The Seven Stages of Four-Year-Old Grief

Riding home in the HOV lane on the Long Island Expressway when Things 2 drops a sock on the floorboard (just realized that the acronym for the Long Island Expressway is “LIE”…probably shouldn’t point that out as I’m writing a semi-factual blog).  Anyway, who knows what cocktail of fatigue, sugar or random four-year-old-ness, can combine at any time to create the demon that’s now appearing in my rear view.  Maybe the fresh weekend memories of sweeping vistas, expansive beaches and rolling green fields is too much to bear from her present incarceration and the confines of the five point restraining system.  Maybe she’s again testing the bounds of our authority while we’re all captive and at her mercy.  Whatever it is, she MUST have that sock back!  We decide to draw the line quickly and tell her that screaming at a pitch that would make a glacier shatter is not going to result in a positive outcome for this sock situation. I can’t believe it’s all come to this… and for a sock. She continues to scream. We decide not to acknowledge this behavior and institute a kind of mobile time out.  We instruct Thing 1 to look away and ignore the chaos next door.  My wife turns up the volume of the “Acoustic Cafe” XM channel we’re trying to groove on.  No amount of decibel increase is going to render Sting’s a cappella version of  “Message in a Bottle” audible.  We change to the all Pearl Jam channel.  Now Thing 2’s screaming sounds oddly synched up with Eddie Vetter’s voice and we have a full Cat-Choke-A-Palooza on our hands.  We can’t hear ourselves think, let alone have a conversation about the best course of action. We try to chill things down a bit and switch to the Classic Country channel.  Doesn’t make a dent. She’s blown that gasket that little kids can and the bad genie is out of the bottle.  She turns a bright shade of red that’s so intense looking, I wonder if she’ll ever return to her normal pasty British looking pallor.  Her blond curly hair is disheveled and sits long over what could easily be eyes that have rolled backwards into her head.  She kicks the back of my seat like a deadly rodeo bull fighting desperately to escape the pen, throw off her rider and stomp him to dead.  Our Chevy Cruze is not the easiest car to do the mobile timeout either.  The ads may say “unexpected luxury” but the car’s compact interior says, “stuck in an elevator with ten fat people”.  When we drove it into the Hamptons this weekend, I thought I was going to get pulled over for “driving without pretension.”
After an hour of relentlessness with no end in sight, my nerves are shot and I have a bad case of road rage. I do respect her stamina though. I would have completely lost my voice by now.  As we inch closer to the Empire State Building on the horizon, I notice a familiar pattern Thing 2 might be moving through. It’s her version of the Seven Stages of Grief and it’s playing out something like this:

1. Shock and Denial: Shock that we would actually challenge her and denial of our authority
2. Pain and Guilt: Pain of whacking her heel repeatedly on the middle console next to  my seat.  No real guilt but maybe the disappointment of not actually connecting her heel with my arm.
3. Anger and Bargaining: Anger goes without saying. Bargaining comes with the phases she squeezing out between sobs. “Daddy, excuse me.  Why aren’t you talking to me? I’ll quit kicking your seat if you talk to me.”
4. Depression and Loneliness:  This is supposed to be a period of reflection during which she should realizes the full impact of the loss.  In this case the loss could be the sock and the loneliness of being without it.
5. Upward turn:  This is when she should be able to adjust to the loss. I see signs of this when she tells the girl taking our toll at the Midtown Tunnel that she lost her sock.

6. Reconstruction:  Her face has returned to it’s original color.
7. Acceptance:  She removes the other sock and asks me to rub her feet.

We get home put them to bed and watch the 60 Minutes tribute to Mike Wallace, another cantankerous but lovable character.

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