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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Tale of Persistence

Remember that post full of the adorableness of this past weekend? Yeah, well, they did a pretty good job last night of making up for that.

For reasons I cannot explain, Son lost his little mind at dinner and started playing with his food. He purposefully dropped dishes, played Spin the Fork, and then threw green beans at his sister. I warned him at the bean incident that one more misbehavior with food, and he would be removed from the table and put in his room.

"You won't do anything else tonight," I said sternly. "No TV, no playing with Daddy when he gets home, no nothing. You will just be in your room by yourself. We do NOT play with our food in this house."

Trust me when I say that up to this point, his shenanigans had been waaaay above and beyond the occasional funny "my toast looks like a racecar! vrooooom" comment.

So what did he do after the warning? Looked at me out of the corner of his eyes to see if I meant it (and if I was watching him) and then start spitting bits of chewed up carrot across the table at Daughter. The first pfffft I wasn't sure about; it was pretty subtle. I heard but didn't see the second volley. The third time (all in the space of a few seconds, mind you), I watched him look a little defiantly at me and then quite deliberately spit carrot pieces in her general direction.

"Okay, that's it," I said, picking him up out of his chair. "You are done with dinner."

"Nooooooo," he wailed, as I carried him up to his room.

"I'm sorry, but this is what I said would happen. If you can't behave properly at the table and eat your dinner nicely, then you lose dinner." And I put him in his room. I took the door-handle cover (the kind made to keep children out of rooms full of dangerous things, or off the steep stairs to the basement) off Daddy's office door and put it on the inside of Son's bedroom door so he couldn't open it.

Then the real fun began.

Tears. Lamentations. Pounding on the door. Shrieking at the top of his lungs whole sentences that I couldn't fully understand because they were shrieked but that seemed to involve something about "can't find Duck at the Door" (one of his favorite books).

Daughter immediately took pity on him and hopped up from the dinner table about 30 seconds after I came downstairs. "I check on Bruh-er," she said. Tripping happily up the stairs, she sprung the inmate from his room about 2 minutes after he'd first been put there. "What you doing, Bruh-er?" she asked.

He was crying. Big heaving sobs that involved his whole chest and shoulders.

I had followed her up. "Do you have to use the potty?" My tone was not very kind.

"No," he whimpered.

"Then what's the matter?"

"I can't find Duck at the Door."

"Well, it's probably on your bookshelf," I said. "You'll have to look for it. If you can't find it, you'll have to figure out something else to do." And I closed the door again.

I know. Cruel. But everything is lost if you don't follow through with a punishment you've promised, right? So this was me, following through.

I took the handle cover off the laundry room door, and added that to the outside of his door, to keep his little accomplice from busting him out again, and then Daughter and I went back downstairs.

I got some perverse pleasure, I will admit, from playing with Daughter, tickling her while getting her ready for bed, and otherwise making having-fun noises, so that Son would understand what he was missing through his own naughtiness.

(craaaack went the Mother of the Year award, quietly splintering)*

Back downstairs, Daughter decided she wanted a granola bar. She helped herself to two, all the time talking to herself. "I get bar. One for Self. One for Bruh-er. I take it Bruh-er." And then she trotted up the stairs, two bars in hand.

But, of course, now she couldn't open the door to his room. So the shouting commenced. "Bruh-er, open! the! door! I got bar. I got bar for you. I can't open it. Open the door." (sounds of knocking on her part)

"I can't open it," says Son. "You have to open it."

"I can't do it," shouts Daughter. "I got bar. You want bar? I got bar for you. OPEN. THE. DOOR!" Then, turning and shouting down the staircase, she adds, "Mama! I can't open it. You open Bruh-er door. He want bar. I got bar. You open door. I can't do it."

She came back downstairs to repeat her request in person, at a lower decibel level. "I'm sorry," I told her. "Brother was too naughty at dinner, so he can't have any more food."

"Oh, I see," she said. She climbed up into a chair. "You eat it." And she handed me his bar. We happily ate them.

(craaaaack creeeeak splinter)

After an hour or so, we went upstairs to tuck her in. Son had been quiet for a while, but spoke up when he heard us coming up the steps. "Mama, mama," he said through the door. "I have to show you something."

I opened the door, and he handed me a large picture he'd drawn. "I made this for you and Daddy," he said. "It's a sea monster, and jellyfish, and the sea." It was a very complex and lovely picture. He began to cry again. "Can I come out now?"

"No, I don't think so," I said. "I'm sorry. But children with such terrible manners can't play with other people. Those bad manners need to stay alone in your room. I'll be back to help you get ready for bed in a few minutes." And I closed the door again

(smash! went the statue into unrecognizable obscurity)

Things were super-hairy around bedtime. He had to go potty, and he cried and cried and cried that he was still hungry and held onto his belly. Daughter pitched a fit and screamed from her crib. Son cried, big tears rolling slowly down his cheeks, as he ate his way through the only food I would allow him to have--the remainder of what was on his dinner plate. He was none too happy that the good stuff was all gone, already eaten before the infractions had begun. "All I get is vegetables," he sobbed, chewing on cold steamed green beans and crunchy carrots. Really, you would have thought I was feeding him dirt and bugs

But he must truly have been hungry because he ate the whole big helping of both beans and carrots and drank a big glass of milk.

He cried some more when I wouldn't let him play any computer games. "I don't get to do anything."

"Well," I said. "Perhaps this will help you remember tomorrow that we don't play with our food and have bad manners at the table."

It wasn't pretty. It took ages to put both kids to bed (of course, last night was a night that Husband had a work function that would keep him late, so I was all on my own).

I was more than a little thankful when Husband walked in about 8:15. It was an hour past when Daughter normally falls asleep, and she was still fretfully awake in my lap in the rocking chair. Son was tucked in but sad, since I hadn't had a chance to read him a story yet (I don't believe in withholding books as a punishment for anything). Husband took over with Daughter; I read one story to Son.

And at 8:30, I poured myself a margarita. I sat dully on the couch, feeling like I'd just finished a marathon.

Please, someone, tell me your kids have moments like this. It's not just mine who pull a Jekyll and Hyde periodically, is it?

* with thanks to Mrs F, who reminded me of this fact last night when I told her this story


IRISHKAT said...

Like I tweeted, I too live this life. Following through is what you have to do otherwise they learn (quickly) that there are never consistent consequences. And even though you think your award splintered and shattered into dust, it will actually be bigger and better. I had to resort to making my 3 y/o eat soap to get him to stop spitting food at his brother made me feel like crap but the spitting stopped.

catnip said...

We've ALL been there. I have too many times to count! It's hard to do, but in the long run you'll both be better off for your having stood your ground.

Karen said...

Oh no, honey. You are not alone. Your son was obviously testing his boundaries and KUDOS to you for sticking to your guns. If you back down, if you're wishy-washy with your discipline, he will run over you and never look back - trust me.

And I KNOW it was terrible and traumatic, but just wait until they reach the teenage years. I've been having a TIME with my 15-year old this summer. A LOT of growing pains over here and lessons learned -for both of us.

So please, know this just comes with the territory and you're setting the precedent for years to come.

Hang in there. (((hug)))

Write From Karen

KD @ A Bit Squirrelly said...

Seriously you handled it really well. I am horrible about following through and I am paying for it with my five year old.

Angela at mommy bytes said...

How about every night? Well probably not that often, but just last night I had to wake my daughter who had fallen asleep on the couch and put her on the toilet to get ready for bed and the screaming hysterics that ensued where enough to drive Dad out of the house. AND I insisted that I brush her teeth for her as well. It was like I was torturing her with a cattle prod.

We've all been there, hang in there!

Karen said...

Seems to me they are worst when they know only one parent will be around to enforce the rules. Good job not giving in.
I had to laugh a little that you put the door handle cover on the inside of the bedroom door, because I used to do that too. Of course now my daughter knows how to take it off, so it's useless.
Hopefully tonight will be better for everyone!

Amber said...

Is this a transcript from the hidden camera you have at my house?

Just wonderin'.

Don Mills Diva said...

I am impressed that you stuck to your guns. I am quite certain you will see improved manners at the dinner table from now on.

Simply Shannon said...

You so totally did exactly the right thing! It is just heartbreaking while it is going on (not to mention unbelievably frustrating), but it really is completely worth it in the end.
Good for you for sticking to your guns and teaching your son that he has a terrific Mother who loves him very much.

Karen said...

Wow, so proud of you! We've got Jekyll/Hyde here, too ... remember, these are the battles we fight now so we don't have to fight the bigger ones later. Keep it up, it's nice to know I'm not the only one out there to keep the standards high and consequences followed-through!

Singingwendy said...

As an elementary school teacher, all I can say is "Thank you, thank you, thank you"! I can't tell you how many children I deal with on a daily basis who have never heard the word, "No" or had someone follow through with discipline and consequences. There's nothing more frustrating than a class of children who all believe the world revolves around them and they can do what ever they want without repercussions.

I did have to laugh at his sister trying to take him a granola bar. That was too cute!

Samantha said...

You did just the right thing!! I know exactly how you feel. As a preschool teacher and mommy of a toddler, I can't even tell you how familiar I am with this scenario! (Especially in Septemeber when there is a whole class of 3 year old "testing" the boundaries!)

What I always say is, "Well, you have a choice. You can stop doing (behaviour) OR you can choose to (consequence ie. stay in your room for the night, etc.)
If the behaviour continues, I just say, "Ok, you've chosen to (go to room, etc). That's your choice."

It's a great way to show them that they choose their behaviour. Don't worry. He will respect you more for following through!!

This Mom said...

Oh I am right there with you. Each of my older 4 have had a might like this gnereally it only takes one. Thank goodness. I love that your daughter is so good to your son. always thinking of him though. Way to go for standing your ground.

Tara R. said...

Good for you sticking to your guns. Threats mean nothing if you don't follow through with consequences for inappropriate behavor. A kid won't starve from missing half a meal.

Aimeepalooza said...

Um yes. My children can go from Angels to Satan in 10 seconds flat. Like little monsters with knives coming after me, after they just finished helping me with the dog, rubbing my back and telling me I'm the most beautiful bestest mom in the world.

Diane said...

Oh my goodness, my kids are both under 2 and one minute they are sweet and lovey and wonderful and the next they are throwing food and screaming at the table. In fact, the most misbehavior at our house happens at the table. It's terrible and awful, but you have to stop it. I think you did the right thing. I'm pretty sure your son learned a very valuable lesson. Good job.

Tracey said...

We ALL live this. Loved your persistence and his persistence, too. Growing up sucks. End of story. It's not easy for the kids or the parents, and we all have to go through the pains to get to the good stuff.

Mrs. Schmitty said...

As hard as it was...you did great. You held your ground and he was taught his lesson. I'm sure he'll think twice next time he wants to spit food at his sister.

Mel, A Dramatic Mommy said...

My son has been pushing and testing me all summer. I'm surprised his underwear still fits 'cause that kid has sure grew some major cajones.

It's getting a little better. And as far a mommy of the year? We've all had to return our statues at one point or other. I locked my kid in the car once. Yours was at least in his room.

Jaina said...

Oh no, I've literally watched one or both of my little brothers' heads spin around 180 degrees. Out of nowhere. Good for you for following through.


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