Every parent will at one time or another come to understand that punishing your child sometimes means punishing yourself.
It’s not the pity I feel looking at that sad face or the heartbreaking sound of my child crying because he/she is upset about having something taken away.
It’s that if you take away that half hour show, you have to deal with the loss of freedom you usually enjoy for that half hour. Can you say bye bye e-mail/book/Facebook/phone call/laundry/peeing alone? Instead you get a child clinging to your leg, begging for forgiveness because he will seriously die if he can’t watch Power Rangers RIGHT! NOW!
If you take away the playdate, you have to deal with the tornado aftermath of a child denied playtime with a friend. This particular tornado damages everything in its path, including your sanity. What’s even worse is when you take away the imaginary playdate that you just pulled out of your a$$, which so far is the only one I’ve had the pleasure of taking away. It’s worse because now you’re dealing with a tornado AND having to reschedule something that never existed when the tornado eventually passes. This is when I usually realize I’m a complete moron.
If you take away that coveted dessert that entered your house via sugary party favor, you will hear the words “please” “why” and “I’m dying” ten million times in ten million different whiny tones, complete with grunting, pretend hitting, flailing and never-ending attempts to change your mind through painfully immature and pathetic negotiation tactics.
All this when what you really want is to have the most pleasant day humanly possible.
And sometimes you have a situation like tonight, where you threaten to take away the trip to the ice cream store with Daddy and Big Brother because somebody (I won’t mention names) decided not to eat dinner and instead threw it on the floor and mushed it around.
You know that once you say “if you don’t take three bites, you’re not going with Daddy and your brother to get ice cream” that you need to follow through, because if you don’t, you’ll lose the respect forever. You know that although you have to deal with the kind of stomping, gurgling, screaming tantrum that causes car alarms to go off three blocks away, you have to either get those three bites in via intravenous tube or some sort of Divine Intervention must occur. You try desperately to make it a team effort – you both want something, after all – but nothing works. A patient, sugary sweet voice. Dousing the food in ketchup. Making it fly like an airplane. All the while the child is happily pushing it away and sing-songing, “Strawberry ice cream with Daddy!”, obviously not understanding the severity of the situation.
It was then that I realized instead of having zero children in the house and the opportunity to do something productive for an hour, I would have one really pissed-off toddler who wanted to “off” me once she saw the boys get into the car and leave without her.
And then… a miracle occurred.
It was simple.
Three bites, no drama.
“Lexi, do you want to go with me and Daddy to get ice cream? You do? Then you have to eat this, okay?”
And she walks towards him with an open mouth like it was made out of chocolate.