My nemesis is cold and hard, silently working to destroy my psyche and leave me in a state of utter insanity. He disguises himself as the calm, soothing type but I know he’s just biding his time, quietly waiting for the moment I throw my arms in the air and scream “IT’S NOT YOUR TURN!”
That’s right, my nemesis is a blue, plastic, “Little Tikes” infant/toddler swing.
Every morning, my children wake and before I can even ask what they want for breakfast, they are pounding on our patio door chanting “OUTSIDE! OUTSIDE!” Not politely asking “Mother, may we please go outside?” No, beating their fists and demanding like a couple of cavemen from another era who have been corralled indoors against their will. Do I advise them that they must eat their pancakes and put on proper clothes before going in the backyard? Of course not. I hang my head in defeat and open the door, so I can have two uninterrupted minutes to make the gallon of coffee I require to function through the day.
As the coffee brews, I step outside. The first sound I hear is both of my children screaming “SWIIIIIING!” I look over to see Liam tugging on one side of the blue plastic seat and Kellen tugging on the other. Liam pulls until Kellen lets go and falls over. Kellen yells “Turn! Turn!” Of course, Liam responds with “No, Kellen, It’s MY turn!”
I grab Liam and buckle him in the seat, sweetly telling Kellen “It’s Liam’s turn, but you’ll have a turn soon.” Kellen cries for a minute or two, then mills around the immediate area looking for something interesting to play with. Deciding the plethora of toys around him (sandbox, tool bench, wagon, bike, rifle, Lamborghini, Playmate) are all unsuitable, he returns about a minute later and loudly proclaims “Turn! Turn!”
I appease him by singing “Wheels on the Bus” and allowing him to play with a broom we use to sweep the patio. By this time, there is no distracting him and he screams “TUUUURN!” until he is red in the face. I tell him Liam gets ten more pushes and then it is his turn. He grumbles and waits, knowing he will soon get what he wants.
I swap the boys positions and begin an almost identical routine, except Liam wants to spray the hose instead of push the broom. Having given both boys a turn, I mistakenly believe we can continue on with our morning routine. I tell them we have to eat breakfast and shower so we can go to our playdate, hoping the promise of playing with friends will bribe them into good behavior.
Liam says “No, I want another turn.” I repeat that we have to eat breakfast and shower. He responds “I don’t need to shower.” We verbally tussle back and forth a bit before I make the decision that we can skip the shower. I mean, it’s only been two days. My hair isn’t truly greasy until the fourth day anyway. I opt for the whore’s bath in the sink, and a camouflage of perfume.
As you can tell, I’m a bit lacking in the discipline department. With one kid, I was ok at it. One kid means limited requirements to share, resulting in a lot less need for discipline. On the rare occasions Liam misbehaved, I put him in timeout until he quit crying. He’d turn around, look at me, and say “calm” to signal he was composed and ready to play. I’d reiterate the guidelines for good behavior (don’t hit your friends, share your toys) and follow up with a hug.
Having a toddler and a preschooler means that my vocabulary has been reduced to two words- gentle and share. At any given moment, you could walk through my front door, and in all likelihood hear me begging “Share! Share! Share!”
Discipline with two kids is complicated. When Liam hit other kids, it was easy- time out. Now, Kellen pats Liam on the back to say hello and Liam shouts “Moooom! Kellen hit me!” I try to explain that Kellen didn’t really hit him- that he was just being affectionate. But Liam questions this logic- he feels like he was in fact hit. Kellen again pats Liam’s back. Liam, believing I am not on his side, takes matters into his own hands.
“Say sorry, Kellen” demands Liam.
Kellen does not say sorry. He pats Liam for a third time.
“SAY SORRY, KELLEN!!” I am torn as to what to do. Liam thinks that I am letting Kellen get away with hitting, when he himself would have been punished for the act. But I can’t fathom putting Kellen in time out when he didn’t actually hit his brother. Who do I side with?
Kellen wanders into the next room and I follow him. Liam does not let our absence deter him. He is still screaming “SAY SORRY! SAY SORRY!”
As a last ditch effort, I find myself mimicking Kellen’s voice and saying “sorry,” careful to sound like a toddler first learning the word. I know, shameful. I can hear you tsk-tsking. Liam does not relent, so I actually do it a second time, followed by yelling in my own voice “He said sorry. You just couldn’t hear it.”
I cross my fingers hoping my ventriloquist skills are good enough to put an end to the situation. Kellen toddles back into the room with Liam. Liam points to the wall and commands “TIME OUT!”
Kellen happily runs over to the wall, and places his palms on its’ surface, our time out ritual. Kellen has watched his brother and knows the drill. He pretends to cry, and then with a big smile turns to Liam and says “calm.” Liam is finally appeased.
I breathe a sigh of relief, thinking all’s well that ends well. But we now have an ongoing game of “Time Out” in our house. When I try to actually discipline Kellen by putting him against the wall, he just giggles and feigns crying before happily running along. They’ve even started trying to put me in time out.
So, where do we go from here? Who knows. It’s naptime, with means hopefully at least sixty minutes of silence before I am once again reduced to chants of “Share! Share!” (for the love of fucking God, SHARE!!!)