There is one red ice pop left. The bag is full of the unpopular greens and yellows, the last chosen, like the fat, uncoordinated kids in gym class. I hand them out randomly to my two kids, wincing in anticipation of the screams of the unfairness of the ice pop distribution. They don’t let me down.
Jacob snatches up the red as Anna lets out a scream that could peel the paint off the garage. She would not have reacted any less violently if I had stabbed her in the foot with a fork.
Jacob is unperturbed.
Had I been a novice at this and not the experienced parent that I am, having the battle scars to prove it, I might have joined in the wailing out of pure frustration. Why can’t we just rejoice at having frozen artificially flavored juice in clear plastic strips? This should be a celebration, and yet Anna has now moved to the ground, getting the sand that has traveled forty feet from the sandbox in her hair. She’s kicking her legs and beating the ground with her tiny hands, dirt mixed with tears making brown tracks down her face.
Jacob’s lips have turned a clownish red, to his obvious delight.
I pull out the big guns.
“You get what you get and you don’t get upset,” I tell her, and that, my friend is how it’s done.
Except she’s still upset. Maybe she doesn’t hear me.
“Anna!” I say sharply, and she quiets at once and looks at me expectantly. “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”
The wailing resumes right where it had taken off, with her body now convulsing in twists and turns in addition to the ground beating and the kicking.
“You get the red next time,” I yell to the gyrating, screaming thing in my backyard.
“You can’t be upset!”
At this she looks up. She says, matter-of-factly, “I am upset.”
“But you...you can’t. It’s in the rules. It rhymes.”
“I want RED.”
“There’s no more red. There’s nothing I can do here. The yellow is just as good.” Screams and tears take up the baton that had been handed off pre-break and make for a spectacular end, a swan song, a cry that would catch Wes Craven's attention if he were pedaling down my street, looking to cast his latest bloody thriller. Her little chest heaves at the injustice, the loss, and the disillusionment of her tender toddler years. She could probably use a nap.
Jacob walks over to his little sister, and tells her casually, “The white ones are pina colada.”
Anna’s face lights up; there’s a smile through the smudges of dirt and disappointment. “I want white!” she declares.
Hope rises in my chest. I see one! “There’s one more left!” I call out in triumph.
And as I hand the white ice pop over to my happy little girl, a beacon of hope to what’s left of my nerves and my sanity for the rest of this beautiful summer day, I hear a foot stomp to my left. “I want a pina colada!”