Tantrum in The Woods

If we linger around the house for too long in the morning our children begin a painfully loud and obnoxious process that ends in one of them shoving the other to the ground. If we let it get that far the whole day is shot. So we try to leave the house and do something before the “He threw a puzzle piece at me!” “Well, he took my slipper!” dance starts.

Yesterday we decided on a picnic in the woods and since my wife, Lindsay, had it stuck in her head that we’d “sit on a blanket in an open field,” we commenced a vision quest to find an “open field.” We could not, under any circumstances, sit on a log to eat a sandwich. After asking directions from a friendly owl and crossing a highway, we could see it: off in the distance there was a clearing. It was grassy, open and even had a few picnic tables I knew we wouldn’t use.

I spread out the blanket which is a generous term for what it really was: a sheet . Upon opening a couple of milks and tuna fish sandwiches, we were attacked by bees. Remember when the bees left and it was a problem? Well, they’re back and they wanted to do stuff inside our ears and mouths, and braid our hair. They were “friendly” bees that wanted to “kill” us. I’m the only one in the family capable of even seeing a bee without wetting myself, so I picked up the stuff and we headed back in to the woods.

That’s when everything fell apart. Arlo accidentally pushed the straw all the way inside his milk box and lost his mind. Then Silas started climbing a makeshift branch sculpture, and when he expressed concern to Lindsay about his ability to get down, she was already so flustered by Milk-Gate, that she responded by saying, “Jimmy Jimmy Jack!” really quickly like she was being timed in a game show. You’re right, “Jimmy Jimmy Jack” means absolutely nothing. Silas knew that too, because he just stared at us from his forest prison like a cat witnessing a seizure. “Jimmy Jimmy Jack?” I asked. “What the hell is Jimmy Jimmy Jack?” She laughed. “I meant like jimmy yourself down from there.” Unfortunately by this time Arlo was freaking out too much for me to worry about Lindsay’s mini stroke.

Arlo was too upset to tell us what was wrong, so he stood there, screaming with his arms at his sides, and wouldn’t let either of us approach him. I even said to him softly, “Listen, I’m just going to come and sit on that log over there” and started walking cautiously as if trying to gain the trust of a raccoon, which held the key to a treasure chest in its mouth. “Easy there little fella …that’s right…no sudden moves.” As soon as I took a step forward, he started running off into the woods. Each step changed the note of his yelp, resulting in him blubbering the first few bars of “Layla” by Eric Clapton (yes, I know it’s technically by Derek and The Dominoes).

I had no choice but to chase him. We were now in a full-on battle of wills, but since he’s not even 3 yet, he’s really slow. When I scooped him up, he employed the arms-straight-above-your-head-stiff-as-a-board technique, but I held on tightly. There I was; standing in the middle of the trail with a stiff, red-faced, screaming child who wanted nothing more than for me to put him down so he could run and jump into a ravine. Just then our friends with their two children and mother came walking toward us. Hurray! Witnesses!  “Hey guys, just trying not to drop this unreasonable seal that I found in the reservoir.” Luckily their kids were once of tantrum-age so there was no overt judgment—only cute frowny faces and sympathetic looks.

The unexpected upside of this poorly timed chance encounter was that, upon seeing our friends, Arlo immediately quieted down, and even hurriedly wiped the tears from his cheeks. This fit was meant for family only. What he doesn’t know was that they heard him the moment they got out of their car half a mile down the path.

I'm a contributing writer to Parents Magazine, GQ, Psychology Today and some others. My book, "This is Ridiculous. This is Amazing: Parenthood in 71 Lists" is available here http://bit.ly/1exfm34. Look for two more books in 2015: "Must. Push. Buttons (Bloomsbury Kids), and an as-of-yet untitled memoir I’ve appeared on Comedy Central’s “Live at Gotham” and “Nick Mom’s Night Out." I live in New Jersey with my wife and two sons and enjoy making them laugh more than anyone else.

7 comments On Tantrum in The Woods

  • This one makes me cry laughter…”lost his mind” “mini-stroke.” Brilliant. My 10 year old daughter and I read more of your blogs, and both of us were laughing until we couldn’t breath because this so perfectly captures the behavior of small children (I have a 3 year old son, too) & their flustered parents. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shared one of your blog posts on my Facebook or as an email for friends/family with kids. Thank you so much for all the laughs!

  • We like this a lot. X went “jimmy jimmy jack” on Y is going to become a staple in our household starting…. NOW!

  • Seriously, I can’t read the damn story because my eyes are streaming tears and I’m trying (unsuccessfully) to quietly laugh to myself at 6am on a Sunday morning while everyone else sleeps! “Arlo accidentally pushed the straw all the way inside his milk box and lost his mind.” This is the perfect way to describe it!!! My son used to do the same thing :) I’m so glad I browsed over to your page from Scary Mommy!

  • Oh yes. They happen anywhere, don’t they (and it really messes with your head when you try to spit out anything intelligible.) Last fall my 2 year old had a freak out in Old Navy, which resulted in my carrying her outside and sitting her on the sidewalk, next to a planter. She was out of the way of foot traffic, but got her time out. Oh, the looks! From young childless couples I got the “Can you believe she’s making her sit out here and scream? It’s only 62 degrees!” Luckily, older done-with-kids couples smiled and nodded. I promise I’m going to be a smile-and-nodder.

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