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.
"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?"
"JACK. GET IN THIS BATHROOM NOW. JACK?? JACK??"
"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."
"That is NOT WHAT WE CALL BRUSHING. YOU ARE NOT GOING TO GET A STAR"
"DR. DEXTER IS GOING TO BE VERY MAD. HE TOLD US YOU NEED TO BRUSH BETTER. "DO YOU WANT DR. DEXTER TO BE MAD?"
"DO YOU WANT HOLES IN YOUR TEETH??"
"SEE??? SEE? THIS IS THE STAR YOU WOULD HAVE GOT. BUT YOU ARE NOT GETTING"
"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."
"YES. YOU. DO"
"OKAY. HERE'S YOUR DESSERT. YOU'D BETTER EAT THE BROCCOLI NOW! YES! M&MS!!! [shake bag in front of him] YES! I KNOOOOW THEY ARE YOUR FAVORITE"
"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.