I open the door to the cool, semi dark room that houses over 7 toddlers today. Soothing music is piped overhead and I see small forms gently rising and falling as they breathe, as if in sync. I spy Laddu in a corner and stand over her, towering and wondering if she will sense my presence. She is fast asleep. I gather her things, check her lunch box and resign myself to waking her. I lift her off the pallet hoping she will continue sleeping on my shoulder. She wakes as I leave and say bye to her caregiver.
The autumn sun feels a tad too hot. I unlock the car, dump my bag and hers in the front seat and put Laddu in her seat. She arches her back, protesting and slides off. Worried she will fall, I pick her up and try again. This time she is vehement, straining will all her might. I pull her out and sit in the empty parking lot with the sun blazing overhead. This behavior is new. I ask if she wants to go back to school. She shakes her head amidst the tears. “Home” I say as if sentences will overwhelm her. She shakes her head furiously. I wait a minute and her tears do not let up. I scoop her up and force her in her seat. Her tantrum is magnificent. Her tears copious, her screams unrelenting. For a minute I am envious of her ability to express her anger and displeasure without reserve.
The drive home is eventful. I am over the speed limit, figuring that the solution somehow magically is at home. We reach and she resists getting out. Alternatively cajoling and scolding, I make our way in. I mention “Chocolate” not really thinking it will help. The contrast is stark. One minute she is sobbing and the next minute, in clear tones she repeats “Chocolate”. Relieved, I seat her at the high chair and get the bar of Sea Salt Soiree. There are two pieces left. I figure I have earned my share and break it into two, magnanimously offering her the bigger piece. She flings the piece I hand to her. Suppressing the frisson of anger that is threatening to overwhelm me, I breathe in and out and hand her my piece. She clutches it and cries even louder. I pick the piece off the floor and chew on it, watching her.
The chocolate is now melting in her hands dangerously close to her unruly curls. I reach out and take it from her, hurrying to shove it in my mouth. I wash her up and carry the unwilling bundle to bed.
We lie facing each other, her sobs turning to whimpers. Her thumb in her mouth and her hand squeezing my ear lobe. I wipe the tears off her face and wonder what I could have done to change the turn of events. Should I have gone earlier? Should I have gone later? Should I have waited for her to wake up before putting her in the car seat? The answers are elusive. Peace seems within grasp. Her breathing evens and I feel my body slump, letting out the cumulative tension.
Some random reminder goes off on my phone and she jerks right up, her eyes full of excitement. I sigh, turn over and hope she will fall asleep.