Chart Number 010

May 13, 2011

By Ekta R. Garg

I love the serenity of the library.  When you walk into the library, a definite quietude enters you.  The atmosphere promotes scholarship, the drive to learn and increase one’s knowledge beyond what one had upon entering that day.

A little geeky, I know, but I freely admit to being one of the better-dressed geeks of my day.

For that very reason of solace one receives at the library, it’s highly annoying when something—or, more specifically, someone—shatters the ambiance of that gentle haven.  I certainly try my hardest not to disturb anyone when I’m at the library, and I expect the same respect from other library patrons.  The library, as it were, is the perfect microcosm of the philosophy, “Live and let live.”

Unless it’s visited by a two-year-old.

Last week I took Two to story-time, which she thoroughly enjoyed.  We sang and listened to the librarian read the book chosen for that morning.  Afterward I chatted with a good friend who also attended story-time with her twins, and we had fun looking for books together for our older children.

And then I made the mistake of going to the self-scanning computers to check out the books I’d chosen.

Mind you, this wasn’t the first time I’d used these computers with Two by my side.  I’d done it several times, and almost all those times I’d experienced the same result: a temper tantrum.  Because she wants to sit and type at the computer.  I’ve let her do it once or twice, only to discover that she inputted some random string of letters and numbers that would cause the computer to reboot itself.

Fortunately the computer usually goes back to the main checkout screen on its own.  At least it doesn’t begin to emit smoke.

What’s worse is that the self-scanners are diagonally opposite to the main checkout desk and within full view of the librarians helping those mothers smart enough to bypass the computers and let people do the checking out for them.  I have cringed every time Two has had a tantrum in the library by those computers because it’s so QUIET in there.  I’ve braced myself for the almost definite request by a librarian that I exit as soon as possible with my screaming child.

And yet I’ve kept going back to the self-scanners.  Why?  Do I really think Two will stop fighting me to continue using those computers?  Or maybe I just like the self-humiliation induced by the scene she creates.  You know, kind of like that stinging you get when you rip off a Band-Aid that’s been stuck to body hair.  It’s painful, and yet you enjoy it anyway.

I’ve used every trick I could come up with to get Two out of the library quickly and quietly; I’ve offered cool options for lunch, tried to convince her that reading a book in the car would be more fun, and promised her trips to Europe.  Nothing works.  She’s determined to stay put and type on the computer.  She cries, she yells.  And then comes the worst part.

She lies down on the carpet and stares at the ceiling.  Nothing—and I mean nothing—can convince her to move.  An earthquake could rock the building, and Two would still be there calmly staring up at the lights and proving her point of independence.

The same thing happened last week after story time.  She lay down on the floor and didn’t utter a peep.  She just lay there.  I managed to convince her to stand up (I don’t know how that happened; totally a fluke, I’m sure,) and then I clasped her hand firmly and walked quickly out of the building with her airing her grievances to the entire world.  Loudly.

What do you do with a two-and-a-half year old who refuses to budge?  I definitely don’t have the first clue.  So as I fought her to put her in her car seat, I lectured.  That’s the only thing I have managed to perfect in almost five years of parenting.  I’m a great lecturer.  I should probably start my own seminar series: “Lecturing Your Children to the Point of Being Glassy-Eyed.”  I’d definitely make a huge pile of money.

Anyway, I lectured because I didn’t know what else to do.  And Two didn’t know what to do because, really, what can one do when one is strapped in a car seat?  You can’t even flail around as a proper temper tantrum requires.

I have to say, though, I managed to exercise some restraint.  I didn’t lecture too long because the situation had passed and I’d found the quickest fix possible.  And when it comes to Two, I know she’s still not quite at the point where I can reason with her in the way I can with Four.  Two just isn’t there yet.  But she still manages to surprise me as she did again in this situation.  After I stopped talking and after her real-tears-for-a-fake-reason stopped, we rode along in silence for a few minutes.  The silence made her next words to me all the more memorable.

“I’m sorry, Mama.”

I couldn’t help sighing with the immediate thought that I’d underestimated my daughter yet again.

“It’s okay.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too.”

I guess it’s fortunate that story-time is now over for the school year.  I don’t have to engage in any more scenes by the computers.  And I suppose that years from now I’ll look back at these story-times and actually smile when I think about how proudly Two would sit at the computer, hands poised above the keyboard with a huge grin across her face, typing away.  And that adorable smile gets me every time.  It almost kills me that I have to intervene as The Adult.

But on the other hand it’s nice not to have to pull off that Band-Aid anymore.

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