Meltdown and Matching Red Noses

Satchel, Easter 2006

Satchel, Easter 2006

My grandson is three, and this is the second time I have him for an extended period at night. Brooke and Matt are in San Francisco, returning around 11:00.

We spend the afternoon and evening at my house doing all the things we love to do together: cooking, eating, and reading the books I read to his father and Uncle Jon when they were his age. I taught Satchel to make scrambled eggs, which is now his specialty.

Getting him into his dragon pajamas, I tell Satchel it’s time to go home. “NOOOO! I want to stay here!”

“C’mon. I’m supposed to have you home and in bed in an hour.” He throws himself on the floor, kicking and screaming, apparently possessed. I’m taken by surprise as he’s such an even-keeled little guy. I scoop him up and head downstairs. Turned into a writhing demon and trying to escape from my arms, he nearly throws us both down the staircase.

When we get to the bottom he hurls himself to the floor, completely out of control.

“Satchel, get up and stop it.”

His screaming escalates. I give fair warning. “If you don’t stop, I’m going to smack your bottom.” What I really wanted to do was take a fire hose and blast him, but I didn’t have one handy.

“Okay, I warned you.” I lift him up by his skinny little arm and give him a swat on the butt. He’s so shocked, he stops. Then, he proceeds into a meltdown of uncontrollable tears, sobbing and shaking, beyond the point of being able to get ahold of himself.

After some minutes of this, I bargain with him: “Look, if I take you to Busha’s (his other grandmother) will you quit crying?” He nods between sobs. Of course I don’t have her number and only vaguely know where she lives. He assures me he can find her house. We circle her neighborhood three times while he hiccoughs through sobs in the back seat.

He poses, “Mmmm. Turn here.” Then, “Mmm, turn here.” He has no idea how to get there either. I realize this when he wants me to cross the highway to Boyes Boulevard.  Why am I trusting the directions of a three-year-old? As I drive past my friend Rhonda’s house, I think, maybe a third person can snap him out of this. She’s home.

Satchel and Oma

Satchel and Oma, Sept 2006

We pick figs and pears and slice them up on her back porch. Then she brings out a box of magic toys and Satchel and I put on matching red noses. She takes our picture, noting we look quite a lot alike. Satch has calmed down, though still not himself.

It is well past sunset by the time I deliver him to his house, but as I try to put him to bed, the tears and wracking sobs return. For the next hour and a half I sit on the front porch steps in the dark, rocking him back and forth, his sobs continuing through his drift toward sleep.

When Matt and Brooke come home, I tell them how the evening went.

Matt calls the next day, not happy with me. “We don’t spank him you know.”

“I’ve noticed.”

“Did you spank us when we were kids?”

“Apparently not enough,” I respond.

“You did too, you spanked us with the wooden spoon!”

“I did not, I chased you with the wooden spoon—but you both were too fast. I did not spank you, and Aunt Liz was the first one to spank Jon, an event he’s still not recovered from. I did wale on him a couple of times after that, however.”

“Look Matt, I want to honor how you raise your child. But I’m telling you, he ever pulls that with me again, you’re coming to get him, I don’t care where you are. And by the by, just what do you suggest I should have done?”

“Well, we put him in his bedroom and hold the door knob so he can’t get out.”

“Yeah right, that would be unsafe to do in any room in my house, and would go over real big at my office.”

I didn’t see Satchel for a couple of weeks. Supposedly he was still mad at me, but I’m pretty sure kids don’t hang onto things that long. The small kids, anyway. Two weeks later we’re at the park and I’m pushing him in the swing.

He asks tentatively, “Oma, can we go to your house?”

“Forget it. Last time we were at my house you got upset and I got in trouble. We’re staying right here on neutral ground.”

Looking up with the same brown eyes his father had when he was little, my grandson says in a quiet voice, “Then maybe can we go next week?”

“We can go next week—on one condition. When I ask you to do something, you don’t throw a hissy fit when you don’t get your way. Deal?”

“Deal!” he promises.

Postscript, five years later:

“Oma, I remember when you spanked me.”

“Good, and as far as I can tell it worked out great.”

“It hurt you know.”

“Oh for godsakes, you had on diapers and it was one well-placed swat. And it wasn’t like I was punishing you, I was trying to snap you out of a meltdown. The only thing I hurt was your feelings, and I think you’ve recovered by now.”

Satchel, 4th grade

Satchel, 4th grade

Postscript, six years later: Satchel now has a four-year-old sister.

Marching irately through my front door he says, “Oma, you’ve got to do something about Temple. She gets away with everything; she hits me, she’s completely out of control, and all they do is give her time-outs and she doesn’t even care.”

“Why me?”

“Because you’re the only one in the family who can do anything about her!”

Temple, nearly five

Temple, nearly five

“So what do you have in mind?” I ask, knowing exactly where this is heading.

“Well, could you spank her?”

“Oh sure. I smacked your bottom once and your parents didn’t talk to me for a month. I’m not laying a hand on that child. Sorry, you’re on your own on this one, Cupcake.”

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  1. Susan Dalberg says:

    When my granddaughter was about three and threw the wall-eyed tantrum like your grandson did, she was close to her whacking her head on the floor. I’d finally had enough, so I lifted her by one arm and whapped on her butt, also through pull ups. She stopped dead in her tracks, mid tears, looked at me “shocked” and said, “YOU TOUCHED ME!” End of tantrums in our house. Guess she figured it wasn’t worth the whap from her precious Mamina. Even loving Grandmothers have the end of their ropes. Thanks for sharing that funny story!

  2. Wow! What a handful! You should be called St. Catherine after a night like that. Mom and dad should have given you candy and flowers.

    • Thank goodness it was the only night we ever had like that! You know, sometimes it just gets a hold of you, and that night it got a hold of him. I have space for him to have a tilted halo now and again. It gives him a bit of ballast from being such a “good boy.”

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