For Christmas, Grandma and Grandpa gave Thumper Modern Publishing's Treasury of Illustrated Classics, a box set of 16 children's versions of classic novels. His set has some different titles than this one on Amazon, including Black Beauty, Moby Dick, The Secret Garden, and Oliver Twist but you get the idea. He has been very interested in looking through the books one by one and asking us questions about the illustrations, but he has resisted actually reading them at bedtime. Last night, though, he decided he was ready.
I have to admit, I'm curious what a children's version of Moby Dick might be like. If they removed all of the bits about whale biology and the history of whaling through the mid 19th-century, it might be just the right length. But instead, what we started with was Peter Pan. I was excited to start his very first chapter book.
We read the first chapter, about the mother's perplexity over the presumably imaginary Peter Pan who manages to leave dried leaves and muddy footprints in the nursery while the Darling children are sleeping, even though the nursery is three stories up and he never uses the door. When we finished the first chapter, I told Thumper we could read more the next night, and he thought that was a good idea. We talked about the characters on the cover and in the couple of illustrations in the first chapter. When I told him that Peter Pan is always a little boy and never grows up into an adult, he furrowed his brow. I asked him if he'd like to be a little boy forever, and he said, "No!" in a tone of voice that clearly communicated that he thought that was the dumbest question I could ever have come up with. Why would anyone want to stay a kid?
I can understand why he feels that way. Being a kid has been tough lately. We're in a near-constant battle of wills these days, and most of the time he winds up on the losing end, though he puts up quite a fight. It's been a struggle for me, too, and I feel like most of my time is spent feeling either angry or guilty. I tell him to do something, and he ignores me. I tell him again and he ignores me. I say it louder, and he growls at me, hits me, throws something at me, or yells, "You keep saying it over and over!" And the next thing I know, we're both yelling at each other until finally he's wailing through a timeout in his room.
Today, though, when he refused to eat his lunch and then threw his spoon at me when I said he couldn't have dessert, I skipped all the yelling and carried him calmly to his room. He wailed, "Daddy! Daddy!" through a 3-minute timeout, and then I sat with him in his rocking chair and quietly explained that all of the yelling makes me feel bad, and I don't want to do it anymore. I'm the Daddy, and it's my job to keep him healthy and safe and teach him how to be polite. He's the kid, and it's his job to listen to me. From now on, he can choose to listen to me and we can keep playing and having fun and getting nice treats sometimes, like dessert, or he can choose not to listen to me and go straight to timeout, but we're not going to do the part where I tell him something, he ignores me, and we yell at each other anymore.
"But I don't like timeouts," he said.
"Then you should think about doing what I ask you to do. Does that sound like a good plan?"
"I love you."
"Now can I have some dessert?"
I've heard that 4 is sweet. But it's only Tuesday, and 3 is already making me question my resolve not to drink.