Simon and Angelique sat at the dining table filling out the necessary paperwork for Jacob's official adoption.
When Sophia left the day before, Jacob had a total meltdown. For hours, he kicked and screamed, all the while refusing any consolation from his parents. At dinnertime, he fought against Simon's efforts to feed him dinner, demanding ice-cream and rejecting any sort of compromise. Angelique had to resort to bottle-feeding the half-asleep boy when he tired around bedtime.
While Jacob slept, the therapists enjoyed the opportunity to de-stress once the boy fell asleep, hoping that his behavior would improve the following day.
And it did. Angelique had disciplined Jacob only a few times that morning for relatively minor infractions. She had simply lectured him for whining at breakfast time, but when he ran down the stairs after Simon gave him his bath, she had scolded him about the danger and sat him in timeout. The little boy had apologized after his punishment was over, and once he was dressed, they let him play in the living room.
The couple had been working on the paperwork for a while, occasionally conversing about the required documentation for certain sections. They intended to get started on lunch soon, but before they could get to that, a bored and mischievous little boy managed to sneak into the kitchen undetected by his parents. Once he made it over to Simon, he stood up, snatched a paper from the stack and ran as quickly as he could out of the kitchen.
"Jacob, come back here," Simon softly demanded, making no effort to retrieve the stolen paper.
Angelique looked at her husband with an incredulous expression on her face. She stood up, caught the tyke and wagged her finger in the air. "No, Jacob. That was very naughty," she told him as she sat him on the naughty step. "You do not take papers without permission."
Turning away from Jacob, Angelique walked over and sat in the dining chair opposite of her husband. She had one more person to lecture if there was ever going to be peace in the house again. "Simon," Angelique began, taking his hands in hers. "We can't keep going like this."
"Like what?" he asked, looking completely baffled.
"Do you not see that Jacob is intentionally testing your boundaries? You're letting him walk all over you. If you don't do anything about it, this negative attention-seeking behavior is only going to get worse," Angelique vented and took a deep breath before continuing in a softer tone. "I'm not always going to be around to act as the disciplinarian, and it's not fair for me to carry that burden. I don't want to always be the bad guy."
"I'm sorry. I didn't realize," Simon said, squeezing her hands. "I didn't mean to put you in that position."
"I know that, and I know you feel terribly guilty about Jacob almost drowning, but no one is blaming you for that. You have to move past that," she urged, looking over at the petulant child in timeout. "Right now, Jacob needs a father who will put his foot down and reign him in. Will do you that?"
"Yes," Simon whispered, his voice catching. He cleared his throat and tried again more emphatically, "Yes!'
"Excellent." Angelique slid over Simon's pile of papers closer to her. "Well, you're in charge of discipline for the rest of the day. I'm going to be a fly on the wall while I finish this paperwork."
"Alright," Simon agreed. He knew what he had to do, and he hoped it wouldn't be too difficult to make things right. He stood up and went over to Jacob.
As soon as he approached, Jacob held his arms out towards him, but Simon didn't take the bait. "Buddy, you understand why mommy put you in timeout right?"
Jacob nodded, still sniffling. His cheeks were wet with fresh tears and his little arms were wrapped around his knees. The little boy looked so small and profoundly apologetic, and that wasn't lost on Simon.
"You can't just take things from us," Simon lectured, stooping down in front of his child. "Next time just ask for a paper. Okay?"
Jacob nodded again, and Simon gave his son a big hug and led him back into the living room where he grabbed a book and began a story, "Once upon a time, there was a little mischievous boy..."
Jacob had a blast while Simon read the story, and things went well for quite a while. Simon had permitted Jacob some TV time before lunch as a reward for his good behavior. The little boy sat on the couch, completely engrossed by his show, and Simon thought for a second that maybe things weren't as bad as Angelique thought they were. But that shattered the moment the TV show ended, and Jacob stood up on the couch.
"Get down, Jacob," Simon immediately instructed. "That's very dangerous. You could fall and hurt yourself really badly."
"No!" Jacob protested, his little body jumping all over the couch.
"If you don't get down right now," Simon warned, keeping his voice stern, "you're going in time out."
Jacob continued jumping, totally ignoring him. Sighing loudly, Simon grabbed the boy and led him over to the naughty step. "You're in time out because you didn't listen when I told you to stop jumping on the couch."
"No," Jacob said, crossing his arms over his chest.
Simon didn't even acknowledge Jacob's defiance. He simply said, "Stay seated until your time is up," and walked out to the living room where he could keep an eye on the defiant child.
From his vantage spot, he watched Jacob fidget for a second, almost leaving the naughty step before glancing at Angelique and sitting back down. Seeing this, Simon realized just how accurately his wife had exposed the truth behind Jacob's misbehavior. The boy obviously knew what behavior Angelique would tolerate, and Simon knew that if he had only pushed back on Jacob's misbehavior days ago, then they wouldn't be where they were now. The time for him to draw a line in the sand with the little boy had arrived, and he was going to follow through on it.
When Jacob's timeout was over, he crouched down in front of the visibly disgruntled toddler. "Are you ready to say sorry?"
The little boy shook his head from left to right, keeping his lips shut tight and his arms crossed over his chest.
"Oh," Simon began. "Do you need another two minutes in time out?"
It was clear that Jacob didn't expect Simon's response, and he rapidly shook his head, losing much of his attitude as he did.
"Sorry," he grumbled, kicking his legs out.
"Very good. I know you can be better behaved Jacob, and I expect you to listen when I tell you to do something," Simon slightly lectured before hugging Jacob and getting him ready for lunch.
After the trio had lunch, Angelique opted to move to the office to print a few more forms while she continued to finish the paperwork. While Jacob entertained himself in the living room, Simon decided to wash dishes and halfway through he decided to turn around to check on Jacob, and he nearly dropped the dish he was holding. Simon's eyes locked onto Jacob as the boy stood on the coffee table, and it looked like he intended to jump off of it.
"Jacob! No!" Simon shouted, quickly drying his hands before approaching Jacob.
"Daddy, I fly!" Jacob exclaimed, his voice giddy and exuberant.
"Jacob, you can't fly," Simon said sternly, "and you know you're not supposed to climb onto the coffee table. You're going into timeout."
"No!" Jacob wailed, dragging his feet while Simon guided him to the naughty step.
As soon as the little boy's butt touched the naughty step, Simon began a brief scolding, "You're in timeout for two minutes for climbing onto the coffee table. It was very naughty and dangerous."
Simon walked over to the sink to finish the dishes, and he heard the distinct sound of little bare feet padding away from the kitchen. He looked behind him to check, and sure enough, Jacob ran back into the living room.
Luck was on Simon's side because Jacob ran into the corner of the living room, and it was simple for the older man to grab the tyke and lead him back to the naughty step. Of course, that didn't mean that Jacob intended to make that an easy task.
"Bad Daddy!" Jacob screamed, slapping Simon's hand and pulling away from him, and when they passed the kitchen counter, despite the boy's best attempts to delay the inevitable, Jacob threw himself onto the floor, squirming out of Simon's grip as he cried, "I want Abuela!"
Jacob's rage hit Simon in waves, and he hadn't prepared for the tsunami, outright rejection. Even though his rational brain understood that Jacob was trying to manipulate him, hearing his son call for someone else wasn't easy for Simon to digest, and after a moment, he managed to push the rejection and jealously out of his mind, but while he tried to scoop the wailing toddler up, Jacob hit him with another emotional blow.
"Mommy, help!" the little boy sobbed, tears freely flowing down his face. "Mommy!"
Angelique could easily hear the commotion in the living room from the office, and her heart broke into a million pieces when she heard her child scream out for her. She'd never heard Jacob so frantic, and the desperation was almost believable. But she knew better. She knew this was a willful attempt at parental manipulation to avoid consequences, and she wouldn't be deceived easily. It took every ounce of resolve for Angelique to ignore Jacob's calls for her, but she remained determined to let Simon handle it.
Despite momentary hesitation, Simon persevered. He took the sobbing child back to timeout once more and seated Jacob on the naughty step without uttering a word, and they continued that process for a few more times, father and son locked in a battle of wills. But Simon remained determined to win. After all, he had promised his wife that he would, and he wouldn't go back on his word.
And Simon did win. After a forty-five-minute struggle, Jacob sat, sniffling and subdued in timeout until his two minutes were up. There was one thing left to do before they could put the whole fiasco behind them, the heartfelt apology.
Simon crouched down in front of his son. "Daddy put you in timeout for climbing onto the coffee table which was very dangerous and naughty," he reminded the little boy.
"Sorry, daddy," Jacob whispered, wiping tears from his face.
"It's alright now," Simon told him, lifting him up to take him to the nursery for a nap. "I know you'll be better behaved next time."
And Simon was right. That forty-five-minute showdown demonstrated the extent of Jacob's defiance. The boundary finally existed, and Jacob knew not to cross it again. Simon had stepped up to be the father that Jacob needed, and the therapist felt renewed pride in his parenting skills. And Angelique shared that sentiment, all too ready for a quieter, more peaceful home.
After dinner, Angelique opted to retire early leaving Simon and Jacob to watch a short movie before Jacob's bedtime. While the movie played, rain started pouring, and it only got heavier as the hour dragged on. Soon, lightning flashed outside, and seconds later, a sharp, long crack echoed throughout the lakeside home.
Jacob reacted immediately, cowering and crawling into Simon's lap. After the second crack of thunder, Simon felt the frightened boy shake and shiver.
"It's okay," Simon comforted him, rubbing soothing circles into the boy's back. "It's only thunder."
"Daddy, I scared," Jacob whimpered, clutching onto Simon's shirt.
"You're safe," he promised, keeping his tone warm and gentle. "I won't let anything bad happen to you. The thunder won't get you in here."
Simon watched as Jacob visibly relaxed in his lap, trusting his daddy to protect him, and the older man's heart swelled. After the events earlier that day, he welcomed the chance to provide Jacob with emotional support, to bond with him and to impart comfort when he needed it.
And Simon did, consoling the boy until he fell asleep in his lap, despite the thunderstorm outside.