put on him — kinda surprising he still likes me so much.
Later, we bake cookies. He takes handfuls of flour and tosses it in the air. God, what a mess, I think. “Pixie dust!” he squeals.
Magical, for sure.
So we’ll keep working on it… I will keep showing him life has limitations and he can keep showing me sometimes it just feels good to throw things.
I love you, my little chucker.