Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

Wherein I’m just begging you to judge me

Leta and I enter her room after eating breakfast, and because I haven’t slept in several days I forget the structure that we’ve implemented in order to get her to focus her attention on tasks that need to be completed before school. Recently we’ve been making a game out of getting dressed, timing her with our iPhones to see how fast she can switch out of her pajamas and into her clothes. I KNOW. The fun here NEVER ENDS. If I send you an invitation to our tooth-brushing game, you better RSVP the shit out of it.

So I’ve forgotten about the game and just say, “Leta, let’s get dressed.” And because she gets so distracted in the morning I might as well have said, “Je m’appelle le croissant.”

She dives head first into bed, throws the covers over her head and plays dead. I’ve got little-to-no-patience at this point (insert reference to major project launch, ill-timed vasectomy, and baby who wakes up at 4:30AM since the time change) but I summon what I can and say, “Leta, I need your cooperation this morning. Get up and get dressed or I’m going to take away your Nintendo DS.” You know, A THREAT. That’s Quality Parenting 101.

And hoo, I don’t know if it’s just my five-year-old girl who is going through this phase, but she uncovers her head, slowly limps her way out of bed and mumbles, “No you’re not because I’m going to hide it and you won’t find it and then I’ll play it without you knowing.” Like Dennis the Menace, except it’s Dennis the EVIL.

Now, If I had said this to my father when I was growing up, I wouldn’t be alive today.

So I get right up into her face and say NO YOU DID NOT. You are not allowed to talk to me this way DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT. Not to instill fear, necessarily, except, yes. To instill fear. A little bit of fear is good. Oh dear god, the mail I’m going to get about this one.

And that’s when it starts, what we call her Academy Award Winning Performance, and she starts saying things like, “Now I’m sad and I’m going to be sad forever. For the rest of my life, MOM.”

And I’m like, dude, you can be sad. You can choose to feel this way, but we’re getting dressed. Here put on this shirt.

“But you hurt my feelings and I’m never going to be happy again. Ever. For the rest of my life.”

And I’m all, I know what it feels like to have my feelings hurt, that must be hard what you’re going through, but now we’re putting on these pants.

“But now I’m going to have a bad day because I’m sad, and then I’m going to have many bad days forever.”

And there is that irresistible, generation-spanning urge to go, you know what you need? A trip to Humble Camp, a place called AFRICA. But I nip it, I shut off that valve, and I say, “I’m sorry you’re feeling sad, that must be hard, now put on these socks.” SOCKS THAT KIDS IN AFRICA DON’T HAVE.

And I’m not even kidding, she looks up at me and says, “You made me sad, and I don’t know how to go on with the rest of my life.”

A half hour later as she’s gathering up her backpack and lunchbox and headed toward the car, her head hanging down in a pout, I pull Jon aside and give him a heads up that Leta is going to start her period ANY DAY NOW.

  • aynwinter

    When it comes to girls, 5 is the new 2. Today, I threatened my kindergartner w/ a return to preschool b/c putting on socks (which I know would be worth more than gold in Africa!) today was so challenging as they were all too “fuzzy.” And thankfully, she wears a uniform b/c I know my life would be utter HELL if we had more of a choice between a skort or a jumper. Rather than making me want to slit my wrists before breakfast I have not even bothered to buy the uniform pants as I know I might as well be asking her to eat a bowl of fish eyes than to wear those. Thankfully I also have two boys, one older and one younger than my daughter, who when I hold up something for them to wear never even glance my way before saying “fine.” It’s all about finding balance.

  • Belle

    Way to go dooce… making the youth of America FOREVER sad. ;)N

  • MedicatedMama

    I don’t fear using threats as a parenting technique. I look at it this way…I didn’t listen to my parents because I loved them so much that I wanted to do whatever I could to make them happy and never disobey or disrespect them because I cared about them SO MUCH. Um, NO! I listend because I was AFRIAD! I listend because I was truly scared of what would happen to me if I didn’t. I think there is a fine line between being a parent and a drill sargent. It’s just the way it has to be in order to teach your children manors and respect.

  • d3 voiceworks

    cheese-n-rice motherfucking piece of shitass morning what is so hard about getting dressed…is about what goes through my mind with the ragamuffin rugrat who WEARS A UNIFORM but still has plenty to say about it, trying to wield some control, and dragging her dirty feet in the process. makes me crazy and every day is a big challenge to quell all my sarcastic comments and show no cards (read: reaction). i swear ta dawg i wonder why we have kids sometimes because sometimes it is not fun. at all. wtf man? i know my parents would never have put up with any of the bullshit we deal with. mother mary of god help me.

    okay rant over and so was this morning’s episode, like many hours ago., i could try to let things lough off a little faster, probably.

  • Coyote

    Bwahahahaha! Girls are a trip. My daughter, the youngest of 4 and the only girl, was an endless source of drama and entertainment. I was fortunate because I had a backup system consisting of her 3 older brothers who she desperately wanted to be like. So, when she’d have a fit about something, she’d hear a chorus of sibling voices telling her to “get over it” or “just grow up” or “this is SO not a big deal.” Worked like a charm.

    I also kept a jar full of quarters on top of the refrigerator, one jar for each child. At the beginning of the week, I put 7 quarters in each one. If they misbehaved, I took out a quarter. At the end of the week, I gave them whatever remained in their jar. Invariably, my daughter had the fewest quarters, which peeved her to no end, and her brothers would say, “See? Yet another reason to stop being a poop-head.”

    Eventually, all the peer pressure and monetary deprivation affected her in a good way (along with copious amounts of love and loving guidance). Her teachers were always telling me how cooperative and helpful she was in class, and compassionate toward her classmates. In high school, she won all sorts of awards for being awesome in various ways. Now, she is a vibrant, creative 20-year-old, and simply a delight to be with.

    There Is Hope!

    P.S. If you can find a nearby drama program, sign her up! It’s a great outlet and diffuser for all those burgeoning emotions 🙂

  • Nancy D.

    I’m judging that you handled that just right.

    I have two actual teenage daughters in my house. We don’t have issues surrounding talking back, sassing or otherwise respecting parental authority.

    BECAUSE we established that as a no-fly zone back when they were way shorter than me (not so much now) and I got into their faces and made it CRYSTAL clear that such an attitude is neither acceptable nor tolerated.

    We have a good relationship with our teenage daughters. We have a relatively angst free home. Sure… some of it comes in the door. And yea… sometimes we have to have course corrections. And if we could just get the whole idea of “do your school work” impressed into them as well, all would be fine and dandy.

    But the work you are doing NOW pays off in 10 years.

  • Moiras Mama

    2 comments
    1-OMG this gets worse? My daughter is almost 2 1/2 and the morning battles are driving me nuts. What gives. I thought this would get better before her teen years and the obvious drama that comes with that.
    2-Threats are not a normal occurance in everyone’s house? I try so hard to be patient, but it seems like every other sentence out of my mouth is you can do X, or you can go to your room, your choice. She fights us on everything.

    Infancy, nursing every 3 hours for months, I could do that. Trying to outsmart a 2 year old, I’m losing fast. I love your idea to make it a game though. I might have to figure out how to tweak that into something that will work for a 2 year old.

  • freckledmama

    I have 3 girls, I so feel you on this one. I usually breakdown and say something like, “If you’re so miserable, you should run away. C’mon, I’ll help you pack.”

  • redvixen

    oh yes … I have had those days with my girls.
    I did learn something along the way however, as it finally struck me one day – WHY does she do this on days that I a) had no sleep for a week, b) am sick, or c) have PMS myself???

    Ahh .. light bulb went off!! It is a mirror.

    So … I found when I could (was not always for sure) ..I showered and got myself energized or at least went into bathroom alone and pinched my cheeks and put on a happy face, before entrancing into children. I over exaggerated being happy.

    It mostly worked – well except for my when I had horrific PMS myself and was possessed by demons. So usually.

  • DarStar

    Um ya. Drama or a theatre program for kids has been wonderful for the 10 year old diva in this house.

    Critisize fear tactics? Never. I applaude you. Do what you gotta do sista. However, I just can’t figure out how to be scary enough!! It seems that nothing works. Nothing scares this kid, she’s a machine. Whatever happened to the days when we were scared shitless of our parents? I guess it all boils down to power and control, and even though I KNOW that the best way to GET it is to GIVE it (some of it), I still haven’t quite mastered the perfect formula. If I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

    Basically I think – Armstrongs, brace yourselves.

  • Jinx

    Hahahahahaha! If I had said that to my father, I wouldn’t be alive today either.
    She’ll get over it. 😉

  • Squeetthang

    My mother asks, at least twice a year, if I was scarred for life by the spankings I incurred during my childhood…the answer is ABSOLUTELY NOT! However, I will carry with me, FOREVER, the fact that I never got any jelly shoes. Mom swears she saved me from a horrible blister infestation. She also gave up on dressing me around the age of four…the turmoil was too much for her. It resulted in alot of spandex and cowboy boot mashups.

    Ahh, the joys of having girls…

  • theotherlion

    Did you know that you are using a behavior management technique that people write books about? For the REALS. And you are doing it beautifully. I think it’s called 1-2-3 Magic. Anyway, we have a list of “Key Phrases” in our preschool classroom and many of them are similar to, “I’m sorry you feel that way. It’s time to do work now.” I particularly enjoy, “That’s a bummer.” I work with kids who have behavior disorders. When they swear at me and kick me, I say, “That’s a bummer. Go sit in time out.”

    Dude, Leta cracks me up.

  • donna boucher

    So funny!

    I wanted to say that I love the picture of you and Jon.

  • naysway

    This is NOTHING! You have two girls. TWO! Just wait. Wait until they’re BOTH so sad they can’t go on with life, and it’s all your fault. Forget Africa. Forget rationale. You will never believe how badly you want to shake the shit out of something you gave birth to as you do when you have girls.

    And another thing… GUH-ERRRRLS!

  • KellyKjellberg

    that sounds like many a morning at my house! starting with the ‘play dead’ to the ‘woe is me’ act!

  • sodapopstar

    Yup, she’s got an acute case of the 5 year old drama llamas. Infects my house a good 6 days a week. Thank god she’s in school. I’m always super disappointed when I wave goodbye to mine while she’s trying to make me feel guilty!

  • Jennie

    My daughter is only 21 months and she’s already started with the morning dramatics. She clings onto the side of her bed when I try to pick her up and screams “No mommy, me night night!” then proceeds to throw herself on the floor and sob.

    I’m screwed, right?

  • BabyGizmo

    Judge you? I applaud you! It’s like you were describing half of my mornings…well, and afternoons…and evenings. My daughter is 3 months shy of age 5 – so I usually get a drop-to-the-floor-tantrum followed by…”I’m sad”…then “you are the worst mommy in the world!” Yeah, it is also a whole Academy Award Winning performance! All that drama is after she has the smart mouth with me saying “I’ll just do it anyway…” I agree…I wouldn’t be here today if those words came out of my mouth as a child! Hmmm. Maybe I need to instill more fear?

  • Anu

    :))ohh the drama! Yeah, the trip to Africa will have to wait I guess. I admire your patience, I would have talked about Africa within the first 2 mins.

  • Jennine

    My boss just asked me to do a project I dislike so I used the Leta line of “I’m sad and my whole day is RUINED!”

    It didn’t work.

    Reality based parenting is most effective. Parent with her future in mind and you’ll be just fine.

  • yogagrrl

    This is one of those things that I get can make parents feel bad for doing, but given that most of us survived similar experiences largely unscarred… no big.

  • tdaniel

    Well crap – now I feel bad about telling my son that he needed a trip to Africa to see what life is really like…I didn’t know that wasn’t acceptable when he acts like a major brat b/c the world is handed to him on a platter. Lucky for him though…I am more oft to go on about how I left the house at 7:00am and didn’t get home until 6:30pm and I know he is hungry but give me ONE MINUTE TO BREATHE! 🙂

  • Naperville Now

    Did you know that under the Google ads on this page there’s an ad for Vasectomy Reversal? Now, THAT’S marketing.
    Hang in there, sleep-deprived and drama-infused Mom.

  • jennisdrinking

    Now I feel less alone in my frustration with my belligerant and stubborn 6 yr old girl.

  • simpliSAHM

    I can’t decide which is worse; an overly dramatic and disgruntled tot or teen… however it’s a moot point for me since I have BOTH.

  • FlippyO

    It”s time for the story of “The Boy Who Cried ‘Wolf'” for the kid who yells “help” at the grocery store. She’s gonna be real sorry if she ever really needs help and people think she’s just being assy again.

    That said, wow, the drama. I was afraid to try that even in my teen years. Of course, we also had so few things that could be taken away – no iPods, video games, etc. My parents couldn’t really threaten to take away my books or my sports equipment, which was the only stuff I cared about. (the softball glove couldn’t be taken away because it would affect the other kids on my teams).

  • moey_18

    Yep, been there, done that, with all 5 of my kids. The girls AND THE BOYS, thank you oh so much! I have a 4 and a half year old that told a complete stranger during her brother’s hockey practice last week, “My Mama is ignoring me, can you get me a Gatorade?” Yep, okay. Keep acting like that and not only will I let Joe Stranger get you a Gatorade, I’ll let you DRINK IT, even at the risk of it containing arsenic.

    I’ll show you to lip off, Sad, Neglected Little Girl!! I bet children in AFRICA don’t behave this way. Outrageous!

  • BexBrown

    I have a 6 year old 5 year old 4 year old and 2 year old girls. My 1 year old is a boy. I think i love him more than he will ever know. Drop leta off here, she can join our drama club. And there will be plenty of room soon since my husband plans on fixing up the basement for himself to curl up with ear plugs and his friend jack daniels.

  • moey_18

    AMEN. We have three (8, 4.5, and 2.5) and live in a perpetual state of fake tears, hair pulling, and emotional turmoil.

    And, I’d like it to be noted that, if you do the math, ALL THREE will be teenagers TOGETHER. Shove two boys into the mix as well.

    Awesome. Looking forward to the prescription that will be required. For all of us.

  • Mama Anachronism

    Oh crap is this a glimpse into my future? I have a 2 year old AND a 3 month old daughter…

  • MustangMelATL

    hate to tell you that it doesn’t really get better-just different. my 12 y.o. daughter told me the other day that I was undermining her confidence. yeah, tell it to your therapist, kid.

  • BexBrown

    @simpliSAHM: Is there even a difference, y’know, aside from the maxi pad usage?

  • doctorandmama

    Like a teen! As I like to tell my husband, just wait until 10 years from now, when he’ll have a menopausal wife and two teenage daughters. Although I feel like my girls have been like teens since birth. My 7 yo daughter made two choice comments to me yesterday: “Why do you always command me?” (this is after she ignored my polite requests about 5 times in a row) and “You don’t even know what is going on in school.” The second comment dug deep into my heart, because of the guilt I have been having this school year after truly not doing much at her school after having been her class coordinator last year. Somehow, I am unable to figure out how to be fair to her and her kindergartner sister’s needs, and am therefore doing nothing, stunned into inaction.

  • Heather W

    I do believe Leta is the reincarnation of my Jewish Grandmother, who used to say things like, “Oh don’t worry that I can’t make the (graduation, birthday, wedding) I’ll just sit here and think happy thoughts…..which are the only happy thoughts I have these days. Sigh. I’m not long for this world….”
    Nana?!?! Is that you?!?!

  • libwitch

    What a drama queen! At least she will have a great career as an actress.

  • addingtone

    It’s like we have the same daughter!

  • redboxs

    I’d try to instill fear into my 8 year old, but she carries a knife and she’ll cut a bitch…

  • Jayceekay

    I absolutely adore that kid!!!
    And I absolutely agree with you, Heather….a little fear is definitely needed! I think the younger generation really needs to have a little fear. I don’t know, maybe it keeps you responsible.
    We may have DONE most of the same junk that kids do today but at least we knew to fear our parents’ wrath and I believe it may have made us think twice. Fear is good! Up with fear! I look at some of the stuff my nieces and nephews do and say and I think “my mother would have killed me just for thinking that much less doing it!”

  • simplyred

    For a min. I thought I was reading what is happening in my household. Those were the things my daughter would say. Is that 5-yr girl universal language?

  • jessiCat

    oy vey. i totally feel your pain. my son, who just turned 6 last month, has the dramatic tendencies and attitude of a 16 year old girl. EVERY MORNING i have the “my GOD son….i can not be late for work again. could you PLEASE put your effing pants on!?!?!”. if i turn my back for a millisecond, he will have gotten back in the bed, removed any clothing that i have tackled him and forced on him as he flails like he is on fire, and be ASLEEP. AGAIN. seriously. and oh boy….the commentary that comes out of that kids mouth is amazing. the most frequent things he says are: “this is the worst day EVER!”, “i am so stupid!”, “why do you make ME DO EVERYTHING!?!”. you know, everything, like say….picking up his shoes so nobody kills themselves tripping over them. geez, what pressure that has to put on him! he has also told me things like leta said about her ds. i have threatened to do all sorts of things, and that little person will tell me in no uncertain terms that “nu uh, i’ll get it back”. thank you JESUS for medication. and vodka. 🙂

  • VinnyGirl

    OMG, a little fear never hurt anybody. In fact, I don’t think kids now days fear much of anything. Which is not so good.

  • roryboy

    Loved, loved this post…..

    As a mother of 2 daughters (ages 20 and 23)….enjoy the hysterics….Best memories ever now.

  • LizD

    I have a (now teen) child that’s always been like this (slooooow to get ready for school). Finally, after years of cajoling, bribing, threatening, crying, and begging, I decided THIS WASN’T WORKING. So I did the ole’ “natural consequence” thingy and one morning didn’t say a peep to her, of course she wasn’t ready on time… so I put her in the car and took her to school (grade school). The humiliation of me walking into her classroom with her, telling her teacher (loud enough so everyone could hear), that she had no excuse for being late and that she just didn’t get ready on time, cured it for good.

    Ahhhh… to think I did SOMETHING right through all these years!!!

  • Sully

    I had basically the same morning you had. Except my son would never be the same again because I was mad at him. Of course, I wasn’t mad. I just wanted him to PUT HIS CLOTHES ON!! I only asked him about 4 kazillion times before I took away video games for a day.

  • Sully

    I had basically the same morning you had. Except my son would never be the same again because I was mad at him. Of course, I wasn’t mad. I just wanted him to PUT HIS CLOTHES ON!! I only asked him about 4 kazillion times before I took away video games for a day.

  • WebSavyMom

    –>I think fear is a good thing. You’re not her best friend but her mother. FEAR THIS. 😉

    This has been one of my favorite posts to date. Thanks for the chuckle.

    http://www.WebSavyMom.com

  • JessicaRabbit

    You are going to have TONS of fun when she is 15, TONS AND TONS.

    I personally used to go with the classic, I haaaate you and I hhuuhuuuhooope I get hit by a buuuussss and theeenn YOU will be soooo sorrryyyyyy muuhhuhuhuhuhhhhhhuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

    Girls, we know how to work the mope like nothing else in the world. Not even puppies with sad eyes can top us.

  • angheiz

    http://angheiz.blogspot.com

    On a daily basis, I use “If you don’t get outside to the van right this second, we’re just going to have to leave you at home all day. By yourself. Hope you’ve learned to cook and subsequently call 911. You’re going to need it.” Works every time. She’ll figure out a way around THAT by the time she’s 3.

  • sunny

    Ya know how people have their “things”? The stuff or societal issues they care most about? Well, I have an incredible passion for Africa and the people who live there. This is for many reasons but the two most important ones are: 1) I’ve lived there (Ethiopia to be exact), and 2) My son was born there (again Ethiopia). I adore the continent, people, and cultures. This comment is in no way meant to judge you or make your feel bad. I love your blog and will continue to read it without fail. I, however, do want to tell you that yes, there are many people in AFrica who are “without shoes” and more importantly food/clean water. BUT, there are many stories of hope, endurance, laughter, and love. I get sad when I hear people refer to Africa as “poor Africa” or insinuate the same. I know your mention of Africa was very brief and your point was a good one, but I just wanted to add a little because Africa is so near and dear to my heart. I love your writing. Thanks, Sunny