Yesterday afternoon during rush hour, a mother stood on the subway platform, with a completely hysterical, screaming, leg-kicking toddler in a stroller, trying to break free of the harness. The mother screamed back at the toddler and shook her out of frustration until the mother started crying herself. It was a horrific sight, except of course that this mother was me and the toddler was Zoe.
I had attended the preschool's first birthday party in the afternoon that included 'champagne', cake and chips, some of which Zoe had eaten. As we left she wanted to take a balloon, but they were tied to the wall and I said no. This started her first fit but I got her into the stroller with the promise of a snack (I often give her snacks on the way home, on good days fruit and less good days raisins or crackers and on really bad days chocolate. It eases up the 40 minute commute). She chewed away on a sesame cracker and off we went. As we entered the first train she started wanting to get out of the stroller and this is where I made my first mistake. I let her. She was standing holding on to the stroller but still toppled over when the train left each station. I carried her out at the main station and explained to her while we sat on a bench that if she wanted to walk to the other train (a 3 minute walk to another platform), she had to hold my hand the whole time. She did but the walk took more like 10 minutes. The elevators were busy but as we approached the new platform I realized that I could not have her out of her stroller here because this is a very busy and narrow platform. When the elevator stopped I wedged it open with the stroller and put Zoe back in. She was not happy. She wanted up. And I wanted to be home. I had already had a long day at work, spent good quality time in a ridiculous teaching meeting and had planned on taking Zoe to the hair dresser on the way home. She screamed and screamed and arched her back like I had never seen before. I kept trying to talk to her, "Zoe bee, you have to sit in the stroller, it is very dangerous to be on the platform". I let a train pass by because I couldn't face going into an overfilled compartment with a screaming and kicking toddler. I talked to her but had to hold her down, I was worried she would be able to free herself of the harness (and god forbid run somewhere I didn't want to think of). And this is where I lost my temper and screamed back at my little stubborn daughter, to please please stop it. She obviously didn't like that and just cried louder. I finally wedged her into the next train, tearful and guilty of loosing it when I was the adult who should be in charge of the situation. She continued crying loud the remaining 3 stations and didn't pause until we were in the elevator riding up from the platform. "Zoe", I started explaining, "you are too little to walk on your own when we take the train. When you turn two you can walk on your own. But you are too little right now". She nodded and answered her clear "Aye" (she is half Scottish after all) as if she understood every word that I said. Okay mom, now I understand.
When we got in, I only took off my shoes before I broke down crying on the bed, hammering the pillows to get rid of all my frustrations. Zoe looked bewildered at me and then resolutely went up and pointed at my chest. "Ma ma?", she asked. Could she have some milk? She sure could.