For 10 minutes yesterday I found myself where I find myself every few days. In the middle of a 2 year old tantrum, wondering how it started, wondering how to make it stop. Wally Ben knew exactly how to make it stop—”Just give Vivvi her pink crayon,” he pleaded. “That is what she wants! That will make her stop!”

And he was right. The crayon would have equalled silence. But I could not give it to her. Let’s rewind to ten minutes prior, and maybe you will understand why. (Or maybe you won’t. I found myself questioning myself as much as Wally Ben was throughout the scene.)

We were about to head out for a morning walk. To keep fights to a minimum and to squash the desire to role out of a moving stroller, I have given the kids a crayon and an “outside bingo” sheet, with images for them to color when they see an ant, or a bird feeder, a garden, etc. I have a bag-o-throwaway crayons the kids can use. For Vivvi’s birthday, she also got a pristine, shiny collection of crayons, still sharp, still complete. I like a complete set, so this one is off limits for the walk. The walk crayons inevitably are cast from the stroller, cracked in two, shoved up noses, or left to melt into the seat until they are a beautifully bright tablespoon of liquid wax that actually does wash out with some shout and elbow grease, proving Crayola really does mean Washable when they say it.

I am controlling about keeping things complete, so I told her not to pick from the new crayons. She had to take a crayon from the bag. She then grabbed a beautiful pink one from the nicer set. I told her to put it back and offered her a sharp, red beauty from the throwaway bag. She ran full speed away. Although her arms flap full force when she turns on the heat, her sprint is my fast walk, so I got her. (She’s not faster than me yet! I’m proud that Wally Ben didn’t pass me up until he was at least 3 years old…)

I grabbed the pink crayon, and the effect was immediate. The day she turned 2, it was as if she had read the manual and said, “Okay, I am supposed to throw tantrums now.” She already has them perfected. When I took the crayon, she went boneless. She then turned over and pasted her face to the ground and kicked and pounded her fists. The sound coming out of her face was not human—it was the ghosts that have surrounded the children at the end of the movie and the children who were screaming together at once. It went on and on.


Wally Ben goes into solution mode. We are the movie stars at the climax of the movie, shouting over the sound of the swirling poltergeist. I imagine that lights flash and our hair is even blowing from the impending doom. “She wants that crayon!” he said, as if I didn’t know. “Just give her the crayon!”

“I can’t give it to her,” I explain.

“Yes you can. It’s right there! It’s in your hand! Just give it to her!” he pleads.

I weigh the merits through the noise. What he has said is true. The simple solution was right in front of me. A four year old could see it. Give her the [insert-your-favorite-expletive] crayon and the fit will stop. Please make it stop.

But this was about so much more than a crayon.

My arm shields my face. “Wally, if I give her the crayon, she will think she can pitch a fit like this every time she wants something. And that is not how the world works,” I say.

“Yes it does! See?” he wrestles the crayon from my hand and tries to run it over to her to show me how easy this could be.

The camera pans to a close up of my face. The sound is made into muffled background noise and it is almost silent. The contrast between the noise up close and the noise muffled is startling. You can see my turmoil. I think about how I don’t really care about the pink crayon. I feel silly standing on this side of the battle, arguing that she cannot use it. She really can use it. I prefer her to use the other crayon, but I am not dead set that she can’t use this one.

Just when you think I am about to change my mind, the noise returns, and I march over and take it away from Wally before he can deliver the goods.

“But why?” he asks.

“Because I said so,” and as the words leave my mouth, I remember being a teenager, facing my dad down, and having him rebut with that phrase. I remember thinking, “Not fair!” I remember suspecting that the response meant that they truly didn’t know why, and they didn’t feel convicted about their own decision, but they had said something and they were sticking to it. There was a power in that phrase that I didn’t understand as a teen, and understanding washes over me now. “Because I said so” is a parenting perk, and now I get to benefit.

Yes, she could have the crayon. I honestly don’t care. But I told her not to take it, and she did anyway. And now I am going to pull out the most valid reason for any parent to make any decision ever: Because I said so. (And I almost look forward to them as teenagers, with their “No fair!” response, and me with my, “Life isn’t fair.”)

We wait Vivvi out another 5 minutes. The ghosts fade away, the wind dies down. She quiets, peels herself from the floor, and is ready to go. After a hug, I hand her the red crayon, and she takes it and walks to the door.

It dawns on me that she didn’t really care that much about which crayon she used either.

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