In retrospect, it was obviously all my fault. As I sat on the bench in the East Broadway station, with Sasha at my side munching on her Chinese bakery sweet bun, I thought I might be able to quickly check my e-mail on my iPhone.
I was wrong.
As soon as Sasha saw the phone, she wanted it. But, since she already had two sticky hands full of bun, I said no, whereupon she threw her bun on the ground, and so began 30 minutes of tears, squirming, and general misery—on the F train, in the butcher shop, on the snowy-icy sidewalk leading home. Every step was a struggle, every word out of my mouth another No: No more bun, no lollipop, no telephone, no carrying, no running. No No No.
I’ve written about the stress of the trip home before. Many times, I believe. But I keep coming back to it again and again because it just doesn’t get any easier. It remains the single most difficult bit of parenting I have to do every day. In fact, once I get Sasha home and her outerwear off, everything is easy: playtime, bathtime, bedtime. She’s cheerful and compliant, and I have a hard time staying angry about her earlier naughty behavior.
Yesterday, though, felt different somehow. Not because of Sasha’s behavior but because of mine: I think I was more stoic than usual. I let her cry and scream, and I just stood there in the corner of the subway car holding her. Yes, people looked, and many were probably hating me for bringing this awful creature into their space. Others maybe pitied me, or wanted to correct my parenting. But I just stood there while my daughter howled. What did they think was wrong? Did they assume the kid was just awful to her core? Or that I’d done been harsh with her? Or that I didn’t know how to comfort my own child?
I didn’t know, and I didn’t care. I went into a virtual trance, zoning out (and trying not to want to strangle her, or leave her in the train) until at last it was time to get off the F and out into the world, where a sudden light snowstorm momentarily distracted Sasha from her thrashing.
The thing about the stoicism is, I didn’t like it. I didn’t want to be the uncaring, Just Say No, asshole dad. It didn’t feel right. And yet it was the only possible choice, and I’m sure I’ll be that jerk several more times, at least until the weather warms up and I can pick the kid up on my bike. I hate winter.