Shoveling the driveway with a three-year-old

May 14, 2016

He wants to come outside with you. 

You point out that it is a blizzard. You show him how the snow is falling sideways. You say it will bite at his face and make it hard to see.

You compliment him on what a brave boy he is to stay inside all by himself. Then you kick yourself for scaring him.

 You beg. You entreat. You bribe.

 There is candy involved, and an unprecedented amount of screen time.

“Do you want that movie mom and dad rented that we wouldn’t let you watch?”

No, he does not.

So you bundle him up. You are exhausted from the struggle before you even get out the door.

 A thumb comes out of its slot in the mittens. While you fix one, the other pops out. You fix that one, too.

 This back and forth goes on until you snap, “Just deal with it!”

 He starts crying and says you are mean.

 You sigh and agree. 

He waddles after you. He complains that he cannot see.

You adjust his hat.

You retrieve the snow shovel and begin work at it.

If it is a May snowstorm, the stuff is so heavy and thick you can’t push it across the driveway like dusty January snow.

You must haul it, shovelful by shovelful, and dump it with a soggy thud.

You get two shovelfuls done before the three-year-old wants to go inside.

“The snow is coming down sideways. It’s biting my face. I can’t see.”

 You use your mounting frustration to fuel your shoveling. Wet snow is flying everywhere.

You relish in the burning in your arms. You tell yourself you should have been an Olympian or a Marine.

 Suddenly there is crying. You realize in your flourish you have flung wet snow in the face of the three-year-old.

You scoop up the child and take him in the house.

 You peel him out of his winter gear, which somehow in five minutes has become soaked. You must change all of his clothes, down to his underwear.

 You remind him you will be right outside. You open all the blinds so he can watch you out the window. You show him how to knock on the glass if he needs anything.

He says he wants to watch that movie mom and dad watched the other night after he went to bed. Your shins are now bruised from kicking yourself.

You say that movie would scare him. There was a lot of blood and explosions and kissing.

“I like blood and explosions and kissing!” he says.

 “You can’t watch that movie.”

 “But you said!…”

Again with the kicking yourself.

You put a Disney movie on and ignore his whining. You hand him a bowl of M&M’s and a sippy of lemonade.

For good measure, you also hand him the iPad and turn on a tractor video.

Then you leave him wailing on the couch.

When you return to the driveway, the snow has filled in the two shovelfuls you just cleared 10 minutes earlier.

You work diligently. For a few blissful moments, it’s just you and the shovel and the snow. Just as you begin another great fantasy about your Olympian strength you hear pounding on the window.

Through the blinding snow you see your child standing on the back of the couch, pressed against the glass, wailing in agony.

So passionate are his cries that you worry perhaps he’s hurt himself.

You rush back in the house.

“What’s wrong?” you ask.

“I dropped an M&M down the crack between the cushions.”

 “So get it,” you say.

He throws his head back and wails. “I can’t find it!”

You take off your boots and track snow from your pant legs across the living room.

You can actually see the offending M&M. You don’t even have to dig for it. You pick it up and hand it to him.

He smiles and says sweetly, “Thank you.”

You say, “Even if you are dying, I am not coming back in this house until that driveway is cleared.”

When you finally return, the child whines that he’s hungry. You look at the clock and realize it’s getting late.

He pouts on the couch gazing out the window into the storm as you prepare dinner.

He thinks he’s being helpful when he calls into the kitchen, “Mom! The driveway needs shoveling again!”

This article first appeared in the Lewistown News-Argus and the Sidney (Mont.) Herald on May 14, 2016.