#256 In which our hero discusses parenting methods, typically favoring the more hard-assed ones.
I’m not positive about this, but The Scientist and I might be, when it comes to parenting, what you could call “mean.” We’ve been called that by other adults (in jest--I think) and, much more often, by our children. We don’t think we’re mean, of course (mostly) but we would rather reckon ourselves “consistent.” As in, if we say something, that’s the way it’s going to be, and no amount of begging or screaming is going to change that.
Early on in the “let’s have some babies!” discussions, we both agreed that we needed to play it straight with our kids. No promising one thing, then doing something else. Or, more importantly, no promising to take away something, only to cave then they start to cry.
Our hope is that it will lead to better adjusted kids. Ones that are willing to give up the fight because they know that mommy and daddy aren’t going to go back on what they said. Theoretically (because this is very much an experiment in progress) it will lead to less screaming and fewer fights. But as of last night, the experiment hasn’t bourn fruit.
Here’s the deal.
Yesterday was Lily’s birthday (and I’ll write about that it all it’s glory later). It was a pretty low-key day, being that we hadn’t planned a big party, and The Scientist had to work, anyway. During the day I went to the grocery store with the girls.
A little aside. These grocery store trips used to be… not bad, or challenging, exactly, but just not a lot of fun. The girls would be bored halfway through, and Macey would want to get out of the cart, or get back in, or Lily would want to look at the candy, then pout when she didn’t get any, etc., etc. However! Now that both girls are potty trained (as I type this I must remember that both girls crapped their panties once in the past three days, so, maybe 99% potty trained) they can go into the most wonderful thing ever created in the history of grocery stores: the play room.
The Scientist and I were both a little iffy about the concept, in the beginning. It’s just a room where you can dump your kids while you shop. There’s a store employee there, and plenty of games and crafts and what-not. But we’re not dump-and-run sort of parents, so I, at least, wasn’t 100% sure of the concept. But, Lily got wind of all the new toys, and started asking to go in, and I finally relented one day.
Now, it’s awesome. The girls demand to go shopping with me, and they are, of course, perfectly fine in there for the 30 minutes or so it takes me to find everything on the list.
So, it’s Lily’s birthday and I drop the girls off at the playroom while I shop. I go to pick them up afterward, and the friendly attendant asks if they can both have a snack. So sure; both girls get a bag of chips and a juice box. So far, so good.
Then, it comes up that it’s Lily’s birthday, so again the friendly attendant says she can choose from the Birthday Box. Now, ever so faintly, a warning bell starting ringing in the back of my skull. But I ignored it.
A big plastic treasure chest is produced and opened, and Lily looks at the toys within. She chooses a stuffed frog. Macey tentatively reaches into the box. Of course, I say “No, Macey. Lily only gets a toy because it’s her birthday. Maybe we can come back on your birthday and you can get something from the Birthday Box.” Macey is disappointed, but simply says, “Okaaaay” in the cute fashion she does.
So. No big fight. No big meltdown.
I am patting myself on the back for being such an awesome parent, and secretly congratulating my kids for being so mature in front of the grocery store employee. As we’re putting on coats, Macey makes noise about wanting to hold Lily’s frog. Lily, who really is the sweetest kid on Earth, says they can play babysitter, and the frog can be her baby and Macey can be the babysitter. And she lets Macey hold the frog the whole way home.
Things started to go south pretty quickly from there.
Back at the house, Macey wanted to hold the frog even longer, and Lily started to get whiny that it was her frog, etc. And she’s right. So I tell Macey that it’s Lily’s birthday toy, and she let her hold it for a little big, but it’s really hers to play with, and hey! Look at all these other stuffed animals!
But Macey wasn’t having it.
As the night wore on, Macey’s demands for frog time intensified, and Lily decided that it was HER frog, and she didn’t want to share it at all. At bedtime, Macey wanted to sleep with the new frog, but naturally, Lily wanted to sleep with her new toy.
So, by 9pm, the house sounded like this:
Frogie! Frooooooogie! New froooooogeeeee! I wanna sleep with new froooooooog-eeeee!!!!
These was no comforting her, or diverting her attention (I’m hoping this laser-like focus pays off with great SAT scores) and finally the only thing that calmed her down was allowing her to crawl into bed with her mother.
When I came to bed much later, she was completely sacked out.
Of course, all of this could have been avoided just by saying to the grocery store lady, “hey, y’mind if my youngest grabs something out of the box, too?” I’m sure this $5.15/hr. babysitter wouldn’t have cared.
But I didn’t. For the same reason that we don’t buy Lily gifts on Macey’s birthday, and vice versa. It sets a bad precedent. And we’re trying to keep our eyes on the prize: more level-headed kids in the future.
But, to our children, we’re big meanies.