The children and I are all watching a movie together. It’s raining outside, which is prime movie time around here.
Today, the movie of choice is “Stuart Little,” thanks to the power of Netflix. We love Netflix. The kids love “Stuart Little.” I’ve never read the book, and I haven’t paid much attention to the movie–movie time is my free time–but I can tell you it is live action, and there are some computer-generated mice riding around in very small cars, and also there is the little kid with the big head from “Jerry Maguire.” He’s grown into his head nicely, I should say.
So we’re watching the movie, and I notice the 4-year-old is getting really antsy. She is on the couch, she is off the couch. She is spinning around in circles. She is hopping around in front of the TV and climbing on the side of the chair. I know what this means.
“Juliet, go to the bathroom,” I tell her. She ignores me. “Go to the bathroom,” I repeat. She continues to ignore me.
I get up and pause the movie. Everyone hollers. (Everyone being my 6-year-old son, 4-year-old Juliet, and Juliet’s friend, who is over at our house to play.)
“Now look,” I say. “Everyone is upset because the movie is paused. You better go to the bathroom.”
“I don’t need to go!”
“Yes, you do. You’re wrecking the movie for everyone. Go to the potty.”
I am hoping that punishing the whole group by pausing the movie will motivate her to go. You know, kind of like they do in the military–everyone has to do pushups because one guy didn’t shine his shoes, or something. As usual, I am wrong. She is not motivated, and now everyone is grumpy.
“I don’t! Need! To go! Potty!”
She is lying. She finally takes care of business, and while she is in the bathroom washing her hands, I unpause the movie.
“Better hurry!” I call to her. “The movie is back on!”
She promptly freaks the heck out.
“Nooooooooo! Please please pause it! Pause it! Pause it!” She is crying with the intensity of a life ruined.
I’m confused. Why is she freaking out? She’s washing her hands, like, 15 seconds away from leaving the bathroom. Why not just finish up and hurry back? Oh, right, because she’s 4 and has no faculties of reason. So instead of drying her hands and joining us in the living room like a normal human being, she locks herself in the bathroom and hollers because she is missing the movie.
“Please may you pause it? Please?? I’m asking nicely! Why won’t you pause it please may you pause it?” (It cracks me up–her use of the word, “may.”)
I refuse to pause it. This is ridiculous, and I don’t negotiate with fool people. (Too bad 60, sometimes 80, percent of my household is composed of fool people.) I will not give in. I turn up the volume.
“Better hurry, or you’re gonna miss it!” I call to her cheerfully.
She continues to wail and holler, finally shutting the bathroom door so she can grieve more privately. About 7 minutes pass, and the movie continues playing. “I am missing it!” come the muffled wails from the bathroom. “I’m missing it all!”
This is crazy, I think. She finally emerges.
“I feel better now,” she tells me, sniffling. “But why did you not pause it?”
I shrug. “Why didn’t you just hurry up and come in here and watch it?” I counter.
She shrugs. “That’s how I do things.”
You can’t argue with that logic.
(Betsy Swenson can be reached at email@example.com.)