Thursday, April 06, 2006

Fit Throwing 101

My three and a half year old daughter was the sort of baby that nodded "yes" before she shook her head "no." If she started to touch something off-limits, I would murmur "uh-uh" and she'd never try it again. When she was a year old, I started babysitting a baby who was six weeks younger than she was and I thought he might be the dumbest baby of all time.

He would climb onto the deck--with its dangerous railing--and I'd say, "No, no!" and move him back down.

And he'd do it again. And I'd say, "No, no!" and move him.

He'd climb up again. And I'd say, "No, no!" and move him and he'd GO RIGHT BACK.

Rinse, repeat about ten times, which felt like ten thousand times because I was used to my sweet, compliant, sensitive, bright, timid girl baby. I'd already forgotten the agony of my now-12 year old son who had pushed me every day of my life, attempting to wrest control from me and also, trying to drive me stark raving mad when he was a baby, a toddler and a preschooler. (Now he is a delight and I mean that.)

But this girl child, oh, sweet relief! She learned to chat early, she never sprinkled an entire container of baby powder all over the whole house while I was distracted in another room, she never slathered herself head to toe with mud, she never slammed toy hammers into the walls just to watch the drywall crumble. She never tried to strangle her brother, she never peed in the heating vent, she never threw dry rice all over the living room carpet.

Lately, our regimented bedtime routine has become somewhat lax. She used to have a bath and watch a particular video before bedtime. (The video would change from time to time. For weeks, she only watched "Shrek." Then, for weeks, only "Bug's Life." For awhile, it was "Max & Ruby.") But then her father introduced Pooh Bear Candyland into her life tearing a rift in the time-space continuum and messing up the routine. Her evenings have expanded to include a game or two or six of Candyland, which pushes her video-watching time later. Sometimes, it'll be 7:30 p.m. when she decides she wants a long video before bed and occasionally I just surrender and let her stay up past her bedtime of 8:00 p.m.

But! Sometimes, 8:30 p.m. turns into 8:45 p.m., and frankly, we can't have that. I hate to make her cry, though. My husband says I'm a push-over and a softy and maybe that's true. But last night, he wasn't home and I was desperate to have her in bed at 8:00 p.m. I gave her plenty of warning, those incremental warnings the experts suggest("In ten minutes, it'll be bedtime" and "Now you have five minutes") and yet, when I went to her room, she'd just turned on a Rugrats video (running time? 82 minutes). It was 8:03 p.m.

I gave her the choice. "Would you like Mommy to turn it off or would you like to turn it off?" She covered the button with her hand and began to cry.

I repeated the choice. When she did not choose, I chose for her and pushed off the button with my toe.

She turned it back on and I turned it back off. Then I said in my best Love and Logic voice, "Would you like to brush your teeth or would you like Mommy to brush your teeth?" She writhed like she was on fire and screamed. I repeated the choice again and said, "Okay, fine." and plopped her into her crib. (Yes, crib. Wanna make something of it?)

She was in the midst of the kind of tantrum you occasionally see at a retail store, the kind that causes you to fall to your knees and begin thanking God that it isn't your child frothing at the mouth and kicking, but some stranger's brat instead. I retrieved her toothbrush and said in a placid voice, "Would you like to brush your teeth in bed or in the bathroom where you can blow out candles?" (Every night, she gets to blow out the bathroom candles as a treat.) I offered the choice twice.

Her head started spinning around in circles--okay, not really, but boy, was she furious. She kept shrieking and so I said, "All right. No teeth. Good night." Then I said, "Would you like to have covers or no covers?"

She answered with weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth.

So I turned off the light, said, "Night-night!" and closed the door. Her fury increased and she flipped on the light and from the sanctuary of my room, I could hear her voice suddenly louder, which was strange because she has never once attempted to climb out of her crib. (Scared of heights? I don't know. She hates to swing, too.)

I opened my bedroom door and saw her door opened. She'd been able to reach the doorknob from her crib. (First time she's done that.) She had one leg flung over the end of the crib and was screaming, "I WANT TO WATCH MY VIDEO!" I said, "No. Good-night," and turned off the light and closed the door again.

We did that twice. Then I said, "Child, you are NOT going to watch a video. No! Now, stop!" and she stopped. Then she said in broken sobs, "I . . . want . . . to . . . blow . . . out . . . candles!" I plucked her out of the bed, carried her to the bathroom, asked again about tooth-brushing ("NO!").

Her wracked sobs and ragged breath actually put the candles out before she could gather enough breath to blow. Then she clung to my neck and I rocked her for two minutes--okay, four minutes--while she hiccuped and shook and then I put her in bed. She fussed a bit, but when I told her to lay down, she did. I covered her up, bade her farewell and closed the door.

Don't mess with Mama. I've been through these battles before and I will not crumble. I am invincible in the face of preschooler snot and outrage.

And tonight? Daddy turned off her DVD player--while she protested--and offered her the choice of Mommy or Daddy putting her to bed. She chose me, she brushed her teeth, she blew out the candles, I deposited her in bed, I covered her up, I said good-night and closed the door.

Never let them see you sweat.


Blogger Gina said...

My new favorite is when Mr. Personality is having a fit and I tell him to stop screaming, and he sobs, "I can't help it, Mama, I can't help it!"

But, I NEVER give in. Even though my heart is a big gob of goo when he cries, it's all a tactical ploy from him.

Hats off to you for having done this FOUR times now.

10:58 PM  
Blogger meredith said...

Go mom go!
Personally, that choice thing never worked for me, it just made my girls more hysterical, and I ended up putting martial law into effect around here. When they start procrastinating, big bad mom starts making all the decisions and they have no more say in it.

1:53 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Mine were in cribs until they could climb out, go potty, then climb back IN to go back to bed! I loved it! Yes, my theme is, you ALWAYS have choices in this life, you just may not like the choices you're given or the consequences that come with them!

6:35 AM  
Blogger aggiejenn said...

See, you're no pushover! Way to go! Since our little guy is only 6 months old, I joyously await our turn for nights like you have described! :-) Love your approach.

6:47 AM  
Blogger Shalee said...

You have the patience of a saint...

I somehow missed that when my kids did that.

I told them that the crying had to stop, they would not get a video and they would brush their teeth or else get a spanking. If they did it, great. Praise would follow quickly for their obedience. If they didn't, I spanked them. (Yes, spank... Wanna make something of it?)

They got the point pretty quickly, and it was their choice as to whether or not they would be punished.

I have to admit that I never liked spanking them, but I didn't have to do it nearly so much as they got older because they knew we kept our promises. So it has worked well for us.

7:25 AM  
Blogger Dapoppins said...

What a lesson in consistancy and not giving in! I need to save this post to refer to this on a nightly basis during our bedtime routine..also, I wish my girl was still in her crib but she was the last one to use the hand-me-down thing and it was kinda falling apart.

8:55 AM  
Blogger jennifer starfall said...

sprinkled an entire container of baby powder all over the whole house... coated entire body with mud... slammed toy hammers into the walls just to watch the drywall crumble... peed in the heating vent... threw dry rice all over the living room carpet...

wow. you're awesome. thanks for sharing a tidbit of how you do it!

9:27 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

heh heh... Great post. I don't care what anyone says, parenting is THE toughest job in the world.

..And you are obviously awesome at it. :-)

9:39 AM  
Blogger ~Jennifer said...

Our bedtime routine has gotten stretched out too, but I blame that on daylight savings time. Every April it comes and totally messes up a perfectly good routine. The clock on the wall says it's 8:00, but their little inner clocks still say it's only 7:00. So, we're trying to ease back down to an 8:00 bedtime. I hate daylight savings.

11:20 AM  
Blogger MissKris said...

Ah, the joys of motherhood, eh. I had it in firstborn was the sweetest-natured, most happy-go-lucky girl I've ever seen. My son...well, let's suffice it to say his childhood nickname was "Fretful Fred", lol! Now, in adulthood, my son's more laidback and it's my daughter who can be stubborn as the day is long...go figure, lol! But they're our best friends...they're wonderful kids and have brought us untold joy thru the years. It'll be interesting to see how my darling newborn grandson fits into the scheme of it all now. He's the sweetest little guy but when he came over the other night and Poppa and I babysat, he had a tummy ache and boy, can that "Little Man" SCREAM!!! Hahaha! Great post, Mel. (P.S...I read Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" when it was first published a bazillion years ago...brilliant book! Do you know that Harper Lee's character "Dill" from "To Kill a Mockingbird" was based on Truman Capote? They were childhood friends.)

12:19 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

I am so happy to see that there are moms today that are consistant in raising their children.
I remember having to go to bed when it was light outside, and hating it. (And that was a LONG time ago) I also remember that I wasn't read to, or told a story before bed, and that was a shame
My two boys had a set bedtime, and I very seldom gave in. When they were teens they went to bed when they were tired, not waiting for their bedtime.
Not only was it good for them, but I feel that parents need that few hours in the evening to unwind, or finish up a chore or two.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Brandie said...

Sounds like one fun evening you had there! We've had fits like that - never for bedtime though, but my oldest could throw some huge tantrums. Fortunately, that phase of her life was short lived!

7:31 PM  
Anonymous jennie said...

Holy cow. I don't see how you moms do it.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

Oh,you go mom!! This is sounding sooooo familiar......

5:16 PM  
Blogger Carrien said...

Hooray for you. Three cheers and all that. I was so excited to read about you sticking to your guns.

I HATE!!! daylight savings time too.

10:30 AM  
Blogger J Bo said...

Consistency is the key to good parenting. Our eight year old knows that bed time is not negotiable. Unless it is spring break. Instead of being in bed now, she is watching a movie- something strictly forbidden on school nights.

I'm new to your blog and enjoying what I am reading, fellow Seattleite!

8:28 PM  

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