I've been a clean living boy
I promise you
Did every little thing you asked me to
I can't believe the things I'm going through…”
The Killers, Don’t Shoot Me Santa
But when I dumped everything in the back of our car, she was no where to be seen.
"Beatrice, where's Joy?"
Immediately the angst of losing Joy simmered inside. Bryce and the Mama would know soon enough and not be happy about it; Joy was Bryce's favorite character.
"I don't know. I thought you had her Daddy?" Beatrice clicked her seatbelt.
Dammit, I thought. "Bea, I'm going to see if I dropped her."
I walked back through the parking to see if I could find Joy. Nothing. Joy was gone. I went back to our car and told Bea to get out and help me look. We walked all the way back to the cafeteria where her latest grade school's movie night had transpired early that evening, the Disney Pixar movie Inside Out. It's currently Bea's favorite movie, having seen it nearly 20 times, and of course Daddy cries every friggin' time he sees it. Hence why she wanted to bring the stuffed character of the same name, one of a set of characters we had given to Bea for her birthday. We had also brought Disgust with us, Bea's favorite character and a foreshadowing of sorts.
Only Beatrice and I were supposed to go to this movie night just as we'd done the previous two, but this time Bryce actually wanted to join us. So the Mama packed up more stuff for us all to bring. We still brought both cars anticipating that Bryce would want to go home early (which she did).
But happy we were with the fact that the entire family wanted to go this time. Joy filled in the space between us all sitting on a blanket spread out on the cafeteria floor. We ate pizza, chips and carrots and the day before felt like light years away...
...Unfortunately, Joy was safe and sound at home when I took the girls to get their flu shots and mine as well the day before movie night. The Mama had already gotten hers through work. Our family doctor had lost an entire batch of flu mist and shots due to a refrigeration problem, so that had killed the close-to-home pleasant option. Sure, we could've gone to the county clinic, but that was way across town and would've taken too much time for me that day. Instead we went to Safeway down the street where the plan was to get the shots and get them a treat next door at Yogurt-land. But the pharmacist had no help that day and couldn't administer shots until later in that afternoon, long after I had to get back to work.
Fine. We'd go to CVS instead since I wanted the girls to pick out something cheap and fun for the Mama to round out her Christmas gifts. Yes, CVS. No judging, please. But the problem there was the fact that they couldn't administer the shots for any child under eight years old. Argh. (That would end up being the case the day after movie night at Safeway where they had originally told me six years or older could get the flu shot. Cold-hearted bastards.)
"Okay, girls. Let's pick something out for Mommy."
But immediately Bryce picked out a toy for herself. "Daddy, I want to get this."
"No, Bryce. We're only getting presents for Mommy."
"Yes! I want this!"
"Bryce, please. We're only shopping for Mommy and then we're going home. You already got a treat after Safeway."
"I want it!"
The Brychter scale flipped on in my head and the tremors around us started rocking and rolling. Please, no. Not until we get out of here.
I moved as quickly as I could with Bryce's earthquake escalating all the way to a 10.0. I negotiated with Bryce, gave her another couple of choices, and Beatrice tried to help too, but the earth was roiling out of control and Bryce was beyond the rational. Impulse control down. Sanity off the grid. The world imploding around us. Checking out and leaving in short order was the immediate plan.
Unlike the day the Bea stung, this time Bryce roared like a hungry lion in the middle of the now shaking store floor near the register where I paid for the gifts. She threw down the toy she wanted, picked it back up and threw it down again.
"Bryce, we're leaving now. Please come over here."
"I want the toy, Daddy! I want the toy now!"
"Bryce, I already gave you another choice. These gifts are for Mommy and you can pick a small toy like Bea has, but not the one you want."
Tears streamed down her bright red face and she fell to the ground as if participating in her own private Occupy CVS protest.
"Bryce, please come over here."
Everyone around us watched, but I blocked out all fields of vision except my lines of sight on Bryce and Beatrice. Less than a week earlier I lunged in to care for sick sweetie Bryce who had thrown up all over the place while I tried to work, but now she was wild animal I had to cage, get home and get the Mama to help soothe (in that order). My tranquilizer gun perpetually shot placebos.
"No! I want the toy!"
More up and down off the ground. More throwing of the toy. A crowd gathered.
The positive parenting and natural consequence negotiating just wasn't going to work at this point. Somewhere deep down I heard the Mama and other positive discipline pundits shouting Remove her from the environment -- Now! Lousy local conditions be damned.
That's when Bryce ran up and hit me on the hip. I'd just finished paying for the merchandise (I selfishly wasn't leaving without the Mama gifts) and as soon as she retracted her hand, I grabbed her arm firmly.
"Stop!" she yelled.
I pulled her firmly toward the door with my right hand while all the purchases hung from my left. I got her to the sliding doors, but then Bryce grabbed the security system alarm gate and held on tight with her free right hand. I pulled, she shifted diagonal, but didn't budge. I could've pulled her vertical like in a cartoon.
"We're going home now, Bryce! Stop it!"
As I screamed this I felt horrible. I never wanted it to escalate this far. Remove her from the environment -- Now!
I finally got her out the door and now she thrashed making it exponentially more difficult to manage the moment.
"Beatrice, please carry this stuff for me so I can pick up Bryce."
Bea complied and as I hauled Bryce up to cart her to the car, she thrashed and hit and scratched, and all I could think about was not hurting her. To get her home. Intact. Unscathed. To the Mama. And away from me.
I strapped her and we got home. Finally. Still with the Mama's gifts. As Bryce settled down I discussed what happened with the Mama, her consoling me and telling me I had no other choice but to remove her. Bryce later told me she loved me, and then all was well with our world again. We all survived no matter how guilty I felt about treating her a little roughly (just as the Mama has had to do herself). And although Joy was all but lost, we made it through movie night and then the reattempt at the flu inoculation the next day, which only I could get this time due to the age limit and that nearly made the Mama flip out. But we made it unscathed to our annual visit with Santa Claus where we had a Zen-like moment with him, discussing the mindful omnipresence of Santa (and, in a way, parenting). Amen.
And then later that night, we both lunged in as Bryce threw up again all over her bed, and then Bea's.
Compared to the rest of the crazy shit happening in the world today, and to those less fortunate than us, our family growing pains are quite benign, but they're still our growing pains nonetheless.
We still haven't found Joy, but we're grateful it continues to find us, and that always makes for a Happy Christmastime.
Here's to a Joyful Heck of Awesome!