I just planned my meals and made a grocery list for the week. Ride my coattails.
Every Saturday I bring you a parenting mistake my husband and I have made. Please have a laugh or cry at our expense — we really are good parents, I swear.
For Daddy/Daughter Day, my husband planned a trip to the Lego store. A 9:20am departure was arranged to get there by 10:00am. This would provide about an hour of shop and play time. Nora would fall asleep on the way home in line with her usual naptime.
En route, Nora showed signs of fatigue. Ben attempted to keep her awake by making Lego-related conversation. As he pulled into the mall parking lot, she was asleep. Undeterred, he took her out of the carseat and into the mall, expecting her to awaken. She did not.
The purchase had been pre-decided, so Ben bought a dump truck set and carried his sleepy (and heavy) girl back to the car. On the drive home, Nora woke and announced, “We’re going to the Legoland!” He pulled to the side of the road and explained that she had fallen asleep and missed the experience. He then presented her with the set of Legos. Thankfully, there was no meltdown. Total nap time? 30 minutes. Chance at getting her back to sleep before bedtime? Zip.
Next trip is planned for post naptime.
Step 1. Wake up several times during the night, then take an extra long nap, so you are rested and I am not. (Note: Skipping this step will dramatically reduce desired results.)
Step 2. Employ any or all of the following techniques:
a. Repeat the same request 700 times after I’ve explained why it’s not possible or must wait. Example: We are in the car and you say you are thirsty and need a glass of milk. I say, “Ok, honey, we’re almost home and then I’ll get you some milk.” This is your cue to chant, “Mommy, I’m thirsty and I want milk, Mommy I’m thirsty and I want milk…”
b. While I am preparing a meal, pull on my clothing and pick your feet off the ground.
c. Wait until I am collapsed on the sofa, request a cuddle with me, commence squirming.
d. While we are reading stories in bed, lay on my right side and when you want a closer look at the book, hoist yourself up and dig your left elbow into my right breast.
e. After I’ve taken you potty and tucked you into bed, call to me that you need to go potty again. Pee a teaspoon. Repeat.
Parents are not easily grossed out. I remember the first time my daughter got the stomach flu, it didn’t even occur to me to be disgusted when she covered my shirt in vomit and then nestled into it. In fact, sometimes what is gross to a childless person provides comfort to parents; the freely moving bowels of your child, for example.
My daughter’s daycare is just two blocks from my office. When she was an infant, I would breastfeed her at lunch time. Naturally, I was always equipped with a pocket full of clean tissues to catch spit-up. One day, having returned to my office from a feeding, I found a tissue soiled with spit-up in my pocket. Some force of nature compelled me to sniff it. It was a sensory delight! It smelled exactly like my girl. My eyes filled with tears and instead of throwing the tissue in the trash, I stuffed it back into the pocket of my trousers; saving it for another surreptitious sniff.
On a recent trip to the grocery store, I overheard a young woman barking to her seven-year-old companion, “Behave! Behave! It is a privilege for you to be doing this with me.” She was squatted down next to him and looked about ready to shake him.
I say she was speaking to her “companion” not her “son,” because I did not get a motherly vibe from her. Probably because she displayed no skills. I don’t think it would really be possible to raise a child to the age of seven and use this technique expecting positive results. I could be wrong, perhaps she was his mother and was at her Friday night breaking point. More likely, she was his much older sister.
What I do know is that is was not a privilege to be anywhere near her that evening. I don’t know what the boy did to provoke such a scolding, he certainly hadn’t caused any disturbance that I saw. Looking at his scared and shamed face made me so thankful that I am no longer a child and subject to the whims of cranky, over-stressed adults. Can you imagine the implication of telling a child that he was so poorly behaved that he didn’t even deserve to be with a miserable, ornery adult at the grocery store? Sheesh.
Clearly, a parent was the missing element in this situation. Someone to send her petulant butt out to the car with a snack and a deep breathing exercise, and someone to put him in charge of the grocery list and later have a talk about how totally rotten a public scolding must feel. Empathy, now there’s a parenting technique.
One day, about four years ago, while seated on my sofa, dreaming of having a child, I remember thinking: I will not be able to sit on the couch and do nothing anymore. I needn’t explain why this was a gross understatement. Rather, let me illustrate my parental couch postures, in stark contrast to my childless days of sitting still and staring at the fire.
1. Sitting up and feeding a dolly while my daughter pretend grocery shops.
2. Sitting up, cradling a 30 pound child as if she were an infant, and feeding her a from a fake bottle.
3. On all fours, with a toddler on my back as rider.
4. On my back, with my feet on Nora’s hips, my arms supporting her armpits while she makes airplane noises.
5. In the prone position, with my hands reflexively held in front of my face, preventing my daughter’s skull from giving me a fat lip as she carelessly tosses her head around while “cuddling.”