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LAce Posted Monday, August 21st, 2006
A Shovel Behind, A Donut Ahead
Debbie Ann Eis

I like to read. The park is a good place for that since it has all that miniature stuff that attracts kids so the Mommy can be alone. Of course, in order to be alone, one must sit by the sandbox. That is where the bench is, by the sandbox. I'm the only one who sits here. I donít know why. Maybe Iím the only mommy who wants to be alone, or maybe Iím the only mommy who wants to read, or maybe Iím the only mommy who does not want to stand and chat about children. Whatever.

There is nothing wrong with sitting by a sandbox, except that it's rather soiled, a reflection of what children like to do--take things out of their natural environment and place them elsewhere. Sand, like everything in the "little people" world, belongs out of its home, and the usual target of choice is the foot. They look at the sand. They look at the foot. I see the connection. The prettier the shoe the more sand it should have. I take off my shoes.

David is three, so, of course, he is in the sandbox. That is what a three-year-old boy does--waddles in dirt. Boys enjoy things like dirt, mud, insects, anything that creates grub. I understand men a lot better now that I have had this boy and in fact have concluded that all women should take care of a little boy for a year before getting married. It should be a mandatory thing, required by law, with harsh penalties for scofflaws. It would significantly lower marital battles and preclude the necessity of divorce. Before the boy came into my life, I would get upset at the mess that trailed my husband. Dirty bathrooms, clothes scattered, juice bottle caps not screwed tightly, milk spilled and left. The boy saved our marriage. I now understand that the attraction to slop is a genetic defect that will have to wait for a medical breakthrough of some kind.

Anyway, so I am by the sandbox. David has his shovel. Itís blue and fits into his hand nicely. I see no need to buy him a million shovels. Why he wants a million, I do not know. Since he doesn't have a million shovels he takes a bunch from the other children. It's my fault, I know. I haven't bought him a million shovels, so he feels the need to snatch shovels from other children, all of which interferes with my attempt at existing alone. I should be reading Brazelton, but I'm not. I'm reading Joyce Carol Oates. She writes too much, which makes me wonder if sheís one of those people from whom you wish to escape at a cocktail parties. So, this is what I'm reading when I hear screams made by another child whose hand is now empty because his shovel is in David's hand.

A mother walks up. This signals the necessity of my interference, because, of course, we want everyone to think weíre at least trying to keep the child tame.

I say, "David, you can't snatch shovels. Give the shovel back to the boy." I 'm standing, one hand on hip, making my firm face. I've never looked in the mirror when I've had my firm face on, but I speculate that my eyebrows are slanted down and there's a vertical wrinkle in between my eyes.

Despite my stern look and forceful command, David does nothing. I wait a split second to see what the other mother is going to do, thinking it's best to follow another mother's lead, particularly if she looks as though she reads those 'how to' Mommy books. The other mother says, "Sam use your words, say 'I want my shovel backí." She seems to think that Sam will say these words and David will give it back. She looks at me and smiles in a "we're in this together" way. She thinks I'm in this with her, I guess. I smile back.

Sam says, "Give me my shovel!" The mother says, "Say please." Sam says, "Please." I'm thinking about what to do next. I always think a few steps ahead. David will not give it back, and then the ball will be in my court, which will leave me two choices--a bribe or a threat. We're not supposed to bribe. I read that at the Dentist office. Threats are more appropriate, except no one calls them threats. They're called "consequences." If you don't give back the shovel then you have to get out of sandbox. A bribe would be something like--if you give back the shovel, I'll get you a donut later. That has an immediate effect. I do that when no one is looking. I have an audience now, so I'm definitely going with the threat.

David does nothing. I say, "David if you don't give the shovel back you have to get out of the sand box." I say this in my firm voice and look at the other mother as if I am in control, right there with her, on her side. I am feeling quite self-satisfied.

David does nothing.

I say, "David I said give the shovel back!" I'm thinking come on Sam, you wimp, take that shovel back! Why can't they ever work it out?

The mother is silent. She knows I'm still holding the ball.

I step into the box and grab the shovel.

"No, give it back!" David says.

I look really bad at this point. I grab my strong three-year-old, but he pushes me down, forcing my head into Sam's lap, which compels him to dump his bucket of sand on my face.

The mother grabs Sam and takes him away, scolding him fiercely. I figure I won since Sam did something worse than David.

I lay on my back and look at the clouds. David's face comes into view, staring down at my soiled features. I whisper, "OK, if you put the shovel down and follow me you get a donut later."

We walk to the car. David leaves Sam's shovel in the sandbox , and I leave Joyce Carol Oatesí fat book sitting on the bench.

Comments [post a comment]

Posted by Ashley Minihan on Monday, August 21st, 2006 at 9:39 AM
This really rang true for me! Thank you. Good writing.

Posted by jocelyn johnson on Monday, August 21st, 2006 at 10:05 AM
this piece made me smile

Posted by raymond grant [ ] on Monday, August 21st, 2006 at 11:44 AM
Nicely done! The messages come over very nauturally evoking many smiles. The requirement for a woman to care for a young boy for a year before marriage is an interesting one. It might make the "Martian" language much more understandable. :-) Ray G.

Posted by Beverly Jackson on Monday, August 21st, 2006 at 1:05 PM
heh heh, I loved it, Deb. Hilarious. You must save this (under your own name of course) to show him later.

Posted by Donna Levy [ ] on Monday, August 21st, 2006 at 6:54 PM
Is there anything more frustrating than dealing with a recalcitrant child? And it most certainly doesn't get any easier as they get older. I respond as both a mother and teacher. Like many of us, the mother in the story will have to wait for those golden opportunities perchance to read or merely daydream of gentle days. Excellent story. Donna

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