The other afternoon at our favorite summertime hangout, Tot Time at our local pool, I was privy to a piece of someone else’s parenting trickery. And, like a child watching a magician preform a disappearing act for the first time, I was in total awe.
The little boy of about 3 or maybe a small 4 was crying softly because he was not ready to go home from the pool yet. The mom leaned down to eye level and said, “Hey ______, if you don’t stop crying right this minute we are not coming back on Friday. Do you want to come back Friday?”, the boy sniffled and replied, “Yes, mommy.” So she handed him a wipe and he cleaned himself up and did his best to calm his tears on his own. She looked at me and shrugged her shoulders as if to say, “Kids. What can you do, right?”
That is when I realized that I had been staring at them the whole time like they were aliens from outer space.
I felt like I was in one of those movies where an ancient person is magically transported through time and dropped into the modern technological age and simply cannot make heads or tails of what is going on around them. They are frightened and confused by all of the new inventions because, while time has moved on in an appropriate fashion for others, all that they still know is their own time period. The world may have changed around them but they have not. Yes, I felt much like that.
Did you just bargain with them with something that is in the long term?
WITCHCRAFT, I SAY, WITCHCRAFT!
Were you able to get a coherent and non-combative answer from a child that was in direct response to what you said?
BY THE POWER OF ZUES, WHAT CREATES THIS SORCERY?!
I had to pry my eyes away for fear that my retinas would burn and my brain would explode and subsequently leak from my ears. True back and forth conversation is not something we have often in my house with Jp (unless you count a firm “NO!” in response to nearly everything) and me watching another child his size having one with his mother while she was irked by the quiet tears was like an obese person watching a size two waif eating a vat of cheeseburgers and becoming annoyed that they had ketchup instead of mustard.
Dramatic? Mayhaps, but true.
Now me, however, I have to be creative in my parenting practices. I cannot simply say to Jp, “Look yo, if you want X, then do X, or there will be hell to pay, kid!” He would, most likely, look at me, repeat the word “pay”, and then wander off.
Le sigh. Let us try a different tactic, shall we?
So, I have learned to shake things up a bit. Jp lives in a world of wonder and magic. He, much like your average three-year-old, despises hearing the word “no” or being told to do something that he does not want to. What is different, however, is that he truly does not understand why you are refusing him or making him do it. Complex concepts and wordy explanations are not his forte, you see.
He hates baths. Hates ’em. But me explaining that he will get a flesh eating bacteria if he doesn’t attempt to cleanse his body is lost on him. Or the teeth brushing issue. No matter how many times I sweetly explain if he continues to refuse to brush them, they are going to yank every one out of his head and it will hurt very much…nothing.
So here is where you have to get creative.
The toothbrush one is tricky but easier. It just means that you have to buy him a ton of toothbrushes. He gets bored with things easily and his “obsessions” -while all-encompassing for a time- are short lived. So with each new obsession comes a brand-new grill shiner. Ce la vie.
But baths, oh baths, have been a constant battle for the last few years. I had to really work my noodle on this one and have failed much more than I have succeeded. This usually ends with me heaving his screaming behind into a bathtub and trying to wash him as quickly as possible while he tries to claw his way out like the Thunderdome– two men enter, one man leaves style.
Yesterday I thought, “I bet that mom at the pool would have lost her noodle on that little scene.”
Then it hit me. The pool…Eu-freakin’-reeka! Jp may hate baths…but loves the pool…I was really onto something here!
So I gathered up all of Jp’s pool toys at bath time. Then I ran in all excited -that is the key- and yelled, “JP! We are going swimming!”, his eyes light up, “In the tub! Yaaaaaaaay!” Then I ran up the stairs at full speed chanting, “Swimming! Swimming! Swimming!”
And, lo and behold, he came up. I filled up the tub and put the toys in. “You ready to go swimming in the tub, buddy?” I held my breath.
In he jumped to play pirates.
Ha! Ha! *Pats self on back* Take that, bath aversion! I beat you fair and square!
I began to wash his hair and he looked sharply at me, then around at the tub -as if he just realized he was taking a bath- and then looked up at me with a look that can only be read as…
Witchcraft indeed, my boy, witchcraft indeed.
I'm just living minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day.