by Donna Alice Patton
“Robbie, you don’t want to do that. Do you?”
Apparently, he does. He rips the heads from five innocent zinnias before I grab his hands and pull him, screaming, away. We leave a trail of dying zinnia petals, red, yellow and orange as I haul him toward the door.
“I wanna fower!” He screeches (over and over and over) in a drive- the -babysitter- up -a- wall monotone he has spent two of his four years of life perfecting. “Wanna fower!”
“It’s against the law to pick zinnias on Wednesday,” I invent in desperation.
Robbie stops yelling to stare at me suspiciously. “What day today?”
“Wednesday.” I lie.
It’s only 2:00 in the afternoon. Robbie’s mother will not pick him up until 5:00. It’s about this time of day that I begin to understand the meaning of the words, “caretaker burnout.” I have exhausted the fascinating puzzles; “hours of enjoyment for your preschooler,” the boxes glibly promised. Robbie lost twelve pieces in under three seconds, stepped on the box top squashing it beyond recognition and then insisted loudly that I ‘fic it!” I have managed by this time to find fifty-seven substitutes for the word, “no,” poured countless glasses of orange juice into a cup with a smiling clown I would like to punch in his oversized red nose, scraped a peanut butter and jelly sandwich off the tv screen and kept Robbie from using his new box of Crayolas on the walls.
Now Robbie stands in the middle of the living room, an angelic _expression in his brown eyes. He hums to himself. From past experience, I know better than to trust this respite. A quiet, thinking child is a child up to something.
Warily, I set out wooden building blocks and spread them invitingly around the floor. Robbie watches, pretending he isn’t. I have his attention.
“Would you like to build a house or a barn?” I ask cheerfully. Pleased I’ve remembered one of the rules of child psychology, “Give the child a choice.” Robbie is not fooled.
“A fower,” he says, “you build a fower.”
“You can draw a flower with your crayons, but it’s impossible to build one with blocks.”
“Only God can make a flower.”
“Because, “ I think fast, hoping to come up with an answer to stop the insistent questions. Robbie is a master of “Why.” “Because...”
“Why? Y, because we like you,” I sing to divert his attention, “M-O-U-S-E.”
Glad to have his attention on something other than flowers, I sing the theme song from the old Mickey Mouse Club. Robbie likes it so well, I give seventeen encores.
“Okay, let’s sing something else,” I say before he can open his mouth to demand, “sing again!”
I try, “I Wish I Were an Apple, A Hangin’ on a Tree.”
Robbie pouts. “No! Twee!”
“Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree?”
“Oh, Christmas Tree?”
Robbie’s lower lip begins to tremble. He forces tears from the corners of his eyes. “Twee! Twee!”
It won’t be long before he begins to wail. Robbie is an expert at wailing. He puts his whole body, soul and voice into the effort. If there were Oscars for four year olds, Robbie would have no competition.
“I know,” I shout firmly, “this is the tree song you want.”
“Oh, you never would believe where those Keebler cookies come from,” I sing, glad I’d loved that commercial as a child, “they’re baked by magic elves in a hollow tree. And what do you think makes those cookies so lovin’, they’re baked in magic ovens and there’s no factory!”
“Dat it!” Robbie jumps up and down in delight. “Dat’s the twee song.”
He giggles, hugs me and opens his mouth....
“Sing again, right?”
After twenty-three times, I swear I will never eat another cookie baked in magic ovens again. If I ever see an elf running around, their days are numbered.
“Now sing...” Robbie looks at the ceiling, concentrating, “sing...boots.”
Thanks to Nancy Sinatra and an old 45 from my aunt’s teenaged years, I give a pretty fair imitation of “These Boots are Made for Walkin’.”
Not impressed, Robbie doesn’t want an encore of that. He stops. Thinks. I wait, tensed. Pick flowers, I try telepathy to his small, inventive mind. I know lots of songs about flowers. Or birds. There’s “Rockin’ Robin,” “Five Little Ducks,” and in a pinch you can sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and emphasize the line, “birds fly over the rainbow.”
“Sing...” Robbie eyes me. “Sing, cwoyons.”
I invent, “Robbie has twelve new crayons, twelve new crayons, twelve new crayons . . . ”
We are back to the chin wobbling, the tears swimming in the eyes. “If you don’t like that, then how about just the colors. I see sky of blue, clouds of white . . . ”
“Dat not a weal song!” Robbie sniffs, ready for a wailing session. “Don’t like boo!”
In desperation, I do the only thing possible under the circumstances. “Robbie, I just remembered! Today isn’t Wednesday! It’s Tuesday! You can pick all the flowers you’d like on Tuesday!”
I’m a day/night care provider for many children like Robbie in the story. Ever since I’ve been a little girl, I’ve had a passionate desire to write and share my work with others. I love making others smile through my work. Contact Donna.