My son, Eddie, marched through the pumpkin patch in his work boots, bypassing all of the pumpkins and stopping only to yank weeds out of the ground or pick up a rock.
"Don't you want to pick a pumpkin, pal?" I said.
Eddie, who is 2-1/2, didn't answer.
"Look, Mommy," he said, lifting a big dirty rock into the air and throwing it.
"That's great," I said. "How about a pumpkin? This one looks nice."
I walked over to a perfectly round, light orange pumpkin with smooth skin and held it up. My son barely noticed. He sat down on a pumpkin and started poking at the dirt with a stick. With the clear blue sky and the autumnal colors of the vegetation, it was a beautiful scene. I wanted to take a photo. My husband likes to see what we've done during the day while he's cooped up in an office. I took out my camera.
"Hey, bud, let's send daddy a picture of you in the pumpkin patch. Look up at me and smile," I said.
My son continued to look down at the ground.
"Pal?" I said.
He ignored me. I took a photo of the side of his head.
All my photos of my son are from the side, in part because my camera is really slow, and in part because my son will simply not look at me when I ask him to. It's not that he won't look at a camera. It's that he won't look at my camera. My brothers have taken beautiful photos of him, smiling, laughing, looking lovingly into the lens. All mine are of beautiful scenery and my son's cheek or the crown of his head.
I took Eddie deeper and deeper into the pumpkin patch, the farm stand and parking lot falling away into the distance. But despite my prodding, Eddie had no interest in picking a pumpkin. In fact, he was beginning to lose interest in the weeds and rocks.
"Here's a good one," I eventually said, picking a nice round one and carrying it back to the farm stand.
When we got to the stand, Eddie said he wanted to pick a pumpkin.
"This one," my son said, running over to some shelves where the farmer had displayed a variety of pumpkins and large gourds. As he reached over to grab a large pumpkin from the top shelf, he spied another display a few feet away and ran over there. "No, this one," he said, reaching for a pumpkin on the bottom shelf.
"You can have both," I said.
As I paid for the pumpkins, Eddie wandered over to a small pile of pumpkins that had been piled up on the ground just outside the farm stand. He looked so cute surrounded by pumpkins, like an Anne Geddes photo. I pulled out my camera.
"Hey, pal. Look over here," I said. Eddie looked over for a moment and then as soon as he saw the camera, he looked down.
"Up here. Oh, c'mon. Just for a second," I said. I stood for a moment, poised to take a photo but waiting for that moment when my son would look up. He ignored me.
"Eddie? Can you look up at me for just a second?" I said, my voice growing visibly annoyed.
Some people might just drop it at that point, figuring they have enough photos of their kid. Me, I see obstinateness as a sign of disrespect, and I make it my life's goal to change that person's behavior. It's a charitable trait that has me reclaiming my place in grocery lines when someone has cut in front of me, or yelling at a contractor that I will report them to the authorities when they don't return my phone call.
"Eddie, please just look at mommy?" I said, regrouping and trying honey.
"No. Don't want to," he said. He continued to stare down at the ground.
I put the camera down, picked up the pumpkins I'd bought and headed toward the car.
"I want this pumpkin," I could hear him say from behind me.
"I already bought you two pumpkins," I muttered as I loaded the pumpkins into the car.
"I want another one," he said.
"Two is enough," I said.
"Noooooo. That one," he whined, pointing to the pile of pumpkins.
"Yeah, and I want you to look at me when I'm taking a photo," I said. "We were having such a nice day, weren't we? I took you to the pumpkin patch, I bought you some pumpkins, and when I asked you to look at the camera, you wouldn't. So, the next time you want something, I'm going to say, 'No. I don't want to.'"
With every word I said, I knew I should just stop talking. There's supposed to be a difference between an adult and a child, but at that moment, the gap seemed very narrow.
I've watched how other mothers talk to their kids in these situations. They divert the conversation, sending it in another direction, and in doing so, they change the child's mood. It's as if the conversation was just a block in the road, and they simply go around it. I march right into it and find myself in heated battle -- with a 2-year old.
Eddie and I got into the car and stopped at a gourmet grocery down the road. As we pulled into the entrance, I remembered that the last time I was there, I'd gotten into an altercation with a woman in the parking lot.
The lot had one little street that ran along the side of the store and provided the only access to the highway. All the rows in the parking lot spilled out onto that one little street, which was a one-way. But there was nothing to indicate traffic could only go one way except for a faint arrow painted on the roadway, which at that point, was sitting under my car. Needless to say, I pulled out onto that one-way street in the wrong direction, and I soon met up with another car heading directly for me. I quickly realized what was going on and reasoned the best plan of action was to take the first left I could to get off that street, but it was a plan that had me driving directly into the woman coming toward me. Eventually, she wound up blocking my left-hand turn before I could reach it, leaving me no choice but to back up down the lane so that she could continue to move forward, a prospect I found so irritating, I leapt out of my car to tell her so.
Soon, another car came rolling down the lane and began beeping his horn. I attempted to plead my case, but he just yelled, "It's a one-way road!" Apparently, everyone knew this fact but me, but it didn't stop me from holding my ground. I stood outside my car for another second or two, to prove my point, and then walked back to my car.
In retrospect, I could probably have found another way to get around the woman, rather than trying to go through her, but it's just not the way I'm built. Hopefully, I'll learn the finer art of circumvention, for the sake of both me and my son, before he reaches adolescence.