Anyone who has watched a toddler totally lose his shit over not being able to open the front door when someone arrives -- and I don't mean a little whining and crying, I mean screaming until they make themselves throw up, possibly on your guest -- knows that even simple tasks with kids can be more like negotiating with the mentally ill.
Everything must be broken down into steps. Each step cleared with your little terrorist.
Breakfast: We're going to have some cereal, does that sound good? You want it in the big bowl? Do you want to help me pour the cereal? Okay, here's the milk. Do you want a lot? Do you want to help me pour it?
Then your heart stops: I gave my two kids different spoons.
In the moments after spoon-gate I consider myself lucky if the neighbors don't wander over for a friendly check up, "Hey, Mike, just heard a little bit of a racket and wanted to make sure you weren't beating 3 lambs to death at 6:07 AM in your living room."
"Nope, I just forgot to give this little monster the same spoon as his older brother and he retaliated by putting both hands into his milk and cereal, then throwing it all over himself while screaming, 'I want cereal!'"
"Got it! That makes perfect sense, see you later!"
And with 13 long hours until bed-time, the whole day stretches out before you: getting dressed, getting out of the house, getting in the car, getting lunch, deciding what to watch on TV, getting the TV off, playing after TV, getting ready for dinner, dinner (oh God, not dinner!), getting ready for bed, getting them to go to bed. With each situation, you're staring at the colored wires, making sure you clip them in the right order.
When bed time arrives, the stakes are so high that the demand negotiations explore new territories of ludicrousness. Because when kids get tired, the turn into violent zombies whose actions are pretty unpredictable -- furiously trying to take the water pitcher out of the fridge and throw it into the trash, for instance.
One night, my youngest son refused to get into bed until I let him pee on the toilet. On the toilet. Some maniacs won't release you until they get $1 million. My son wanted to see his urine running down the side of the toilet and then onto the floor.
The first sad thing is that I considered it seriously. Let's see: he screamed for 10 minutes straight until I performed an entire 1 act play where his stuffed hedgehog accidentally poops in his bed. That stopped the screaming and got him out of his room and into the bathroom, where he broke down again when he discovered we were out of pink toothpaste -- we had plenty of blue, but no pink.
Fuck it, that's what fillings are for, we're skipping brushing our teeth.
Now to the toilet. To the demand to pee on the toilet.
Would it be more work to wash his sheets? Certainly. Plus does he pee his bed right when I fall asleep? Yup.
So he has to pee before getting into bed. Does it really matter where? How long would it take me to clean up his pee? I have two male toddlers, so even on their best days, they get a lot of pee on the floor. Sprinkle a few pubes around and it looks like a restroom for visually impaired truckers.
So the second sad thing: I let him do it. I looked behind me for my wife. Like a renegade cop who sometimes has to bend a couple rules to get wackos like this off the streets and into bed. "We're throwing the rule-book right out the window tonight. Pee on that toilet and let's get this ugly situation over with before any more people get hurt."
You gotta do what you need to do to survive in a nut-house like this. After a few years on the job, I start looking at tough guys differently. You get the idea that Liam Neeson's character in Taken acquired his "certain set of skills" from covert ops or intelligence, but that kind of mental strength, that kind of take-no-shit or by-any-means-necessary attitude can only come from living with toddlers.