Any John Grisham fan worth their weight is quite familiar with the concept of a billable hour. I track every single task I perform at work in increments of six minutes. One tenth of an hour. Or what I like to call the “point one.”
Lately, I’ve realized that my children (or at least Gus and Tilly) also kind of operate on a billable hour basis when it comes to stability of mood. Every six minutes, the vibe around them ebbs and flows in an unpredictable direction. During the span of a “point one,” any one of the kids can go from happy and fun to miserable and hysterical, or vice versa, or they may just maintain the course for another six minutes of whatever they were just doing.
Tilly, by far, is the most volatile of the three regardless of the age differences. Her temper is like nothing I’ve ever seen. The closest comparison I can think of is the Bigfoot caricature in the beef jerky commercials. In one moment, the Tills could be hugging and kissing you while grinning and playing. But in the next moment, she will flail uncontrollably on the floor and contort her body like she has tetanus while screaming at a Spinal Tap 11 level if you snatch a knife/bleach/any aerosol containing a hazmat/loaded pistol/INSERT any inherently dangerous object out of her hands. And yet, six minutes later, Tilly could easily be laughing at Elmo or Cookie Monster like they’re throwing back martinis together at Hooper’s Tavern.
Gus is also a fickle character. Most of his frustrations arise when Tilly is somehow involved. But he is definitely not innocent in all of their transactions. The two of them abuse each other pretty frequently in creative ways. In fact, while enjoying lunch al fresco on our deck today, I went inside to get some more food for my gentle angels. When I came out, Tilly was smashing her plastic plate over Gus’ head repeatedly as Greta sat by while casually sipping on a juice box. Gus resorted to his trademark cry move where his shoulders come up, he furrows his brow, and his lower lip moves upward in a pout. Usually, a good hug and cuddle sesh gets him back on track whereupon he’ll track down Tilly and exact his revenge.
Greta’s billable hour rate is probably closer to half-hour increments as compared to Gus’ and Tilly’s point one. She is also the easiest to coax out of a funk mostly just because we can actually have an interactive conversation with her to sort out whatever the crisis may be. To her credit, Gigi mostly stays above the fray of her younger siblings. But hell hath no fury like the scorn of a woman if someone dares take whatever toy lay before her. In those instances when a snatch has occurred and Greta issues a report to the parental authorities, her interests are so plentiful that it’s pretty easy to distract her back into a better mood. Barbies, princesses, Hello Kitty, Dora, Lala Loopsie, Care Bears, My Little Pony, ice cream, rainbows, unicorns, etc. are tops on the list. So long as you can come up with some idea that incorporates one of the aforementioned topics, she’ll generally snap out of whatever bad mood she is experiencing.
When all three of my trifecta are in a good, happy place, there is no place that I’d rather be. Naturally, the equilateral triangle is the rarest of the possible combinations. But when the phenomenon occurs, it’s as if you’re taking in a gorgeous sunset with a fantastic glass of wine, a view of Santorini’s caldera, and Enya is playing as the wind blows through your hair. Or maybe you’re just able to look at Facebook in peace for two and a half minutes.
As for an appropriate distraction strategy, the key seems to be keeping all of them entertained simultaneously without relying on the same activity to occupy their attentions. Planting only a single toy in the middle of the trio is a textbook rookie mistake. Tilly will simply sprint into the middle first and steal that shit with ease as she sprints away chuckling from the scene of the crime.
The better play is to have several of the same toy. So, for example, if balloons are what you’re thinking, I recommend having at least ten. That typically will buy you at least a .4 or maybe even a .6 stretch of straight giggles and no crying. Of course, a fight will absolutely break out the second someone won’t give up the purple balloon, or the balloon with rainbows on it, but that problem can be avoided if you get ten of the exact same color/design.
Well, this is my life now I suppose, however mundane it may sound. The lesson is that the law firm of Greta, Gus, and Tilly are not to be approached with ease. Fight the law and the law usually wins, as The Clash tells us. But at least I know the mood will change after six minutes or so.