Yesterday morning, after my angelic daughters folded two loads of laundry for me, I headed upstairs with the hefty basket full of folded laundry. It was an accomplishment to make it to the top with that basket, and my heart was still pounding when Toby appeared at the bottom of the stairs with a banana. "I want a banana!" he demanded, "Open it!"
I was not about to run back downstairs so soon. "Toby," I informed him, "if you want me to open the banana you have to ask nicely, and I'll open it for you after I put the laundry away." He knows what it means to "ask nicely" and he often does, but yesterday he was in the mood to assert himself, maybe just to see what would happen.
"No!" he yelled back at me. "Open it now! Open it! Open it!" When I raised an eyebrow at him and then walked away, he laid down on his stomach at the bottom of the stairs and began pounding the banana on the floor as he yelled over and over, "Open it now, Mommy! Open it! I want a banana! Open it!" The only reason he was spared immediate consequences was that I was determined to get the laundry put away before heading back down the stairs again. Perhaps he thought he was gaining ground with me, perhaps he was pleased with himself, or perhaps he was ticked that I was ignoring him, but he pounded all the louder as he yelled.
Once the laundry was away I calmly walked back down the stairs. He stopped and looked at me like, "Now what?" In the silence I said calmly, "Toby, let me show you what happens to a banana when you pound it on the floor." I strapped him into his booster seat in the kitchen and removed the peel from a pile of brown mush. "You said you wanted this banana," I continued, "I asked you to wait until I was done putting laundry away, but you banged it on the floor. Now it's all yucky. You made it yucky, and now you're going to sit in that chair until you eat it."
Suddenly Toby didn't want the banana so badly anymore. Actually, he didn't want it at all. "No!" he yelled at me. "I don't want that banana! It's all yucky! Put it in the garbage!"
I knew I was setting myself up for World War III, but I also knew this war needed to be fought, so I dug in my heels. "No, Toby. You smashed the banana because you wanted it. I'm not letting you out of that seat until you eat it," I reaffirmed. And so it began.
You would not believe the way this strong-willed little two-year-old boy carried on. He was not pleading for mercy either, he was defiant! "No, Mommy! I won't eat it!" he screamed loud enough for the neighbors to hear. "I WOOOOONNNNNN'T!!! It's YUCKY!!! Put it in the garbage! Put it on the floor! It's gross! I want a different banana! YOU eat it, Mommy!"
I sat out of sight, trying my best to block him out. From time to time I reappeared to make sure he still remembered why he was in his booster seat and what he had to do to get out. He remembered just fine, but he figured he'd rather die of a cardiac arrest or at least lose his voice for a few days first. This went on for two full hours! Sometimes he would stop sobbing and screaming and I would go back in and even give him a hug, and ask him gently if he was ready to obey. Suddenly he would stiffen and remember that he was at war with me, and it would start all over again.
Near the end of the second hour I came into the kitchen to cook lunch. Toby was pleased to hear this, but flew all to pieces when I informed him that he wouldn't have any lunch until he ate the banana. I guess that wasn't what he was hoping to hear. By the time I was done making lunch and dishing up everyone else's plate, Toby sat with puffy red eyes, lifelessly staring at the pile of brown mushed banana in front of him. I reminded him one more time that that was the banana he had pounded on the floor, and that he needed to eat it since he had smashed it. This time he didn't yell in defiance, he sat and looked sadly at it. "Should we pound bananas on the floor?" I asked him.
"No," he said remorsefully.
"What happens to them when we do that?" I continued.
"They get all yucky," he admitted.
"Should you have waited patiently for Mommy to open your banana?"
Seeing that his spirit had finally bowed to my authority, I decided to compromise, "How about you just eat one big bite?"
He brightened up and readily agreed. One bite of mushed banana went down, and one boy happily ate lunch and took a good nap. My ears stopped ringing about the time he woke up again. He hasn't smashed any bananas since, and I've heard a lot fewer defiant words from his mouth. One point for Mommy. Now if only I could get him to use the potty.