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Flushed Away

Elizabeth with Mom and Dad

Elizabeth with Mom and Dad

Elizabeth is one year old. Already! I am convinced that the earth is traveling around the sun at an accelerated rate. We are the coin in the gravity well or the squashed bug being flushed. Wait, maybe not, because we added one second to 08. Which is fine with me, I needed that one extra second, although it only felt like a half a second.

Time has a way of playing tricks on parents, for example, after I picked up the kiddos from preschool today, someone, ok it was me, left the bathroom door open. Olivia had left a little yellow to mellow in the toilet and I didn’t see that when quickly getting a tissue for a runny nose. I swear my back was turned for two seconds, I thought Elizabeth was playing with all the plastic food stuff that is used for play picnics in the living room/playroom until I heard her splashing and giggling. This is when time slows down, “Nooooo!” I seemingly move in slow motion, not like movie slow motion, more like nightmare being perused by some unseen force slow motion. “Nawt eighn theaighr!” Elizabeth gins at me as I pull her away, time speeds up again as I disinfect her.

“Who left the toilet seat up?! Who didn’t close the lid after making pee-pee?! (I may have said taking a piss). And who didn’t close the bathroom door?!”
Olivia took the blame right away for not flushing and leaving the seat up. I suspected it was her anyhow. “I forgot to flush daddy.” She said nonchalantly from the kitchen table while working on a coloring.
I couldn’t scold her for being truthful and only reminded her, no pleaded with her, for the hundredth time, to try and remember to flush and close the toilet seat. At that time I remembered it was me who left the door to the bathroom open but didn’t admit too it. My five year old is more honest then myself. Why couldn’t I just say “oh, that was me who left the door open”?

This Old House

We have closed on our old house. Almost ten years packed with many great memories wrapped-up and signed away within an hour at a sterile title office. I proposed to Kim at that old house. It was Thanksgiving weekend 2000: Mimi, then a mangy-just-picked-up-from-the-pound puppy was wearing a new purple collar and hanging from the collar was a heart shaped specially engraved dog-tag that read “Will you marry me?” Hence the dogs name Mary Mimi. Mimi for short. Kim keeps the tag on her key chain. The words are scratched and worn with usage and time, barely legible anymore.

Kim and I brought our little darling daughters home from the hospital after their births to that old house. Olivia and Hailey grew from infants into rambunctious preschoolers, they filled all the empty space with toys, clothes, shoes, art projects, kid-knacks, hair and countless other accessories, inflating that old house until Elizabeth Rose came along and burst the brick and mortar at the seams.

It was time to move on. Our new house, which happens to be the house I grew up in, was too good to pass up. On a quiet cul-de-sac, a large fenced-in back yard, a finished basement with a playroom and an elementary school within walking distance. The kiddos were familiar with the house prior to us moving in which helped with the transition. They have adjusted to the move well and only make reference to our old place on the way to and from their preschool. Daily they request a drive by and it is not far out of the way, so I always oblige them. We make note if our old neighbors are home and we fall silent as I slowly creep by the old house, ghosts of ourselves wave too us as we pass by.

Olivia Tests My Authority

This past Tuesday felt like an old ‘daddy day.’ Kim had some running around to do so I was home all day with the kiddos. Maybe she did that to prep me for the real deal coming up next week when she goes back to work. Olivia, Hailey and I had plans to go swimming after rest-time when Kim got home from her errands. Olivia and Hailey spent quiet-time bouncing off the walls in their room, normal for them. Around three thirty, I told them to start getting ready to go to the pool, Kim was still out. While they were getting their swim-suits on, I was getting all the swim gear gathered up and organizing it all on the kitchen counter. Towels from their bedroom closet, check. Extra undies from their shared dresser, check. A couple Barbie dolls for water rescue missions from their bedroom floor, check. My gym bag, which may as well be called the family swimming bag, from the hall closet, check. Lastly, goggles from their backpacks and this is when the problem started.

Me: “Olivia where are your goggles?” Shouting from the living room.

Olivia: “I duno!” Shouting back from her bedroom.

Me: “Well, they are not in your backpack!”

Olivia: “I want them! Get them!”

Me: “Well, sweetie, if they are not in your backpack then I don’t know where they are!”

Olivia: “I want them! Where are they?!” Swimsuit underneath her clothes and ready to go, she runs into the living room to inspect her backpack.

Me: “Your goggles are your responsibility Honey.”

Olivia: “I want them! Where are they?!” Rooting through her backpack.

Me: “It’s ok. Maybe you left them at the pool during your swim lesson? We will check when we get there Honey.”

Olivia: “I want them! Where are they?! Hailey took them!”

Me: “No sweetie, those are Hailey’s, I just took them out of her bag.” She looks through her backpack again and I place Hailey’s goggles next to the gym bag on the kitchen counter and go into my bedroom to get ready.

Olivia: “I want them! Where are they?! Olivia: “I want them! Where are they?! Olivia: “I want them! Where are they?! Olivia: “I want them! Where are they?! Olivia: “I want them! Where are they?! Olivia: “I want them! Where are they?!”… About five minutes of this.

Me: “We will look for them at the pool Honey!” Hiding from my bed room.

Olivia: “I want them! I want them! I want them!” Olivia: “I want them! I want them! I want them!” Olivia: “I want them! I want them! I want them!” Olivia: “I want them! I want them! I want them!” Olivia: “I want them! I want them! I want them!” Olivia: “I want them! I want them! I want them!”… Five more minutes.

Me: “I understand, you want your goggles, we will check at the pool sweetie.” I was almost ready just had to pack-up the bag.

Olivia: “I want them! I want them! I want them!” Olivia: “I want them! I want them! I want them!” Olivia: “I want them! I want them! I want them!” Olivia: “I want them! I want them! I want them!” Olivia: “I want them! I want them! I want them!” Olivia: “I want them! I want them! I want them!” … Five more minutes

Me: “Olivia! I know your upset that your goggles are missing we will look for them at the pool.”

Olivia: “I want them right now! Where are they?! I want them now!”

Me: “Olivia! If you ask me one more time about your missing goggles…I am not taking you swimming!” The ultimatum slipped out. I really didn’t want to say that, but I did.

Hailey: “And me daddy?”

Me: “You can still go Hailey. And so can Sissy. If she stops complaining about her misplaced goggles.” The room was silent for about ten seconds.

Olivia: “But I want my goggles.”

Me: “That’s it Olivia, you are not going swimming.”

Olivia: “But I want to go swimming!” Sobbing.

Me: “I asked you not to mention your missing goggles and you just did. No. No swimming!”

Olivia: “But I want to go swimming!” Sobbing, knees buckle and she falls to the ground.

Hailey: “And me daddy?”

Me: “Just me and you Hailey.”

Olivia: “But I want to go swimming too! I want to go!”

Me: “No, You are not going swimming!” I couldn’t back down now. I start to pack the swim gear into the gym bag and noticed that Hailey’s goggles are not where I had left them.

Me: “Where? What? Hailey now where are your goggles?” I tear apart the gym bag and head into the living room to double check the backpacks. I start to think I am losing my mind.

Hailey: “Here they are!” She pulls the goggles out of the trash can. Banana peelings cling to the pink Speedo’s

Me: “Olivia! Did you put those in the trash!?” She didn’t answer and I didn’t really need to ask. Flash backs of my dad lashing me with a thick leather belt enter my head.

Me: “That was a mistake! Now you’re in timeout.” I escort her to the designated timeout spot. “You’re time out for trashing your sisters’ goggles!” I let her sit for a few minutes as I assure Hailey that the two of us will be going swimming.

Me: “Why were you in timeout?” Kneeling down inches from Olivia.

Olivia: “I threw Hailey’s goggles in the trash.” Sniffling.

Me: “Why did you do that?”

Olivia: “I duno” She honestly didn’t.

Me: “Well sweetie, I think that you were so upset that you couldn’t find your goggles that you didn’t want Hailey to have hers either.”

Olivia: “Mmm Hmm”

Me: “Well sweetie, that was a mistake and I think Hailey would feel better about her dirty goggles if you apologized.”

Olivia: “Sorry Hailey.”

Me: “Look her in the face when you say that.”

Olivia: “Sorry Hailey.”

I consoled Olivia until Kim got home, replaying the scenario multiple times while offering better solutions to her mistakes but never mentioned my mistake which was an unfair punishment for her extreme emotional outburst and normal for a kid her age. She was upset that she lost her goggles and even though I let her know that we would look for them where she most likely had left them I couldn’t let her grieve completely. Maybe she just needed another few minutes to vent. Although once I told her that she couldn’t go swimming, had I reversed my decision, I would have made two mistakes. My authority is absolute and must always be. Not for me but for my girls.

Side Note: The lost goggles were not in the pool’s lost and found bin, but the very next day when arriving at preschool, the admin assistant, whom runs the school’s office, let me know that her daughter had come home with Olivia’s goggles.

Law and Order

Olivia and Hailey are persistent when it comes to testing their physical and social boundaries. Pushing the limit of acceptability and redrawing the lines of our parental permissiveness. Once reliable our old steadfast rules are crumbling around us. Crafty new legislation is drafted behind closed doors or sometimes on a need to be ratified immediately basis, however to Olivia and Hailey, the newly created laws are written with invisible ink. 

Kim and I attempt to educate long before resorting to punishment but increasingly we find that swift justice erupts as the kiddos become volatile. For Olivia, timeouts are becoming increasingly useless. The last time she was put in timeout, it was for repeatedly dismounting from her chair at the dinner table. She flitted around the table, her mouth half full, chewing, talking, and food falling to the floor. Mimi, our beloved family dog, vacuumed up after her. Kim gave the kid a warning and Olivia disregarded the last chance by bouncing off her chair only seconds after the ultimatum was issued. Kim escorted Olivia to the designated timeout spot where she quietly sat. Four minutes passed and Kim paroled Olivia only to have the detainee willingly stay incarcerated for three times the length of her original imprisonment. Similar to lifelong criminals who decide it’s better on the inside then in the real world.

 

Since that time, I decided we must try an alternate discipline strategy; revoking privileges. Take away what toys or objects Don’t Take My Baby Jaguarthey love the most for a whole day, sometimes longer or until they can earn them back. Kim and I have instilled the belief that their toys are privileges which is actually a good because I think most of these brats today feel they are entitled to anything and everything. It is working for the time being, but I can see into the future and what I know is this; one day the kiddos will have the revelation that they will be able to survive without anything but the things that sustain them. Obvouisly, I’ll refrain from deprivation of basic necessities as a punishment mechanism. Olivia is starting to figure that out already. Just tonight, on their first offence, I had removed their reading lights, meaning no more books for the night and all the stuffed animals that they sleep with on a second violation. I had threatened that if they couldn’t follow the night time rules of no jumping, no screaming, no throwing and no leaving their room (except to use the potty or for an emergency), the next thing I would be removing was their radio. And books-on-CD are a hot commodity.

 

Questioning what was next at stake, Olivia wondered what I would nix after the radio, “And after that… my ponies?”

 

I had to think about it for a minute because Olivia has a team of imaginary ponies, “No, I can’t take your imagination away from you.” It is only a matter of time before their room is stripped naked except for beds, covers and bedside cups of water.

 

***

 

Unless Hailey is on the brink of utter exhaustion, her body is in constant motion, so timeouts still work as a deterrent on her. Except for this morning:

 

Hailey’s New Communication MethodHailey is currently going through a sliver tongue, pursed lip spitting stage. Delighted with an annoying substitute for speaking, she involuntarily sprays saliva as means of communication.

 

Me: “Morning kiddo. How about some milk?”

 

Hailey:  “Plblblulth”

 

Me: “No spiting Hailey. That’s disrespectful”

 

Hailey:  “Plblblulth”

 

Me: “You spit again and you’re in timeout!”

 

Hailey:  “Plblblulth”

 

Me: “Ok, you’re in timeout for spiting and for disrespecting me!!”

 

Hailey:  “Plblblulth”

 

Me: “You can take yourself to timeout or I will take you there!!!”

 

Hailey:  “Plblblulth”

 

Me: “You sit on this spot for three minutes. You’re in timeout for spitting and being disrespectful!!!” I run to the kitchen and slam several cups of milky grind-and-brew coffee. Three short minutes pass. I squat down eye level with Hailey and assume a sweet caring dad role.

 

Me: “Ok Hailey, why are you in timeout?”

 

Hailey:  “Plblblulth. Plblblulth. Plblblulth.”

 

Irony is difficult to interpret coming from a three year old at seven o’clock in the morning.

 

 

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