Did I Just Say That?

As we gain seniority in the role of parent, we remember thinking, ‘I’m never going to say those crazy meaningless, phrases, threats, and illogical arguments that my parents used on me.’ 

You know what I mean, ones, such as “you stop crying before I give you something to cry about”, or “because I said so,” or (in a two-story house situation), “don’t make me have to come up there.”

No, I will move beyond these outbursts made when a parent lets them self be drained of their last bit of patience.  I will use logic, calm, reasoning aimed at my children’s level to diffuse a situation and make it a teachable moment. Let me give you some examples.

My number 3* son, when about 4, decided he wanted something that I had told him he could not have. Rather than descend to his level and argue with him, I stated that my answer was final and turned back to stir the makings of supper.  Evidently, final was not in my son’s vocabulary at that point, nor was he particularly focused on reading my body language that had both figuratively and literally turned its back on him.

Based on what followed, he did seem to understand the word persistence, monotony and eventually, annoyance. He began repeating my name in a low, even tone. “Mom, mom, mom, mom…” I was immediately aware that the game was on. End of the day, Mom should be worn down from a full day of 4 boys in the house…Wrong! I was on to him. I admit the repetition was annoying so I started counting in my head to maintain calm and…to outlast him.

It was almost admirable that he had not raised his voice or outwardly shown any sign of frustration as the ‘Moms’ went on…25, 26, 27,… when he passed 40, I felt the need to stop him, not because I couldn’t deal with it, mind you, but it just didn’t seem healthy.  

At ‘Mom’ number 52, I spun around and resisted the 120 decibel “STOP!” that was in my throat and used the sign language symbol for stop. 

It might have been signed a little more aggressively than usual, but I WAS still in control.  It did have the desired effect.  He ceased to chant my name.  

I knelt down to his level, always good for communication, and informed him, “Do you know you said my name 52 times?” I used my most ‘isn’t that amazing’ voice. He seemed satisfied somehow, turned and walked away.  As he turned the corner I was wondering, was he thinking he had just achieved a new personal best?

There are other times, when a child decides the only thing to do is not to ‘use his words’ but use his lungs or, for a softer approach, the whimpering mechanism. (Seems like the removal of that should be an optional surgery in infancy. I’m sure there are health benefits) then, bent on resolution, I begin the gentle prodding of trying to find the source of my child’s distress.

All of my inquiries are being met with sniffles and a shake of his head. He seems to stop and start, almost taunting me now.

Finally, I make an emphatic statement. “That’s enough” Evidently, we were not in sync and the whimpering volume elevated and sounded almost defiant. 

My empathy, sympathy or whatever other pathetic strategy was just not doing it.  “Stop right now or I’ll give you something to cry about.”

We were both stunned. He didn’t really know what that meant. Little did he know, I wasn’t sure myself.  Trying to save the moment, I explained that all this crying wasn’t good for him and he needed to stop.  Almost baiting me, he asked why. 

The stopper was off, “because I said so!” There it was.  Now I realize, with new appreciation for my parents, these phrases are not ingrained in parents through the generations.

It’s the fault of the children!  They make us do it!!!   How do I know this to be true?  Because I’m their mother, that’s how.

* – references his place in the birth order, not a monetary value. Remember, I have 4.

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