Gateway behavior to felony assault

Some of you are going to find this utterly monstrous but Leta still sleeps in her crib and not a toddler bed. She hasn’t yet figured out that she can climb out of it, and because of this built-in restraining mechanism she’ll be sleeping in a crib until she’s eight.

Right now the crib also serves as the time-out area for when she behaves badly. We are huge fans of that lovely British nanny on television who enters people’s homes and gives them permission to discipline their children. She’s good because her strategies work and because as an American I find that her British accent makes everything seem more reasonable. And vaguely sexy.

We started using her naughty area technique when Leta started showing signs that she was infected with rabies. I remember the first time Leta ever hit me in frustration. Without hesitation I got down to her level (step one) and then warned her (step two) that she if she hit me again I’d be putting her in her crib for two minutes, one minute for each year of her life. She promptly whacked me in the shoulder again with her little plum fist as if to say BRING IT, PERSON WHO READILY FORGETS THAT MY INFANT LOVE IS CONDITIONAL.

So I put her in her crib (step three) and then left her room and shut the door behind me. Two minutes later I went back into her room and explained why I had put her there in the first place (step four), and then I told her to give me a hug and say she was sorry (step five). In one of my favorite episodes of the nanny show a laughably clueless dad is trying to execute the naughty chair technique on his four-year-old daughter, and after the four-minute time limit he walks over to her and asks her for an apology. She looks up at him disgustedly, cuts him a look through the slits in her eyes that you would normally see from a lion right before it rips the hind quarter off a gazelle, and screams, “I’MMM SORRRRRRY!” He then turns to the nanny and in a moment that beautifully illustrates why she was invited into their home in the first place says, “I can’t tell if she means it.”

Yesterday morning Leta went on a tantrum bender because we wouldn’t let her eat M&M’s for breakfast. We repeatedly had to put her into a time-out because she wouldn’t take our warnings seriously, and once when Jon went back to her room to get her out of the crib she hit him when he asked for an apology. Does this give you a sense as to what we are dealing with, as to the unmerciful will we have unleashed on the world? Because my friend didn’t believe it until she witnessed one of Leta’s tantrums in the flesh, and it was then that she came to the realization that we did many, many months ago: sometimes cannibalism makes sense.

Jon left Leta in her crib for another round of time-out and came back into the living room to walk off some steam. When he told me what had happened I told him not to take it personally because she has done the exact same thing to me. “Leta’s pretty mature for her age,” he said trying to talk through the defeat. “She knows her letters and numbers and all that. I think she could handle it if we added on a few extra minutes to the time-out. Like 45.”