Wisdom of the past, wisdom of the present

A question for the generations of women who have done this and been doing this and who represent a wealth of knowledge I need to tap:

Q: I beseech you, women of previous generations, when your children were playing in the yard, and you gently and politely asked the big one not to point the hose at the little one, looked away for a moment to put something down or pick something up, then looked back to see a guilty looking older child quickly turning the hose away from a soaked and crying younger child while proclaiming, “I didn’t do anything!”…
…how did you not beat the older child?

A: Not beat? Oh, sweetie, we use the switch for the lying and a belt for the disobeying.

Okay, that didn’t go as I’d hoped. Let’s try again.

Q: I beg of you, current parents in my community, when your older child is lifting your younger child toward the stovetop while you are chopping vegetables for dinner and you say, “Please put him down. Put him down. Put him DOWN that’s dangerous!” and he continues, reaching the little one high enough to catch his feet in the oven door and open it, hurting the little guy and endangering both…
…how do you not beat the older one?

A: We breathe, we get down on their level, and we talk. In fact, we often find an appropriate song and a snack helps in these matters.

I see. This is harder than I thought. I envisioned wisdom involving margaritas. Or caramel. Deep breathing and talking I’ve tried. Let’s try again.

Q: Internet, please, I beg you. When the older one thinks it’s funny to take the big exercise ball and bounce it in the living room just hard enough to knock over his brother, and he has been told firmly that such behavior is not acceptable and that bouncing the ball must be gentle and not near his brother or anything breakable (else have the ball removed and placed in the garage); and you step out of the room to check the food almost burning on the stove to hear a screech and a crash and return to a fallen and crying toddler, and a fallen and broken lamp…
…how. do. you. not. beat. your. older. child.?

Hmmm? How? Help me Interwebs. You’re my only hope for wisdom today.

A:

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22 thoughts on “Wisdom of the past, wisdom of the present

  1. Breathe in and out. Hide in the bathroom with said toddler, sippy cup filled with “mama” juice. Take nice big gulps of “mama” juice. Pray for school to start.

    Wrong answer? Or dangerously close to what you’d REALLY like to do?

    If it helps you to know, their listening skills don’t mature as quickly as their ability to make up excuses for their inability to follow directions. This coming from a teacher.

    Remember, nice big gulps. Eating chocolate also helps…

  2. @Maria I always do what the teacher says.
    In defense of my parenting of the younger one, I did a lot of scoop-up-younger-one-and-announce-that-we’d-go-somewhere-else-while-older-got-the-sort-of-kindness-energy-it-takes-to-be-with-us. Passive aggressive but beating-averting, too.

  3. Drop him off at the door of the nearest fire station, yell FIRE!, then run like hell. Someone will no doubt hose his ass off within seconds.

  4. @jc hilarious and practical. I can always count on you! And seriously, I’ve asked the firefighters before to remind me what the safe surrender age is. They were not amused.

  5. Yeah, I think the kid has to be on fire past a certain age. Maybe you can stick him up a tree with your kitty. They have to rescue the kitty, especially if it’s duct-taped to the kid up the tree.

  6. I personally see “the scoop” as a “protective use of force” and not passive aggressive in the least. You are awesome, and handle everything that comes your way with 1000 times more equanimity than most people can muster in their most Buddha-like moments.

    And, on an empathetic note, I took the diapers downstairs today and left Maya alone with the baby for two minutes, and suddenly I hear that horrible pain-shriek that babies make. I tear upstairs to find Leila with three large abraded bruise/cuts on her face and Maya huddled in a ball, saying, “I made a poor choice.”

    Holy crap… can I count the ways I failed that one? The subtle years of passive aggressive parenting that instills that level of shame, plus placing the responsibility of taking care of a baby on a five year old, even if only for a couple of minutes… gah.

    This whole parenting thing is ridiculous. And impossible. And I would quit if it wouldn’t mess up my kids even worse than I’m already messing them up.

  7. @jc I totally forgot the kitty clause. As long as your kid is on fire *and* duct taped to a cat up a tree, the fire department will totally hose him down. And take him away, maybe? For questioning or shock or some shit?

    @Dana I appreciate the empathy. But I wonder why we can’t assume a 5 year old can keep his or her hands to his or her clusterfucking self for a few minutes in the presence of a baby. It’s *our* fault for trying to run a household and leaving them for a few seconds? Or it’s the five year olds making choices that should seem pretty obviously bad before they happen? I mean, I get “jumping on a bed because it’s fun and consequences be damned because I’m five and don’t really know.” But “I felt like scratching the baby’s face to see what happened because I’m pretty sure there’s an option other than it’ll hurt the baby that I haven’t explored” just makes me mad. I’m glad I know people like you who feel something other than anger. Because I’m pretty much angry all the time now and need to find another path.

    Like, maybe fire and duct tape. And cats.

  8. No, I was angry… and horrified, and dying a little inside. I tried desperately not to come down hard on her, since I could tell she was already feeling like crap, but, honestly, I felt like smacking her.

    And, in her defense, she didn’t scratch the baby on purpose… she just thought it was fun to help Leila stand up and then let her fall down (and I could hear them both laughing, so Leila must have thought it was funny at first, too.. and from the mutual laughter I assumed that all was well), then do it again and again until she accidentally let her fall face forward against the corner of the laundry basket (which doesn’t seem like it would have been sharp enough to cause the damage it caused, but it was and it did).

    Let’s drink to poor choices all around.

    • @Dana, well if that was laundry basket not fingernails, you win for the day. And it’s the baby’s fault for falling wrong. ;-)

      @simmyfish So I’ve heard, but sitting on your own hands seems too energy intensive. Sit on the kids’ hands, maybe?

      @Jen If I could get a hug or a sorry it would be a good day. I usually hear, “Well, I’m not sorry, so I won’t say it.”

      @Roya those solutions sound quite real to me. Unfortunately, Spouse is rarely home weekdays. We’re lucky to get him by bedtime. So there are no hands into which to shove them after about 6am. Junk food sounds nice. Can *I* sit in front of the tv with junk food and hope the rest of the day will sort itself out?

  9. no answers but the one that is right for you and your family… i’m sure that was the deep answer you were looking for. :)
    I live and breathe the non-listening every day. I love how huggng and saying sorry makes me feel but Im not so sure the 4yo has grasped it yet. Its more of a punishment to him.

  10. Tell your husband you are running away.
    Actually run away.

    Turn on a movie and give older child junk food.

    Can you tell I have no real solutions.

  11. does time out work? my girls hate that shit. a minute for each year they’re old, only four at the moment, for each offense. let ‘em cry their dramatic little eyes out for four measly minutes. the purple chair has traditionally been the chair of shame. it’s better than the sound whipping they have each deserved many times during their short lives. a moment to be embarrassed by their bad behaviour, then to make amends. maybe. who the f knows. i can’t drink anymore so cocktails aren’t the answer. make him do chores or some other horror!

  12. it’s a circle of hell Dante forgot to write about. I have no A:. tried all the same things you have and sometimes I find myself catatonically staring at where the wall meets the cieling. I think there must be a number of times you have to say the same thing over and over before you go clinicly insane. my husband told me yesterday that I’ll never say the same thing a million times at least. I demanded to know how I couldn’t possibly already have? “well”, he said, “you would have to say the same exact thing for 12 straight hours for 12 straight years. I’d estimate you will say the same thig around 73, 874 times, but never a million” right, thanks, at least I know the apple hat drives me to stare didn’t fall far from he tree.

  13. Well, I tried many of the responses already listed and I have to reinforce the two posters who said (1) you are awesome (so whatever you do, it’s bound to be better than many of my choices) and (2) whichever choice is right for your family and your sanity at any given moment will work out … because you are awesome. I will simply add, based on my experience with two who are only 17 months apart and who have so far lived to the ripe old ages of 16 and almost 18, this: They will survive each other’s and your bad moments. They will love each other despite any momentary fears that may torture you. They will remember the good times more than the bad, and their support of each other will make you deeply gratified and hopeful for their futures.

    • @Andrea M. Well said. I do try to count in an hour how many interactions are sweet and adorable. And I really enjoy the fact that when Peanut speaks gently and calmly to Butter, the little guy does whatever he is bid. And when Peanut is nasty, the toddler bites him. So they’ll be fine. And Nurture Shock illuminated for me the fact that their basic sibling pattern is set at birth, and they’ll disagree just about the same number of times per hour their whole childhood.

      16 and almost 18? Dang. That eventual reality terrifies *and* sustains me. Good luck with the next few years!

  14. I’m convinced that there is a decibel level of yelling that children simply cannot hear. If I whisper the word cookie they both come running! So I’ve gone to talking more quietly and they do seem to respond… sometimes… Still I’m pretty sure that my boys laugh themselves to sleep at how crazy they can make me in a days time and I work full time outside the home!!! May the force be with you!

  15. tara, I totes agree with using a lifevest for ultimate securement, good thinkin. I’ve done that before. Not with small children. It was a wild animal, same difference. It worked like a charm. No rope is needed if the straps pull tight.

    nap, your cat’s name is CatNap. get it? I crack myself up.

  16. @j timeouts do not work. They escalate things, and he won’t stay in his room/chair/whatever. I do a variation where I physically remove him from the situation, put him somewhere neutral and tell him, “wait here until you get enough energy to be friendly with us.” He usually waits a minute or two, but not if cajoled. Stubborn little bubbleduck.
    I also tell him to do an angry project: ripping paper, drawing anger, hammering, backyard throwing. Sometimes helps, sometimes doesn’t.

    @tara your husband’s logic re: a million times vs. 1,000,000 times would be enough to get him stabbed in my house. Just saying.
    Dante-esque indeed. Maybe I’ll pretend I’m in a Dali painting next time. Or Munch.

    @Heather whispering is great advice. Several other readers have suggested it. I’m a red-hot temper type so I don’t know if I can go that way. But I’ll try. Mostly I repeat, repeat, then say, straight into his eyes, “This is the last time I’m going to say this. I’m getting mad and the next time will be yelling. Draw. Your. Sword.” or something like that. I warn before I lose it. Then I really lose it.

    @jc CatNap indeed. The moving fumes are clearly doing wonders for your comedy lobe. ;-)

  17. I’m turning old school. I’ve used time out, sent him to use room, and if he did something utterly dangerous like mess with the stove, (I know I’m a bad modern mama) I smack his hand or thigh. I do not mess around with dangerous stuff. But when Evan’s being a jerk, I tell him to take his favorite toys and play in another room until he can be nice to his brother(s).

    Good luck. This parenting stuff is HARD.

  18. I hear there’s this magical place where you can safely and legally (for a small fortune) drop your child off for several hours…this wonderland is called preschool. I am counting down the days…

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