This here bringer of the pooper to the fun party

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.

  • amwatkins

    How can I judge, when my daughter and I have had similar discussions already- and she’s not even 4 years old!!!

  • Pinkporches

    Oh no Heather, fear is goooooooood! More mommas should instill fear in their children. I’d so much rather have my kids scared of what I’m going to say then scared of how hard I’m going to smack them. You handled that very well. Good job. Clap, clap, clap.

    Smiles,
    Lisa

  • ErikaMSN

    Oh my god. That was my morning. Except that I told her I’d take a quarter out of her bank, and she said she didn’t care, and so I walked off w/ the whole bank and then went back and pulled her pajamas off of her, and now she now wants to run away. Then my husband made the mistake of saying sometimes he wants to run away too, and now she’s making plans for them both to run away. Just for one night, and just somewhere close, so she can go to school tomorrow, of course. Oh, and she says she just wants to have a peaceful house, and Mama won’t let it be peaceful. Do I feel like shit? Yep, I do…

  • Caitlyn Nicholas

    LOL. My Miss Five does the exact same thing. And yes, when sleep deprived, under pressure and over it, I lose it and argue back as well 🙂

    Hang in there.

    Cait!

  • cndbain

    My five year old just did something like this when I made him shut off his video game. He declared that he hates me, he’s going to run away from home and I’ll never see him again, and DO I WANT HIM TO GET HIT BY A CAR??!!!

    Deep breaths.

    Candace

  • hasher

    Awesome, well written and a great story. Love it.

  • Peggy

    Good Gravy Marie!
    I have been there and done that. I’m still going through this kind of thing but on an older level. I threaten my 18 year old all the time. “If you don’t take that drunken picture of yourself off Facebook, I’m taking the car away, FOREVER!”
    It never ends, but I do love the fact that Leta is so smart that she has it down pat already.

    Good Luck!!!

  • lipjunkjunkie

    We are forever being uninvited to our son’s birthday party. I guess that’s a 4 1/2 year old’s ultimate put down.

  • Becca

    wanted to add: I once screeched my car to a halt, turned around and said “PARDON ME??” to my son when I got lip from the backseat. (Luckily it was a sideroad with no one behind me.) He got the point. I have also been known to silently turn the car around and drive back home when getting attitude. When he figures out we are not going where he thought we were, apologies fly fast.

  • kat

    Leta is 5 right … mine is soon to be 9 and we have had this same fight since she started going to school when she was 2. It hasn’t gotten any easier and I have not gained any understanding in how to deal with her or make her stop.

    PS I tried the timing thing to … they catch on quickly that it really isn’t a game.

  • tryinghard

    Oh, thank goodness. I thought my 5-year old was the only one! Fantastic story. Thank you for sharing.

  • MichelleC

    I don’t have kids yet, but as I read your blog I’m making many notes to myself. I don’t think I’m as patient as you are, but I’m hoping to be there someday as I suspect if my kids are anything like I was… I’m going to need A LOT of patience.

  • Ommax3

    My oh so often comment to my children, especially my 7 year old drama queen, “well, my job is to keep you fed, clothed and safe…happy is not my responsiblity!” And, then I walk away…”hope you don’t miss the “mommybus” to school sweetie, as you pout away your life”

    ahhhhhh the joy of girl drama….

  • irritableblogsyndrome

    Now that was friggin’ awesome. I just about blew Diet Pepsi outta my nose when I read the last sentence. How has there NOT been a scientific study on little girls and their own version of having a “cycle”? OH IT’S REAL PEOPLE! Just ask anyone with a daughter.

  • Lizzy

    When my three kids whine and tell they “want” something, I have been known to say “Well, people in hell want ice water”; and then I have a drink. At noon.

    I win for parent of the year.

  • radiolariat

    Aw, Leta, I felt the exact same way this morning.

  • Lizzy

    …and I love comment #159. Where is it written that we have to make kids happy all the time? Did I sign a form that makes this claim?

    You were spot on with Leta.

  • ModaMags

    Never too late to put her up for adoption. East coast boarding schools are also nice. It’s a tragedy that my mother’s two favorite threats are no longer valid options:

    “I’LL SEND YOU TO REFORM SCHOOL”

    “I’LL GIVE YOU TO THE GYPSIES”

    A little fear goes a long way in keeping them safe from harm – and on the path of getting to the minivan on time.

  • Tori

    Sounds exactly like mine. She has a habit of talking way too much in the mornings before school and it drives me bizzerk. Both my girls lolly gag. My ten year old will be getting her period way before your five year old so trust me…I know what your dealing with:) The Joys of Motherhood!!

  • SHINGLES

    My kids eat fear for breakfast. It’s part of a healthy diet for growing children.

    Not only can my kids name everything they have that kids in Africa don’t, they can also list all the ooky diseases that they DON’T have because they don’t live in Africa.

    See. Discipline AND education. I’m a SUPER MOM!

    😉

  • Coyote

    While writing my previous comment, I forgot to include my personal motto that helped keep me afloat during my child rearing years: My job as a parent is not to make my children love me, but to make them lovable by others 🙂

  • bigsmiller

    Your mornings sound like mine. Except Leta is much better with her words than my son is. He hasn’t quite figured out how to turn my words against me. I am sure it is coming though. Also, try adding morning piano practice into the mix! I had fun meeting you for coffee the other day. It wasn’t quite long enough though! I would love to meet with you again. 🙂

  • utroukx

    it’s not just girls. this sounds very much like my eight year old son, who is giving lessons to his six year old brother. except their favourite thing to say to (scream at) me is, “i hate you!” it’s ever so much fun. 😐

  • Little Nikolette

    LOVE-ING the comments so far. and I’ve only read to about #7! This is a FREQUENT sequence of events at our house. I aspire to better parenting techniques, but alas, usually fall short. Hopefully the kids will not need too much therapy or drug rehab someday.

  • Spot On That Guy

    Well, my wife and I (25 years and 5 kids later) must have been ahead of our time, because our oldest is 22, youngest is 18 (there’s a set of twins in there), and they are remarkable, much better behaved than their sometimes spoiled, over-indulged ‘rents.

    We had many mornings like this one, and a few more that were worse, and I can attest that drawing the line as you did (we did it much more assertively) pays huge dividends in respectfulness, patience, and self-control. Our children learned that there are limits to people’s patience with them, and that includes Mom & Dad.

    We’ve had lots of parents “correct” us about this over the decades, but my retort (usually along the lines of “see me in 10 years when your spawn are as old as mine, and let’s compare notes then”) always concludes with a favorite of my mother’s sayings when my siblings and I were little: “The Earth revolves ’round the sun, child, not you, and the sooner you learn that, the happier you’ll be.”

  • Emerson_Jo

    No judgement here…been there done that. My little dramatic, 5 year old apple did not fall far from this tree either. It’s mornings like this that I sing this little song…

    They call me Mom
    They call me Mother
    Mama and Mommy
    Always the same
    That’s not my name
    That’s not my name
    That’s not my name
    That’s not my (dramatic pause) name

    Oh, and sorry to inform you, but I’ve won the WORST.MOM.EVER! award for the past three months straight for various injustices heaped upon my DD like brushing teeth and getting dressed. I’m still waiting for the sash, diamond encrusted tiara and gold trophy…

  • stacykaye_79

    Ha! Ha! I am a substitute teacher-resigned from full time to spend more time with my baby-and I was teaching Kindergarten the other day. It came time for recess and all of the kids have to go outside, they don’t have a choice. One little girl was refusing, big time. Before I had left for work that morning I asked my husband-who had experience teaching Kindergarten-what to do if they are misbehaving? He said the sure fire solution was to say “What would your mom think of your behavior? Do I have to tell her?”

    Remembering this advice from my husband, I looked the little five year old girl with flaming red hair in the eyes and said, gravely, “What would your mother think of you acting like this?” She stared right back at me and said, “SHE’S not going to know, because YOU don’t know my phone number!” Imagine my double take…and my OH NO YOU DID NOT, which immediately sprung to mind!

    The wee ones are smart these days. I was trying to hide laughter while at the same time thinking of a solution to the problem. Eventually, she went outside…one point for the teacher!

  • Little Nikolette

    Also, I like a line from one of my friends for her children – “It’s not my job to make you like me, it’s my job to make you better.” I’ve used it a few times. It’s a good reminder for mom, too. I’d like to find variations on this theme to add to the mom-senal.

  • katszeye

    Sigh. It is lovely that she has started her emo, pouty tween years early. Just think – it won’t be long now until she starts reading Twilight and listening to Morrissey.

    For 6+ years, we have practiced the parenting technique of “I’m sorry you feel that way…” or “it must be frustrating to have that happen…” It works. To a point. There are many times, however, when you need to use the glare or well-timed threat. We are animals, you need to establish dominance every once in a while.

  • beritelissa

    Wow, I just realized I’m 30 and my mom is STILL using the “no socks in Africa” line on me- EFFECTIVELY! I was bitching yesterday about the cost of food for the wedding my fiance and I are planning and she pulled out some line about a woman in her office who has had 3 miscarriages and is undergoing a mastectomy today. A bit of a stretch, Ma, but man, that stopped my whining fast!

  • emduff

    I know: you’ve been beyond busy to have caught this, but for a giggle in light of this story, check out Flight of the Conchords’ video from a number this season called “Hurt Feelings.”

  • Little Nikolette

    So true. And this reminded me of the truism that kids NEED and WANT limits, no matter how strenuously they will state otherwise. Check out the Love and Logic guys – I don’t agree w/ all of their stuff, but alot of it makes a lot of sense. And it WORKS!

  • Little Nikolette

    And please post the toothbrushing game in the community… I need some ideas for this little chore.

  • cjchristensen

    My 5 year old son does the same thing these days. Getting in trouble makes him “sad.” I blame it on Montessori and how he is encouraged to share his emotions . . . gotta love it!

  • doomish

    @Lunaticinthehouse

    I’m 23, I still take my pants off immediately upon coming home & I still won’t eat foods that touch eachother 🙂

    I guess us girls are just trouble forever.

  • gretchie

    The best tactic I have found with my little drama queen: “If you don’t like my rules, I don’t have to be your mother. We’ll find you a new mom.” Never fails to leave her properly horrified. I use it sparingly, b/c it makes her cry to hear it. This is the same child who, from the age of two, could not hear a “sad song” without bursting out into body-wracking sobs. So sentimental! The hardest thing, though, is avoiding get sucked into an argument. I’ve told her lots of times, “ARGUING IS NOT ALLOWED.” It saves everyone’s sanity – even theirs.

  • Smitty

    I’m logged in! I’m logged in! I think this might be my second comment ever in several years of reading every post. Just had to say that you’re freaking hilarious.

  • wyrdwoman

    I’m just jealous that Little Nikolette got to be comment # 221616 and I didn’t. Since when does that come between 177 and 178? 😉

  • Kay

    First of all “Wackadoo” is one of my favorite words. Secondly, I want to agree with everyone else in saying that you are extremely patient. Thirdly, I love the new community.

  • Monsboys

    My youngest son who is 10 still tries to make us feel bad. When he was very little when we would upset him by not letting him get his way he would tell us that we were “cracking his heart” (breaking his heart)it was really sweet at 3 years old, at 10 yrs old it’s exhausting

    By the way, the best game we every played to get my son to do something is the seatbelt game. When we get into the car we race to see who can get their seatbelt on 1st. He wins 9/10 times but I’m really the winner because he has built up such a great habit that I know he will always buckle up!

  • enirehtac

    My daughter has so many of the same personality traits, it has to be a five year old thing. Or maybe it’s a child born in February of 2004 thing. Either way, I have to commend you for your patience. I frequently have to get up and walk away so that I won’t smack my daughter.

  • Little Nikolette

    Sorry I’m posting ad nauseum – I guess this topic really hits home for me and it’s something I struggle with. DAILY.

    I agree that a little anger doesn’t hurt. It’s when it crosses the line to a little out-of-control that I feel really guilty. If that happens, I try to apologize and move on but often find myself doing the guilt-trip thing – you know, “I’m sorry I yelled so loud/got so mad/ etc. BUUUUUUT… you know you’re not supposed to act that way, right?” Or “I’m mad/ not feeling well/ CRAZY… because you all are doing thus and thus…” As if. Everything is NOT their fault! Parents probably should own up to mistakes (however they define mistakes) and also have SOME self-control.

    It’s such an easy line to cross. Like I said, it’s a daily struggle and help can come from methods like Love and Logic or “Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids: 7 Keys to Turn Family Conflict into Co-operation” by Sura Hart and Victoria Kindle Hodson. I need to read this stuff some more!! Generally I get good ideas on how to handle situations without making soooo many mistakes.

    I’ll probably bring this topic up in the Community if I take some time to think it out and write it better.

  • MarthaStu

    I think a little fear is good – it’s called respect. (I’m 37 and I’m still a little scared of my mom when she’s mad!) It let me know, as a child, that SHE was in charge, not me. Leta wants you to be in control because you will keep her safe; if she feels like she’s in control that’s a pretty scary feeling for a kid. It sounds like you were very patient and gentle with her (how did you keep a straight face??).

  • HalfAss Krissa

    Oh, honey… I am SO sorry this is happening to you. My darling first born daughter started her period at 11 1/2. FOR REAL! There is nothing you can do to prepare yourself for that.
    Leta is really, really good and the drama. heh. Oh, I’m sorry… was I giggling at you? It will get better.
    Before it gets worse. 😉

  • Janice

    If you’re really lucky, you be starting through menopause just as your girls hit puberty. I’m already praying for Jon.

  • Steph@MyHormonesMadeMeDoIt

    This is further proof that women are born hormonal, it is part of our genetic make up. Bummer!

  • Dawn56

    My younger daughter started her periods at 9 1/2. Yes. Yes, it was. But I’m much better now.

    “And I can guarantee you, Leta, that any time you dare talk to me like that I will make you sad. Very, very sad indeed. Now. Finish getting dressed before I make you even sadder.”

    I am an evil mom. But neither of mine are in jail, so there’s that.

  • Angie_from_Oz

    Oh my god Heather, I don’t usually comment but this is word for word the same as an exchange I had with my daughter Chloe (who is 5) a few days ago. At least I know there is another mother out there suffering the way I do! I call it an “artisitc temperament”…

  • hugsNpuppies

    Courageous post, Heather! And can I just say… my daughter is a few months younger than yours, but she is EXACTLY like Leta in this… almost exact wording, too…. “You’ve hurt my feelings” or “I’m always sad, even if I’m laughing”…
    I once asked her to turn down the volume on her singing. She was so hurt, she told me she’d NEVER-EVER sing again and it was all my fault!

    That scene you described plays out exactly the same at my house. Not every day, but whenever I’m not ‘at the top of my game’…. bright perfectionist girls who try to get their perfectionist mothers to pull it together?

    You’re doing her a huge favour by showing her that mums and dads are not perfect and that life still goes on, even is richer for it.

    I try not to buy into her making me feel guilty while still owning up to my shit (Sorry, I yelled at you…). We’re imperfect. And yes, she’s singing again… 🙂

  • Angie_from_Oz

    Ooh be careful!!

    I tried technique with my daughter, and now she pre-empts me with possible other choices for her new mother. My mother (her grandmother) is usually the first choice because – “Mum, Nanna let’s me do WHATEVER I WANT”…