Last night at dinner Marlo became very angry when we would not let her eat a pile of shredded cheese off of the table without utensils or her hands. She just wanted to stick her face in it like a dog. Sadly, this behavior didn’t surprise us because we have turned our back for two seconds only to realize that she is on the floor next to Chuck eating his food out of his bowl. With her face.
As most two-year-olds are wont to do, she began screaming hysterically. And as parents who have already lived through this with one kid are wont to do, we told her to get over it and then ignored her. Except, ignoring Marlo is like ignoring an ex-girlfriend who isn’t ready to get over you yet. And next thing you know she’s spelling SCREW YOU with gasoline on your lawn and is standing there with a match in her hand.
Because the pitch of the scream suddenly jumped to 170 decibels, the approximate sound of a rifle going off right beside your head. Not because of the cheese anymore, no. She went from screaming to sociopath because we stopped returning her phone calls. Because we disregarded her texts. We unfriended her on Facebook.
Jon promptly picked her up, set her on the floor ten feet away from the dinner table and said, “You’ve got two minutes to calm down.” Operation Time-Out. This is sometimes a controversial parenting topic, whether or not to put your child in a time-out. You may think it’s the most barbaric thing you could do to a child, and that’s fine. I’ll still invite you over for coffee, although I might spit in it.
Time-outs worked wonders with Leta because it stopped what my brother-in-law refers to as Garbage Collecting. She’d get so worked up that she’d lose sight of the reason she got upset in the first place and would then be screaming about fifteen other things she picked up as she spiraled out of control: we never let her have ice cream for dinner, we wouldn’t get her a swimming pool, we always made her wear pants.
Time-outs gave her the space and time to calm down, and it removed us from the equation. And since we weren’t screaming at her to, you know, CALM DOWN, she’d realize, hmmm. Now that it’s quiet and I can think clearly, my parents are totally right.
Or something like that.
We’ve just started putting Marlo into time-outs, so she’s still catching on to the whole idea. Meaning it makes her even angrier. And last night after Jon put her on the floor she dramatically flopped her whole body over and writhed. As if we has just injected her with electricity.
Leta thought that was the funniest thing she had ever seen, and because she doesn’t like it when people laugh at her, she tried to hide her laughing. Which only made me and Jon laugh because OH MY GOD, kid. You used to do the exact same thing when you were her age.
“No, I didn’t!” she said defensively, still laughing.
“Yes, actually, you did,” Jon said. “Sometimes you’d even throw your body.”
“I don’t remember doing that,” she said.
So I asked, “Do you ever remember being out into a time-out?”
“Nooooooo,” she said, as if Jon and I were making the whole thing up.
THERE YOU GO. See? She doesn’t have a single memory of how barbaric we were!