Tuesday, December 10, 2013

You Can't Always Get What You Want

Little L. waits by the window for her cousin, Little J., to arrive.

Little L. had her seat pulled right up next to the window so that she could wait and watch for her cousin, Little J. to arrive. As soon as their car pulled into our driveway she jumped out of her chair shouting, “He’s here! He’s here! He’s here!” She ran around in little circles of excitement.

Little J., and his dad, Uncle J. walked in the front door, said hello, and Little L. promptly whisked her older cousin downstairs to our playroom, where all the toys are. I followed them downstairs to get them set up, and a few minutes later the dads joined me as well.

The two cousins couldn’t be better playmates. Little L. (who is four) usually just does whatever her older cousin (who is five) wants to do. She followed Little J. as he went from toy to toy, trying to decide what to do first. “Do you want to play grocery store again?” Little L. asks. Her little voice is so sweet—all three adults look at each other acknowledging the cuteness of the moment. “No thanks,” says Little J.

A few minutes later, Little J. still can’t decide what to play with, so we all go upstairs to the living room, where we keep the Legos and the board games. Little J. loves board games. Little L. loves Legos.

Little J. goes straight to the cupboard where we keep the board games, while Little L. drags out the big plastic storage container of Legos. The Legos are heavy for her, but she manages alright. She’s so occupied with dragging the Legos across the room that she barely notices that Little J. and Uncle J. have already started to play Dino Bump—a favorite board game in our house.

Little L. sees what they’re doing and suddenly melts down. “Hey, I wanted to play that!” she shouts.

Whoa. Where did the sweet little friend from two minutes ago disappear to? I think to myself.

“Mommy! J. has my Dino Bump and I wanted to play with that! He can’t play with it! I want to!”

I respond calmly. Usually L.'s outbursts pass as quickly as they come. “L., when we have friends over they can play with all of our toys.When you go to J.’s house you get to play with all of his toys, too, right?”
This wasn’t helping. Little L. went from Level 1 or 2 meltdown to a 5 or 6. Now she was shouting and crying, demanding the Dino Bump game in the bossiest sounding four year old voice possible. I wound up taking her into the other room to try and have a “cool down” with her. We don’t really do timeouts in our house, but we do remove L. from the situation when she has a tantrum, to let her blow of some steam. Usually she starts to come back to life as soon as we’re in a different room—but this time she wasn’t giving up. Her shouting just got louder and more angry. I had a feeling that if I could leave her on her own for a few minutes she might calm down, but each time I got up to move away, she grabbed on to me. “Don’t leave me Mommy!” Me, nine months pregnant and counting, unable to pick her up, with back pain making it so I was barely able to sit down next to her—I was at my wit’s end. Let’s just say it wasn’t my best parenting moment. Eventually Dad B. swooped in (thank goodness), picked her up, carried her up to her bedroom, and waited with her while she cooled off for a minute.  It was Little J. who went upstairs a few minutes later to her bedroom to invite her to come join us—and she did.


Fifteen or twenty minutes later, Little L. and Little J. were playing happily in the playroom downstairs.  They pulled out all the dress-up clothes and got busy pretending. L. dressed up as “Clara from the Nutcracker” which was really a dress, fairy wings, a crown, and a veil. Little J. was dressed as  dragon – he wore the head from L.’s dragon Halloween costume, polka-dot velvet gloves, more fairy wings, and a scarf. They had been play-acting for a stretch while Dad B. and I were upstairs getting dinner ready. As we were chopping carrots and onions, we heard the sounds of giggling, and roaring, and storytelling.  We also heard music from the playroom drift up to the kitchen. I had put on a CD of kids music earlier.

You can’t always get what you wa-nt.
You can’t always get what you wa-nt

L. and J. were singing along to it. Ha. Of course they would sing along to this song of all songs! The cutest thing you have ever heard in your life is a four year old and her five year old cousin singing along to a kid-version of the Rolling Stones classic (The Randy Kaplan version, if you must know). Us grown-ups froze in our spots and listened to the two kiddos singing at the top of their lungs.

You can’t always get what you wa-nt.
But if you try sometime
You just might find
You get what you need.

Each Tuesday my colleagues and I at the blog Two Writing Teachers host a Slice of Life Story event. Teachers, students, and writers from all over the world share a short, focused story from a small moment in their own lives. See more Slices by clicking here.


  1. Such a perfect slice. Her cycle of perfect playmate to the ungracious host and back again is like a quick moving weather system. I love how children do that, no hard feelings. We could learn a thing or two.

  2. Life lessons happen at the most unusual and sometimes ironic moments! Four year olds are tough...hang in there!

  3. This glimpse into your life is a perfect description of the appearing and vanishing moods of my own daughter! Just when you least expect it, a tantrum! I. So glad L. Got over it rather quickly and was able to enjoy her day!

  4. I love the scene at the end - the happy song, with more truth to it than the little ones fully understand, yet!

    1. Thanks Tara! Do any of us ever really fully understand about not getting what we want? : )

  5. Fun story and so true. We often get what we need, but it's not always what we think we want. :)