It is dinnertime. H is in his chair with a plate of lentil salad in front of him. He picks out a piece of corn, eats it, and starts to explore the textures of his food with his hands, which makes them slick with balsamic vinaigrette. He rubs his hands together and slides them across the table in front of him, slowly at first, then picking up speed as he understands what the lack of friction means he can do. I note that he has turned dinner into a full-fledged sensory play experience and am wary of the near frantic speed with which his hands are moving back and forth on the table in front of him. This could go either way, but I sense that we have reached critical mass.
Sure enough, he throws a red bell pepper spear on the floor. It’s a casual toss that says, “Eh. I have no need for this.”
“If you don’t want something anymore, sweet baby, you can give it to mama,” I say. This is our thing, something he knows, something that has come to work the majority of the time.
He appears not to take it in right now though, because without skipping a beat, he tosses some corn, barley, and lentils overboard.
“Sweetie pea, if you don’t want something anymore, you can give it to mama,” I remind him.
“Give it to mama,” he says, pushing a fistful of food toward my plate, but it turns out to be a halfhearted concession.
He flings more food to the floor, less casual tosses now and more like he’s stepped into full costume for opening night. I can see a Jackson Pollock in the way he’s swinging his arm around and arcing the food through the air. It’s beautiful, but it’s also starting to get frustrating.
“The food is not for throwing, baby baby. The food is for eating,” I say.
Another shower of food flies from his tiny fist.
“You’re having a hard time with impulse control right now, aren’t you?” I ask him, keeping my voice even and calm.
“Yeah,” he says plaintively, almost as a sigh, as he releases another spray of food to skitter across the floor and under the table, the chair, the couch. Who knows where I will find it all later?
My mother, who had been quietly observing the whole thing, turns her head to the side to hide her laughter, and it sends me over the edge. I have to leave the room to conceal the convulsions my own silent laughter is sending through my body. It takes me a second to compose myself, and I return to the table.
“Want to get up,” H tells me, holding his hands out to show me they need to be cleaned.
“Yes, it looks like you are all done eating,” I tell him. The best thing to do now, it seems, is to change the scenery.
We decamp to the big couch for milk. His request.
We’ll pick up where we left off with the work of impulse control some other time in some other context with other players and props. We both did the best we could in the moment, and we are both in process. I am certain there will be plenty of opportunities to practice and plenty of times when the outcome looks different. He is, after all, just two. We have time.