At night, especially when he’s had a stimulating day and therefore is tired, Arlo has a kind of frantic energy at bedtime. He’s a little like a whirling dervish, which puts him at risk for running into people or open doors, cracking his jaw on the countertop or shin on the footboard of the bed, or slipping in sockfeet on the hardwood. He can also be extremely uncooperative: lying on the floor while taking off his clothing, running out of the bathroom twelve times when he’s supposed to be brushing his teeth, putting his pants on backwards because he’s not paying attention, bouncing when we’re trying to floss his teeth, needling and ribbing his siblings to try to get a rise out of them. It seems like if an adult walks out of the room in which Arlo is, within two seconds an eruption of some kind occurs.
One evening, the day that my mom had had a thyroidectomy to remove a lymphoma, I was a nervous wreck because we were just hearing news about how the surgery had gone (it went well!) and was trying to take a shower in case I had to go to the hospital in the morning. Brian was tackling toothbrush and floss checks before reading to the kids, and Arlo was having one of his sparkplug nights, trying to talk while his father was brushing his teeth, which annoys us to no end. Brian asked him to wait to speak until after the toothbrush had left his mouth, but he continued talking. After asking him again to wait without receiving cooperation, Brian raised his voice, the result of which was Arlo fleeing the bathroom and running in to cling onto my leg (the shower had been running for at least five minutes at this point). He said it broke his feelings and made him feel sad when Daddy yelled (Brian didn’t really yell, for the record, but his tone was spiked with frustration). I told him I know, I understand, and I heard it too, but he was being really impatient and uncooperative, and I suggested he go tell Daddy how he felt. He said he didn’t want to, and I said, “Well, at least then just go and finish with your teeth in a cooperative way.” He did, thankfully.
About two minutes later, I walked into the kids’ bathroom to do…something…just as Arlo was running out, tossing the hand towel at the hanger on the wall in his flurry, and the towel fell onto the floor. “Arlo,” I called, “You’re not finished in here! Please come back!” He spun on a heel and yelled, “Yes, I AM FINISHED IN HERE!” with clenched fists and classic angry-kid face. Brian and I pointed to the towel, and I said, “I’m talking about that.” He picked it up and hung it properly. I said, “Arlo, I don’t like it when you yell at me. It breaks my feelings and makes me feel sad.” He hugged me with his whole upper body, even his head, and said, “I’m sorry, Mommy,” and dashed into the bedroom for reading.
When I finally made it into the shower, I couldn’t help but wonder whether I’d just gotten lucky with the way the situation had worked out or if Arlo had yelled on purpose to give me the opportunity for that bit of modeling. I’m telling you, it’s entirely possible. The kid’s a sucker for a good setup.