This afternoon during the witching hour (when the boys were hammering each other with plastic food and rubbing sticks of glue on their arms) I called my sister to ask if she was up for company.
“Um, well yes, as long as everyone’s in a good mood. The upstairs is a mess, and it’s really chaotic. But if they’re happy and behaving, then come.”
“Oh, sure,” I said. “Yeah, we’re all in great moods.” (Muffling the phone as Ty is clawing my legs and whining.)
So we went, and the weirdest thing happened. About 12 minutes after we got there, I saw Sam out of the corner of my eye violently pounding his cousin Jack with a drum stick, yelling orders to hide in a different bear cave.
Deep breath, Jessica.
A few minutes later their whole house shook with the the blood-curling screams coming from the cruel, horrific, awful punishment of the time-out chair.
Nice, Sam, pull out all the stops. Use violence, scream at the top of your lungs, yes, keep saying, “No no no” over and over. That’s perfect.
And my sister? What was she doing during this traumatic and stressful parenting moment?
She was smiling. Laughing, really.
I would have been annoyed, except that I remembered how hilarious and entertaining…another kid’s tantrum is. I guess no mom can resist the enjoyment of being reminded that her kid is not the only conniving, tyrannical 30-pound devil on the face of the planet.
I need to back up, though. Because one day in thirty years if Sam and his future wife read this (that’s what they’ll do, right? Read it, and laugh over all the good parts, and thank me for being such a wonderful parent?) they’re going to feel I was unfair in my descriptions.
It’s an age of contradictions. As horrible these moments are, I love how wonderful Sam is. He really is. I love hearing him pray that God would “hold up the whole earth, and save all the people from hurricanes, and give new, new, new toys to kids who don’t have any.” He’s so precious when he tells me I’m the best mommy. I love when he tries to make Ty stop crying.
He is just the cutest thing ever.
Except when he’s not.
And I have nothing to say. I’m not Smartter today. I am confused, and wearied, and kind of have a tension neck ache from the stress and grimacing. Also, I’m sick of finding my flyswatters over the house from places where I’ve threatened/enacted corporal punishment. Which actually brings me to my first question.
- Yeah, the spanking. I’m not really in the mood for any long arguments on this today. But really – if you use corporal punishment, how do you decide when it is absolutely necessary? Do you wait for Dad to come home? How do you ensure that it is effective?
- And another question. Is it me, or does bad behavior go in phases? It seems like we have months around here full of bliss and stickers and hugs and “okay, mom”s (or something), and then for a few weeks it’s like Discipline.Boot.Camp. Is that just us? I honestly ran through Sam’s diet today in my head, thinking that surely he had inadvertently been consuming large amounts of Red 40 food dye for the last several weeks. (Still waiting on confirmation for that one.)
- But further, if you have two kids, does it not seem that unfortunately they are never bad at the same time? On second thought, I do remember a few days where both were difficult…and probably, the alternating-schedule-thing is a better idea.
- And, why is it so difficult to discipline? I mean, for real… I’m a mean person. I’m honest, I’m logical, I’m a rule-follower… I am shocked at how difficult it really is to be fair and firm, to dare to discipline. It is so much easier to be a bad parent, to ignore things, to let your kids tell you what to do, to tolerate disrespect, to basically do anything to avoid those shrill and disturbing “temper tantrums.” Man, those little boogers are smart! They know what works!
- And one more thing… I guess I lied. I am getting smartter (and the audience breathed a huge sigh of relief) because I have learned one thing. And that is, being a parent just brings to the surface what a horrible person you are. And how much you need the Lord. I sure wish I wasn’t so snippy and easily angered. Sigh.
But I have found one thing that helps.
If I find myself getting too harsh, being annoyed too easily, and disciplining quickly without kindness, I have come up with a little checklist. It’s called: “The What Are You Really Annoyed About Checklist.” I stop and ask myself:
- Are you hungry? (This is easy. I’m always hungry, so whenever I break out the list, I usually just eat something, and proceed with #2)
- Do you have to go to the bathroom?
- Are you thirsty? (Guys. Being thirsty makes you real miserable.)
- Did someone else make you mad today? Are you worried about something else?
- Are your pants or underwear too tight? For real, ya’ll. That makes you just grumpy. So just go get Old Faithful underwear (you know the ones), and the yoga pants. Do it for the kids.
- Are you tired? Would a cup of coffee help? Granted, you can’t always “fix” this, but at least you can know.
- Are you hot? (This is a big one, too. You know that southern phrase “hot and bothered”? They know what they’re talking about.) Take off a sweatshirt. Life is too short to be hot. It just is.
- And, is there something that is kind of funny about this? Is there something I should take a picture of so that I can show my husband because he will never believe me otherwise?
So there’s my checklist, and thoughts, and questions, about parenting today…Anyone have any answers? 🙂