I’m sitting on a northbound train, watching fog-covered neighborhoods float past my window, and thinking about how much my daughter would enjoy the view.

The houses look like they are made of Legos. The trees are sprouts of broccoli and traffic on the interstate looks like the plastic cars she lines up along the sandy-colored threads of her bedroom rug.

The cars that I always seem to step on in the middle of the night.

I said goodbye to her just a few minutes ago, and boarded this train. As it started down the tracks, I peeked out the window and saw her standing there crying. She looked like a sad little doll.

I thought I might cry too, but I didn’t. That’s because I know this trip is good for both of us. We need a break from one another. The last few weeks at our house have been like something out of a super nanny show: screaming, kicking, biting and throwing tantrums so bad that they have made us both late for school.

I’ve done everything I can think of to curb Angie’s bad behavior. I’ve given her timeouts, taken away her television privileges, canceled special plans and confiscated her favorite toys — including her beloved stuffed Moo Cow.

But my behavior has been bad, too. I’m ashamed to say there have been times when I sat on her to get shoes onto her kicking feet. I’ve stepped outside to count to 10 and barely made it to four. I’ve screamed into a pillow in my bedroom.

My daughter has always been prone to tantrums. When she was 2 years old, she cried for whatever she wanted. And I complied. I was a married, stay-at-home mother back then. I thought giving my daughter what she wanted was part of my job.

After her father and I split up, I became a working single mom. I was too busy to drop everything and grant my daughter’s every wish. Looking back now, I realize that was when her tantrums took a turn for the worse.

When she was 3 years old, she threw fits under the kitchen table whenever I tried to dress her. Once, when she was 4, we stayed inside for two weeks because she refused to put on pants.

Now that she is 5, things seem to be worse than ever. She knows more tricks and she raises the stakes by screaming louder and kicking harder. She has me flustered and she knows it.

It’s hard to be a parent, for sure, but it’s especially consuming to be a single parent.

I have to be Angie’s everything. The mother and the father. I’m the tough parent who makes her eat her vegetables and finish her homework. I’m the fun parent who goes to the zoo on Sunday mornings and cuts silly faces into the peanut butter sandwiches. I put money away for her college fund and buy her sneakers that light up when she runs. I exact punishments for behavior that is bad and find rewards for behavior that is good.

Sometimes, the responsibility of it all is simply overwhelming.

That’s what brings me to this seat on this train, which is whizzing past wind turbines and farmland, past bluffside mansions overlooking the ocean, past morning fog giving way to golden sunshine.

When my daughter needs a bath, I put her in the tub. When she’s tired, I make sure she goes to bed on time. Now it’s time to show myself that same kind of care. I need to get away for a bit and clear the fog.

So while she is safe at home watching movies and playing Legos with a friend, I’m going to sit on the beach with a giant blanket and a stack of empty notebooks. I’m going to write those essays I’ve been putting off, and finish that book that has been on my nightstand for so long. I’m going to have lunch with a girlfriend I haven’t seen in two years. I’m going to listen to the waves hit the rocks, watch the sun set and get a good night’s sleep.

Then I’ll wake up, find a seat on a southbound train, and make room for sunshine.

Wendy Fontaine’s “Party of Two” column appears every other week. Her email address is: [email protected] or follow Party of Two on Facebook.


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