Friday, December 3, 2010

Leverage

Oscar knows exactly how to push my buttons and exactly when to push them.  He is a very sweet, smart, affectionate little boy and he really knows how to grate my very last nerve.  I try, I really, really try, to maintain my patience with him, but I'm not always successful and that's just the truth.

Nelson was out of town earlier this week and the boys are always particular squirrely when he is away.  It's like they can tell that I'm exhausted a little twitchy and they just hammer on me.  I was getting them ready for bed the other night while Nelson was gone.  They were hanging on the bed while I was trying to pick their dirty clothes up, and Oscar says to me to get my attention, "HEY!  HEY!"

It was like nails on a chalkboard.  I really, really hate when Oscar is rude or displays poor manners, even to me, because I can just imagine him shouting "HEY! HEY!" at his teachers. Just the though of my kid being so rude mortifies me.  I said very calmly, "Hay is for horses.  Little boys say excuse me when they want someone's attention. Please say "excuse me."

To which he responded, "HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY!HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY!"

He just wouldn't stop.  I was so tired and so cranky and wet from giving them their bath and still had a night of dishes and picking up toys and just GETTING THEM TO SLEEP ahead of me.

So, I did something mean. It was really mean.  I didn't give it a lot of though before I did it, but as soon as the words started leaving my mouth, I knew I was being awful but I couldn't seem to stop myself.

"Oscar."

"HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY!"

"Oscar, please stop."

"HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY!"

"Oscar!  That. Is. Enough."

"HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY!"

"Oscar.  Do you know your friend Santa."

BAM! I had his attention.

"Yes."

"Well, did you know he has a list?  It's a list of little boys and little girls.  He keeps track of who is naughty and who is nice and the kids who are naughty don't get any presents."

And do you know what he said?

First, he burst into tears.  Then he sobbed, "I want to be the nice!  I want to be nice!  I'm nice!"

Wow, did I ever feel like a colossal asshole.  What on earth was I thinking saying that to my sweet boy, implying that Santa would not be visiting because of his poor behavior?  I started backpedaling immediately.

"You are nice!  You are! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, you are so nice.  You could NEVER be on the naughty list.  You are a good, good boy, okay?  You are good, you are getting lots of presents, okay?"

He calmed down and then we all read books and both boys went down pretty easily.  I felt terribly guilty and I promised myself that I'd never use Santa as leverage against my kids ever, ever again.

I thought it was over.  But, Oscar, being three and all, has not let it go.  He asks me five times a day, "Does Santa think it's nice for me to jump on this couch?" "Does Santa think it's nice for me to share with Miles?" "Does Santa think I'm naughty for crushing my Goldfish with my feet?"  I tread carefully around these questions, telling him, "MOMMY doesn't think it's nice to jump on the couch," and "MOMMY thinks it is very nice when you share with Miles."

And so I'm reminded daily of my poor, in the moment, under pressure parenting decision.  I wonder if this is one of the things he'll remember, one of the hallmark's of his childhood, when his mom (kind of) told him if he was naughty there would be no Christmas.  Maybe he will, maybe he won't.  Either way it's pretty certain that I'm going to keep stumbling through parenthood, making mistakes that may or may not  hurt my children; that may or may not create lasting memories, good or bad.  I worry that I'll damage them, that something I say or do will break their enormous spirits or their tiny hearts.

It's been kind of a rough week.

11 comments:

gretchen said...

Oh honey! Welcome to motherhood! You have finally discovered the true meaning and reason for Santa Claus! What you have to do is find that fine line where you can assure your child that he IS a good boy, but he probably ought to stay EXTRA good, just to make sure Santa knows that. Wouldn't want any last minute list changes.

Pamela said...

Darling, Gretchen is right.
Santa is a tool.

jpooh said...

Gretchen is 1000% correct. Parents have been using Santa as leverage for forever and a day. Wrap up the guilt and stow it away for use another day - you have nothing to be ashamed of.

Jan

Strawberry said...

I'd hardly say that's a mistake. And you can even use the Santa thing all year round! ;-)

VandyJ said...

At least you didn't yell at him. Htat's what happens when Turbo pushes me to the edge. I snap and yell or scream. Not my best moments. Using Santa is a standard. Get as much mileage out of it as you can.

Everyday Goddess said...

Oh no, don't be so hard on yourself. Besides, Santa wants you to be happy too. You obviously care deeply about the souls of your children, keep your chin up!

Becky said...

Sounds like it was all very effective! Dittoing the "don't feel bad" chorus!

Keely said...

Absolutely do not feel guilty. All parents do that - hell, all PEOPLE do that. Leverage is just the most useful tool in your arsenal against a 3-year-old.

And your patience with TWO kids makes me look like...whatever the opposite of a saint is.

Hannah Hammonds said...

We haven't had to use Santa as leverage yet. Although, the other day when Eleanor was hitting Marshall on the head with a (fake) hammer the thought crossed my mind! Have you heard of "Elf on the Shelf" its a book with and Elf and He might like that. Santa's helper is watching and it might take the pressure off you?

MamaTech said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MamaTech said...

My kids are in their 20-30's and Santa is STILL valid as leverage.

I deleted it once due to a spelling error - I am totally anal about spelling.