Someone in this house has developed a habit of whining through most of the late afternoon and having willful bouts of anger when he doesn't get his way. I won't mention his name, but it begins with a Z, and these days--it ends with a sigh. I'm sure the heat isn't helping any, or our crazy summer schedulessness that keeps little ones up long past regular bedtimes. He's hot, he's tired and he's cranky. Poor kid.
I've noticed, too, that he isn't enjoying it any more than we are. He's a smart boy and usually cheerful-- I think he's just as put out and surprised by his own emotional upheavals as the rest of us. It seems to me, too, that after he starts a fit he actually reaches a point where he wants to stop, but it has so escalated that he isn't sure how to make up and be pleasant again, so I taught him a trick. I gently pushed the sides of his mouth up to a smile. "That smile," I told him, "makes everything better. If you just come to me with that smile, you won't have to cry anymore and everything will be fine again." He smiled for me weakly and I made a big deal of it, kissing him all over. Then I set him up with a coloring book and some pencils and went off to make dinner and feel very pleased with myself.
I didn't know if it would ever work again, but I frequently reminded him of his magical smile that has the power to make everything better. Then today, when he became enraged that I wouldn't give him a sixth piece of gum he dropped to the floor writhing and screeching. This landed him in his room with the door closed. From the hall, I could hear him kicking the floor and screaming into the carpet. Then suddenly it stopped.
It was quiet for a moment, then the doorknob turned and the door opened. Emerging from his lair was this puffy-eyed, red-faced toddler with sweaty, matted hair sticking up in every direction. His shirt was twisted, his pants wrinkled, and his forehead indented with carpet prints. But most importantly, plastered to this child's face was the biggest, phoniest, forced grin I have ever seen and you can believe it made everything better.