“Walk Away?” by Carol Robbins
Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.
This week, Carol Robbins steps aside.
by Carol Robbins
Four and six
If Rudolf Dreikurs had not died in 1972, I might be in prison today.
Nothing prepared me to be the mother of boys. Since I wanted to be the perfect mother, I joined a study group, “How to Raise an Independent Child,” based on Children: the Challenge by Rudolf Dreikurs. Many of his ideas made a lot of sense, so often I’d stop and ask myself, How would Dreikurs handle this?
One evening, when my husband was out of town, I arranged for a babysitter so I could attend a meeting. We finished supper before she arrived, but at bedtime the boys asked for a snack and something to drink. They convinced her that not only could they have Coke, they could get it for themselves.
Of course some spilled, and one of the boys slipped in it. Instead of crying, he laughed and encouraged his brother to join in. If a little was good, surely more would be better, so they poured the entire two-liter bottle of Coke on the dining room floor and played slip and slide before the babysitter could regain even a little control.
I returned home to a distraught babysitter. She got the boys out of the sticky clothes, bathed, in pajamas, and to sleep, but had been too upset to clean the floor. I apologized profusely, overpaid her, and sent her home.
What would Dreikurs do? After thinking it through, I went to bed, my plan in place.
The next morning, the boys asked about breakfast. “Wouldn’t some pancakes be good?” I said. They were excited until they heard the catch: “I’ll make some as soon as you finish cleaning up the floor.”
Perhaps half an hour went by. Once more, I offered to cook when the floor was clean. Another half hour elapsed. At this point they became more adamant about breakfast, and things were getting tense. Dreikurs advocated stepping aside, walking away from conflict, and/or power struggles with children. One suggestion was for mothers to go somewhere private, like the bathroom, perhaps take a bath.
I settled into a nice warm bath, ignoring the pounding on the door. After a few minutes I heard them talking about cleaning the floor. The plan just might work! Soon after that I thought I heard water running—a lot of water. Hastily, I dried off, put on clothes, and ran to the dining room. The boys had opened the door to the patio, pulled in the garden hose, and were flooding the dining room, trying to get the sticky Coke cleaned up. Only their innocent faces saved them. They were so proud of themselves for figuring out how to clean the floor that there was nothing to do but grab towels and join them in sopping up all the excess water.
Walk away? When little boys are involved? So much for that idea. I would have strangled Dreikurs with one of the wet towels had he been alive and within my reach.
CAROL ROBBINS is a retired teacher who writes from her home in Montgomery, Alabama, as a member of the Creative Writers of Montgomery, Press and Authors, and the Wetumpka Writers. Some of her work, including selections written as Carol Robbins Hull, have appeared in issues of the Alabama Writer’s Conclave online publication, Alalitcom. The memoir for her mother, V. B. R.: My Mother’s Story, was published in 2014. She sporadically writes a blog, Scribblings, at www.carolrobbins.blogspot.com.
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Jun 14, 2016
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