Friday, April 18, 2008

The fullest of threats

I am not a believer in empty threats. I firmly believe that if you threaten your child with some type of discipline, you have to carry through with it, no matter how inconvenient it may be for you.

Children are wonderful little beings, but you give them an inch and they take a few thousand miles. And you do them no favors by teaching them their actions don’t have consequences.

It was beautiful here Wednesday. The sun was shining, the sky was a gorgeous cobalt blue and the thermometer hovered in the 70s. Relishing the day, I packed up the kids and drove to the local playground.

A few minutes after arriving, we landed in the big sandpit. Peanut started digging a big hole while all Loaf wanted to do was use a sand mold to make herself a sea horse. Upon finishing she proudly declared, “Look Mommy! Look my sea horse!”

Before I could even praise her, Peanut rushed over and stomped on it.

“Don’t do that again,” I warned. “Say you're sorry.”

Peanut apologized with a shit-eating smile on her face and Loaf remade the sea horse. But again, within seconds of finishing it, Peanut rushed over and crushed it.

While Loaf shrieked, I grabbed Peanut by the arm. “I’m serious. Don’t do that again. If you do, we’re leaving. We’ll go right home.”

As soon as the threat left my lips, I regretted it. I should have instead put up “no treat tonight,” or an on-the-spot time out. I really did not want to leave the park on such a beautiful day, and this was a punishment that affected the very well behaving Loaf as well.

On the other hand, I figured the threat was weighty enough that she’d take it to heart. I knew she didn’t want to leave.

I. Was. Wrong.

The third sea horse was instantly destroyed and all the worse, she looked right at me while she did it, daring me to act.

“OK we’re going. Right now. Get your shoes.”

“NOOOOO!” she bellowed as she ran from me. A couple of nearby moms looked over and I instantly felt the shame of being judged for not being able to control my own kid. I caught her by the arm and pulled her to me, but she leaned forward and sunk her teeth into my shoulder.

From this point on, the situation became the proverbial runaway train.

“DON’T YOU EVER BITE ME OR ANYONE ELSE,” I screamed, no longer caring about the other mothers at the park.

I turned to Loaf. “We have to go honey. I’m sorry, but Peanut is misbehaving and we all have to go.”

Well, Loaf did not want to go. She simply shook her head while continuing to scoop sand into her bucket. It became clear I was going to have to carry her out and the only way I could do that was to let go of Peanut.

As I reached down to pick up Loaf, Peanut grabbed two fistfuls of sand and dumped them on my head. Sand ran through my hair, down my face, landed in my eyes and gathered in my bra.

This kid is going to drive me drink, I thought.

Furious, I picked up Loaf, stood and grabbed Peanut by the arm once again. “Now, in addition to leaving, you’re going to get a nice long time out when we get home.”

The sandpit is in the back of a very big park. I still had to maneuver past all the swings, slides, other equipment and about a dozen benches filled with happy, chatting mothers.

I had Loaf balanced on one hip and Peanut by the arm. Both were shrieking. Neither was wearing shoes nor socks, so I had those cupped in the hand at the end of the arm that was supporting Loaf. Every now and then, I’d drop a shoe or sock and had to stoop to pick it up.

It was the longest walk ever and I felt every single eye on us as we passed.

As we approached the parking lot, I sat them both on a bench and slipped on their shoes, but Peanut kept kicking hers off. So I asked Loaf to walk and picked up Peanut, who proceeded to pinch me – hard – on the back of my arm. She then drove her index finger forcefully into my collarbone. (Seriously, are they teaching self-defense at her preschool? Where the hell is she learning this stuff?)

When we got to the car, I set the barefoot Peanut down on the rough gravel, no longer really caring if the stones hurt her feet.

“You stand here and you don’t move one inch. Got it? Not one inch or you won’t see a minute of TV for the rest of the week.”

She was either totally worn out or she finally realized I was serious, because she stood exactly in that spot while I buckled the very unhappy Loaf (”Want to stay! Want to stay at park!” ) into her car seat.

Both girls screamed and cried all the way home. Peanut was sent straight to her room and Loaf sat on the front step and pouted for several minutes.

Me? I poured myself a big, tall glass of cold lemonade. Then dumped a shot of vodka in it for good measure.

Sometimes, even the threats you make in your own head need to be acted upon.

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Blogger Kate said...

Oh, you poor thing. I get it. I totally get it. Ack. Hang in there!

1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are a patient patient woman. How do you do it?

1:19 PM  
Blogger Mayberry said...

I once had to do that walk of shame (one tantrumming child under each arm) in front of my kids' child care center. MORTIFYING.

Hope today is better for you all!

2:52 PM  
Blogger Kimberly said...

Anonymous - Did you read the last line? I drink. ;-)

OK, not really. That's the first drop of alcohol I've had in weeks. Honestly, the public audience helped keep me calm. Had we been at home, I would have been much more, um, loud n how I dealt with the situation.

4:53 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

Oh, mama! That is so awful, but so true. The following through. You give me strength!

9:46 PM  
Blogger Maureen said...

Oh what a day huh? I think you totally deserved that drink!

Some days even the best kids get the best of you! But, who cares what the other mothers think? You KNOW that at some point they were dealing with a similar situation. I never judge other parents because I know I have been there. In fact, we had a meltdown yesterday over wearing a coat and then taking the coat off.

You did the right thing, you brave & patient mommy ;)

8:48 AM  
Blogger Mary Beth said...

We all have bad days sometimes, even little ones. And I'll bet every mother there was thinking "That could be me!" It's so hard to discipline your kids, especially in public, but the alternative is having them run the show, which is just not an option.

12:19 PM  
Blogger Woman with a Hatchet said...

I'm so sorry! That sounded awful!

Where do those karate skills come from, anyway? I hope they aren't teaching them to become ninjas at her preschool....

Also, I think a good number of those moms watching were feeling really really badly for you and probably wanted to help, but couldn't think about how. At least, that's what I would have thought had I witnessed it.

I've had my own walk of shame, too.

Along with the pummeling. No ninja moves though, thank goodness!

11:27 PM  
Blogger Aunt Kath said...

We just got back from a great 10 day vacation in Disney World. If you want to see some kid meltdowns go down there. I felt fortunate to have self sufficient kids who are 13, almost 12 and 9 being able to do things for themselves. I was amazed at seeing multitudes of small children and infants being pushed around in strollers on hot days. We saw endless over stimulated, exhausted and crying little kids being tended to by their unhappy parents who were snapping at eachother. Not everyone was like that but many of them were. I often wondered if they were wondering if what they were going through was really worth it.

Anyway, you did the right thing by following through. You're doing a favor for them and yourself by sticking to your guns.

5:03 PM  

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