Category Archives: discipline

Thirteen Marshmallow Peeps and One Epic Meltdown

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Yesterday my child asked if he could have a marshmallow peep.  I made the mistake of not only tell him yes but also telling him they were in an open package in the cupboard and he could use his stool to get them because I was going to hop in the shower.  Now, if left to my own devices and a pan of brownies, I would probably show very little restraint and eat like five of them.  And then regret it very quickly.  I am not a three year old.

When I emerged from the shower, N came in smiling and said, “I ate just one peep!”  “Are you sure?” I asked, because usually he doesn’t announce things like that unless there’s more to the story.   “Well,”  he said, “I just ate one, and then I went back in and ate the rest.”   “What do you mean, the rest?”  I asked.  The last time I had taken a yellow chicky out of that package, there were thirteen of his little chicky friends still in there.  There was no way N actually ate that much fluffy crap.

N sprinted out of the bathroom, bumped down the stairs, fussed around with something in the kitchen, and then returned to the bathroom holding a completely empty package.  “You ate ALL of those peeps?  Like, ALL of them are in your tummy?”  I must have sounded impressed.  N just smiled, clearly very proud that he had managed this feat.  And a feat it was.  I’m fairly certain I would have thrown up around peep number ten.

I waited.  For sugar-coated puke or a diabetic coma.  At least a monster belly-ache.  Nothing happened.  I even began to think maybe he’d fed the chicks to the dog or pushed them down the drain because I could not believe that kind of a marshmallow overdose would have zero effect on him.  An hour went by.  An hour and a half.

And then, I asked N to wash his hands for lunch instead of using the sink to fill up a balloon he’d found.  I was thinking, “please wash your hands and you can play with the balloon in the tub later” would result in a minor whine followed by the requested hand-washing.  Holy shit, was I wrong.  Those peeps gurgling around in his system flipped the switch, and my child turned into a sugar-crazed madman.  As he was spraying water around the bathroom and slapping at me when I took the balloon from his hands, all I could picture was a sugar high train careening down the “crash” side of very steep hill.

And thus, after a tantrum which lasted well over an hour and involved two lengthy trips to his room, one screaming-at-the-top-of-his-lungs flail face down on the kitchen floor, a full day of lost tv privileges and a promise that he would never be allowed another marshmallow in his life if he didn’t get it under control, I learned a little lesson:  Don’t EVER tell your children where the sweets are.  Ever.  While holding N’s doorknob as he threw himself against the closed bedroom door and listening to him scream like I’d just shoved him into a snake pit, I waited for the neighbors to call social services and imagined them laughing at me for thinking I could trust a three year old boy to stop after one sweet, tempting yellow chick.

enLIGHTENment. Or, Hello, 2012!

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We have ushered the new year with some very nice days at our house.  Today, I didn’t even count down to naptime.  The boys played well together all day – N only knocked his little brother down once; Baby K kept the high-pitched screaming to a relative minimum.  We laughed and played dinosaurs; we ate snacks and took naps.  Before dinner, I surprised us all with a trip to the new self-serve yogurt shop near our house.  N was excited to sit in their bright orange scoop chairs and eat gummy bears with a little vanilla froyo on the side.  Baby K and I shared a little dish, and he was so pleased with the new cold sensation on his lips.

After the frozen yogurt, our day took one of those sneaky dives that doesn’t even show a hint of brewing below the surface until it rears its ugly head in the form of a public meltdown.   I’m very used to tantrums that happen as an indication that it’s naptime, or tantrums after an overstimulating day.  What takes me by surprise is N’s loss of control in the midst of an otherwise completely mundane activity.  Like driving from one parking lot to another.  I don’t know if he was screaming about cold, or about walking too far to get into the store, or about being afraid that someone would get the red firetruck shopping cart before he got to it.  But all of a sudden, my child was sobbing and screaming that I was parking in the wrong spot when he wanted me to park closer to the entrance.

Much worse than the screaming was the spoiled-as-all-hell tone with which his screams were filled.  Who did he think he was?  I played with him all day, took him out for ice cream, and then drove him to a store, one we could have walked to, because it was winter dusk.  And now he was throwing a fit because we weren’t parking in THE spot he wanted?  I was embarrassed for us both.  I told N he couldn’t ride in the firetruck cart at all, that he would have to walk next to me in the store or ride in a regular cart after that ridiculous behavior.  Which killed him.  Sent him into a slumped-over, howling, hyperventilating lump in his carseat.

I was stuck.  In my head, two voices:  everything I knew I should do as a responsible, consistent parent, and the practical reality.  I had to take this child into the store, where there were other people, and buy groceries for dinner.  I was supposed to stick to the consequence (no fire truck cart) so that I wasn’t rewarding the horrible behavior.  But, again, I had to go into the store with this, and I didn’t want to drag a screaming, out-of-control child through Safeway for half an hour.  So I went with practical.  Made him calm down, talked to him about getting it under control, stopped the hyperventilating.  Let him ride in the fire truck.

Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to my most important resolution for 2012.

This year, I will go easier on myself.  Not to be mistaken for letting myself go, I will give myself a break and quit failing at being a perfect mother.  I will no longer be so busy trying to make it all perfect that I spend all of my time feeling like I can’t.

Instead of listening to the shouting of the parenting books, the rules I know I should follow, and the fear of how others will see my mothering skills all the time, I will forgive myself for faltering and lift a little of the guilt off my shoulders.  Sometimes drawing a hard line on consequences isn’t realistic.  Sometimes, you have to let your kid ride in the fucking fire truck cart and then send him to his room after the fact to give yourself a little peace at the grocery store.  Giving in – or teaching the lesson later instead of right now – once in a while isn’t going to make me a bad mother.  I am even willing to bet that Dr. Sears and the “experts” at Babycenter have changed course mid-meltdown to just get the errand done.

The fit ended, I didn’t feel like N saw me as soft on the fit, he rode in the fire truck and spent 20 minutes in his room when we got home, and I shopped for groceries with two quiet kids.  Problem solved.  Maybe not the perfect mom way, but the perfect-for-this-mom way.  Welcome, 2012!  Cheers to you  and to a year of enLIGHTENment.

I Knew EVERYTHING…and then I had kids

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This is the first of a little series of posts I’ll call “Mommy Myths.”  Because, let’s face it, motherhood is full of myths that we all tell ourselves and each other.  And it’s really inconvenient when reality comes along and slaps us in the face as our kids grow up.

When my little sisters were five or six and I was 25, I went to a movie with my mother and sisters.  It was a children’s movie, and my mom let them talk in basically their regular voices without reminding them to whisper.  At the time, it bothered me horribly because I knew I would never let my own child be so rude in a movie!  That was back before I had an actual child. When I knew EVERYTHING about parenting.

Then a couple years later, I had this baby, and it turned out I knew absolutely nothing about anything.  N was my only guide, and when your guide can’t even hold up his own head or feed himself, the navigational outlook is not fantastic.  The only thing that was made quickly very clear to me was the huge amount of crap I thought was true of parenting until I experienced  parenting.

So, here are a few of the many things I’ve unlearned.  Let’s start with discipline.  Disciplining your own kids is a minefield of disillusionment.

Discipline Myth #1:  Children can be successfully disciplined with positive reinforcement alone.  I knew that it was possible to discipline positively, without ever actually saying “no.”  I also knew it was possible to remain patient and keep in mind that kids are just being kids.  I had taught preschool.  I was an elementary teacher when N was born.  I would manage my own children kindly but firmly, and this method would successfully maintain a calm, well-behaved brood.

After kids:  Hahahaha.  Kind but firm is really great ideal.  Like showering every day when you have little kids.  Or only serving organic foods grown in your backyard.  Reality, though, is filled to the brim with ‘no’ and misbehavior.  Lately, no is the most common word in my household.  N says it to me constantly, I say it to him constantly, we shout it at each other and at the world.

Myth #2: I had the only child on the planet who would hit two years old and still be sweet, easy, and obedient at all times.  Other people’s children just had different temperaments than mine.  Other parents obviously weren’t consistent and kind enough in the first two years of their kids’ lives.  The ‘terrible twos’ were just an excuse for moms to complain about their cute little toddlers.  And the first two or three months of N being two only strengthened my belief in this myth.  He was a late bloomer in the arena of defiance.

After kids: N bloomed.  Boy, did he ever bloom.  One day, he was a sweet little 15-month-old who listened to me, played quietly and didn’t question why he had to do things.  The next day, “no” was his favorite word, preferably shouted rudely and accompanied with an obnoxiously crabby face.  He wouldn’t get dressed in the morning.  He wouldn’t put his jammies on at night.  He hated every kind of food I put in front of him because he only wanted hot dogs and mac ‘n cheese.  He laid on the floor and threw tantrums just like I’d seen those other people’s kids do!  He was a monster!  I look at Baby K now, 9 months old, and it’s hard to believe he’s going to turn on me, too.

Myth #3: I would never yell at/spank/manipulate my child.  My discipline would always be kind but firm, fair and quiet.

After kids:  Turns out that terrible two thing?  It stretches into three.  I’ll let you know if it slides on into four when we get there.  Whoever decided to call this period of time the “terrible twos” obviously didn’t have a three-year-old yet.  After a year of fighting with N, I resorted to all of the above tactics to try and gain control of the situation.  None of them work, they all make me feel like shit, and they go against what I imagine to be my parenting style.  But, again, we all know how to parent SO well until we start to do it.

Five years after the terrible movie experience with my mom and sisters, I find myself sitting at Puss In Boots with N, my mom, and my sisters.  And I let N talk in basically his regular voice half the time without reminding him to whisper until my lets-her-kids-shout-in-the-movie mother has the nerve to lean over and shush him.   Because now that she’s a grandparent, she really does know everything.