The Little %$#! Is On To Me

de This, my friends, is what is know in parental lingo as a "Reward Chart."

In this house, such clever and innovative ways to entice one's child to do basic things--like, oh, I don't know, clean his teeth or eat a green thing or take a nap without freaking-the-hell out--are referred to as Acts in Futility. This particular little venture I like to refer to as A Rod With Which We Beat Our Own Backs. (but while you are here, do take a moment to admire my deft artistry--naive though it is...)
I am in trouble. I've mentioned before that my husband is currently tackling a gruelling teaching schedule--one that has him leaving the house some mornings at 7:30am and not getting home until 8:30pm. This means that during the two "red zone" periods of our day I am left in charge--The Getting Up and Getting Out In The Morning and then The Feeding of Dinner and Getting to Bed."
Yesterday, when my husband made moves to leave the house at 6pm, my son sweetly inquired "Daddy? Are you going to teach now?" On hearing "yes" the kid literally began rubbing his hands and cackling in Machiavellian glee "It's just Momma???!!!"
Because Momma = Sucka, you see. Momma is the one who would rather just let you watch one more show before bed, or leave your brocolli, or play with trucks during dinner, or clean up your mess than endure tantrums. Momma is the one who always caves, because what's the big deal?
I always cave. Daddy does not cave. (A fact that Momma is having newfound respect for--and yes this is an apology for always making him the Bad Cop to her lily-livered, "oh, honey, he's only four" undermining Good Cop).
But Daddy is gone. And I am left with a child who is screeching with evil glee as he speeds off to the cupboard to help himself to cookies before dinner. I am left with the child who does not ever feel hungry for dinner (gagging on every bite) but who is begging me for goldfish and cheesesticks 10 minutes after the plates are cleaned. Suddenly every little thing is a battle--getting up (my son acts like a sluggish teenager) getting dressed, washing up, cleaning teeth, eating breakfast.... and so on and so forth...
Enter new character. Shouty Momma. This last few weeks I feel I have reached an all time low with my parenting ability. I have discovered I only have it in me to ask nicely and sweetly for something to be done maybe two times, three max. Then Shouty Momma reveals herself.
Scenario 1:
"Honey. Here's your new Spongebob toothbrush with sparkly toothpaste. How about you brush your teeth now?"
"Honey. You really need to clean your teeth. Come on, sweet!"
"Remember, you get a star if you clean your teeth well. You want a star don't you?"
"I am NOT hurting you. I just needed to get you in the bathroom. Now get up on your stool. I SAID GET UP ON YOUR STOOL."
Scenario 2:
"Honey, you really need to eat more of your dinner. That's not enough and there are no snacks while you watch t.v."
"Remember how we said that veggies make you big and strong? And they help you poop too? Remember?"
"OK. But I have a nice dessert for you if you eat a bit more of your dinner. You want dessert don't you?
"Jack? Eat. Your. Broccoli. You LIKE broccoli."
"Yes you do."
"OK, YOU ARE LOSING YOUR DESERT NOW. LOOK! I'M GOING TO HAVE TO THROW THEM AWAY" [I dangle minibag of M&Ms over the trash can. Much screeching ensues. I now hate myself and my existence].
When I shared this story with a friend of mine the other day she told me how, when her 3 year old son had said something especially snotty to her when she dropped him at preschool, she had flipped him off to his turned back. his was a woman I have always admired as an especially patient and skilled parent, and she had flipped off her three-year old. She said this, and I knew we would be friends forever.
My son is a fabulous little soul. Gregarious and enthusiastic about every little thing. However, in the words of Louis C.K. he can, from time-to-time, Be An Asshole. And lord almighty, so can I. Cave-in-Mommy is not so bad really. And the appearance of Shouty Momma from time to time an inevitability. Hopefully, with a bit of therapy, he'll not be too damaged by my inadequacies.


doow said...

I've always wondered what those goldfish biscuits taste like. I think I'd like them. So next time J is demanding them, having turned his nose up at his dinner, don't give them to him. Send them to me instead.

Elizabeth said...

I am cracking up at your Scenarios, they sound so familiar! I have been Shouty Mama more times than I care to count. That is a hellish schedule your husband has there; if you EVER need a break, seriously, you can send Jack here. We have tons of toys and besides, what's one more kid?

SUEB0B said...

My mom was such a hardliner. 5 kids, 8 grands, 9 great-grands. She never caved, at least for me. By the time I was born, she had had kids for 15 years, so she had it mostly figured out, I guess. She was a rock.

She never, ever changed her mind. By the time I was 2, I had figured out that whining, complaining and throwing tantrums would not buy me one single concession. And she and dad always provided a united front.

Somehow, I still love them LOL.

I wish you luck with your little guy.

Oh, The Joys said...

My girlfriend Elke called her three year old an affhole in front of me before I had children and I knew we were going to be friends.

Woman with kids said...

Shouty momma lives here too. Along with Cranky momma and "Let's everyone take a nap, I'm tired" momma.

Just keep repeating to yourself what I do: When I grow up, I'm not having kids.

BlogWhore said...

u r scaring me. i am scared of my daughter becoming a toodler.

please tell me that this all ends?!?!?

ozma said...

Joy, you are so funny. Shouty mama!

What works? I know nothing that works. What is the secret to toddler/pre-schooler behavior modification? Please, someone? Does anyone know?

The funny thing is that guilt works. She cares so much that she has disappointed me! She cries even! It's horrible. Does she do what I say, though? Noooooo.

Today: Please sit on the potty, please don't roll around on the public bathroom floor, please wash your hands.


Nothing works. We leave. I tell her "I am very disappointed in your behavior. That was not good behavior." Then she cries. (She is obviously better at making me feel guilty than I am at making her feel guilty.)

Shower, rinse, repeat.

The fact she cries sort of confirms my suspicion that she can't really help it. She cannot resist her urges to resist and also to mess with me. So this sort of makes me think there's not much one can do there until some self control is in the offing. So hopefully I am not a totally horrible parent (just a partially horrible parent).

Of course, adults don't even have self control much of the time. So maybe the whole thing's hopeless.

She resists EVERYTHING: Shirts going on, shirt going off, shoes, baths, foods hair brushing. (Except, she sort of will eat some veggies sometime.)*

How old is your son? How much more time do I have? Is this forever? Is there hope?

And let me bow down and worship you for doing all this yourself. My husband does mostly everything or else is there most of the time to lend a hand. If I had to do it myself, I think I would die.

*There is one secret I figured out and this is that if there is something that never, ever gets slacked on they will eventually give in to it. Never is she allowed to not brush teeth and we forcibly have brushed teeth so now she doesn't resist. But there is only so many things this works with. You can't force feed them, e.g.

Kelly said...

yeah, that's pretty much my life. I lived with a friend of mine who had her daughter when we were pretty young. Around the time of our cohabitation, said daughter was about 3 years old and, you know, in that raging shithead phase. my friend gave her the finger one day and at the time I laughed but later thought, "god, that's terrible." and I thought that until I had cause to give my son the finger one day. I'm not saying I'm proud of it, but he totally deserved it.

Peter said...

It's all so very orange.

Lisa b said...

Very nice work on the chart Joy. I keep thinking I shoud institute a sticker system too but I see it ending with no sticker and tears.
I find its a constant dance between bribery, threats and insanity.
When does your husband's work schedule improve?

lildb said...

*laughing too hard to type*

virtualredhead said...

Send Jack to my place, as I am the dinner mafia. I practiced on Robbie, and have effectively beaten him into submission.

The rule in our house is bites for age. 3 yo? 3 bites of everything. 5 yo? 5 bites of everything. You don't get up until it's gone.

But Isaac? Last night it took 43 minutes to chew and swallow three bites of perch and three bites of zuchinni. By the time he was done chewing, it was a liquid pile of gruel oozing out of his mouth. But he did it. Isaac is a tricky one, see, and can manipulate the hell out of me. So this random rule helps me stick to me guns.

I have also been known to put them both straight to bed in the midst of a dinner fit. Oh? You're not hungry? Then you must be ready for bed.

Our third evil parent trick is to clean up everything from dinner except for the offending plate of food. Then when "I'm hungry" pops up, I say, "your dinner is on the counter." Darn it, that one is just mean. They hate it.

I never claimed to be a good mother. heh.

themikestand said...

If I didn't already know you weren't my wife, I would have suspected you were -- just from this post.

Karen said...

My seven year old was whiny on Christmas day cause dinner was late (in-laws cooking...) and turned to me to explain (after 3 rounds of present opening) that it has been a very hard day for him (Christmas day!) . I said "that's crap ( to my seven year old, honestly, who is this person?) I was so shocked/proud of myself that I started laughing and then sent him to play with all his new toys in his room til dinner was ready. Honestly, it was like another mother took over for a minute, but for that minute, I really needed her here.