How Kids Punish You


IMG_2059In the adult world, we tend to reciprocate nice things for other people, especially people we love and care about. We think – wow, it was really nice that Jane sent me a letter last week (wish people did that still), I’m going to give her a call. Or my office mate and I who take turns buying lunch each week. Niceness tends to be met with niceness. This is not necessarily (read “rarely”) the case in the parenting world!

For some insane reason (maybe the same one that leads a woman to face labor pains another time), I continue to take my boys to the Great Geauga County Fair year after year. Mind you – the fair is really a great time. There’s pig races to see which of the four swine reach the Oreo cookie first. A fireman battle of water jets pushing a ball across a wire to the opposite side. A big sandbox with hundreds of little green army men and “big” army trucks to play with. There’s fire trucks to climb into, combines and tractors to climb on, firemen to dunk with a thrown softball, and lots and lots of animals to pet and daringly walk past before being hooved in the chest. And of course, the IMG_2043ultimate event at any fair is the eardrum-numbing, motor-revving, dust-kicking, smoke-billowing Demolition Derby. Yes, every youngster’s dream (and adults, too, apparently) – drive as fast as you can to smash into as many cars as you can. Last wreck moving is the winner!

This is all good. But this goodness that mothers endure on behalf of their offspring typically comes at a high price (and I’m not even talking about the cost of food at the fair!). I’m talking about the incredible exacting cost of emotional energy to survive over-stimulated, under-slept, over-sugared, greased out, muddy, potentially disease infected animal petting kids. By 8 pm, my voice was cracking after continuous exposure to dust and smoke and smells….but mostly from repeating similar phrases again and again: “get back here,” “do not run ahead,” “stop touching that,” “don’t put that in your mouth,” “get back here,” “put that down,”  “don’t IMG_1980touch that,” “get back here,” “stop running,” “get down from there.”

I sometimes think that the worst part of the 24-hour experience is trying to get them to settle at night in a new place as I’m spewing out threat after ineffective threat, praying they don’t break the accordion room divider of my friends’ RV or would stop playing with the window, or really – have I never told you not to shine a bright light into your eyes?!? RVs are just so dang fun!

But that’s a momentary punishment when it comes to the 6 hours I must endure the following afternoon with two over-stimulated, under-slept, over-sugared, greased out, now bathed little maniacs. (Yes, it was just two….I wisely decided that The Little Guy would be much happier….I mean, his mother would be much less stressed if he decided to spend the night with his loving grandmother instead of playing in the mud at the fair. He naturally dished out his version of punishment by virtually ignoring me for a bit once we got home just to show his displeasure…and of course, by running to his aunt for a hug instead of me….little bugger!) Mr. Ornery and Super Tall Guy regaled me hours and hours of noise, sibling fighting, squabbling, yelling, and general disobedience as a thank-you gift for the trip.

I stood in the shower this evening (washing off the mud and potentially disease infected animal substances) pondering how these little creatures repay “fun times with mommy” with “torture mommy” until she throws her hands up and practically swears “I’m never going to take you to do anything fun ever again!” (….until the next fun event).

And of course, I know that they are not trying to punish me. They are decompressing from a wonderful weekend, experiencing the disappointment of knowing that high intensity fun is over and “life” returns to normal, dealing with additional siblings in the house, coping with drastic changes to a generally well-aligned schedule, and of course, just being really, really tired.

So, just like the woman who faces labor again having “forgotten” (not really) the pains of last time, I shake off the “pain” of the day, wash away the mud, and prepare eagerly for the next Labor Day weekend. After all, we have more pigs to cheer for, firemen to dunk, ponies to ride and cars to smash. But they better not punish me the next time we do something fun!

There’s that saying about nailing Jell-o to a wall….

“I am jello.”

That’s my newest mantra….in the scheme of constantly changing parenting mantras. Hey, at least I can temporarily find something to cling to.

This one has been working this week. I learned it from a saint of a friend who has 4 young boys – all within 6 months of the span of my boys’ ages. So whenever I think I have it bad or that I’m having a rough day, all I have to do is say “at least I only have THREE boys!”

The concept of “jello” is that it doesn’t stick to you. So when you start an “engagement” with a child (euphemism for an escalation of emotions), you remember that you have your own emotions and do not have to take on those of the child. Be jello – don’t let their emotions stick to you.

This is in stark contrast to my usual mode of engagement – volcanic eruption! So I thought the jello thing might be worth a try.

Monday was strawberry jello. Micah jumped right into one of his typical morning jelloinfractions – full-body slam of one of the younger crew – usually either Ryan or Noah. I suggested that he take a break on the stairs (or you could call it a “time out”). He took his cup of strawberry milk with him and for the next 3-4 minutes sat on the bottom step taking a swig of milk and spewing it happily across the hard wood floors. I stood one room away in the kitchen door frame saying to myself, “jello”….. “jello” …… “not volcano….jello.” I wet a few rags, walked over to Micah and suggested that whenever he was ready, he could clean up.

Score one for Mommy Jello Queen!

Tuesday was lime jello….as in the color of the “Micah broke the stained glass window” text that I received as he and I pulled into the driveway. Apparently, that morning after I left early for a meeting, he and his aunt got into an engagement – likely for a reason very similar to Monday morning = full body contact! So I sat him down on the couch and “jello,” suggested that he tell me what his punishment/consequence was going to be. I rejected the 100 push-ups idea (he can’t even do 2) and accepted the 6-weeks of no TV….begudgingly….because that really just means 6 weeks of punishing me!

Score two for Jello Queen!

The orange jello of the Cheez-it eruption was just not quite as successful. Probably because I was tired and grumpy and he was tired and grumpy and I didn’t feel like repeating “mushin” (the martial arts word for controlled mind) to him or “jello” to me! Instead we had Cheez-it lava spewing throughout the kitchen and hallway floors and eventually the dust-buster was pulled out for this “when you’re ready, clean up” mess.

So, I’m 2 for 1….which is very important to Micah’s competitive brain (even though he doesn’t know my jello trick so the competitive aspect is not quite so fun). Maybe we’ll have to keep seeing how many colors of the jello rainbow we can be!rainbow_3