Updates and the Tattle Brigade

Monday, September 21st, 2009 | Connecting the Dots

Inspired by Guo Ji Mama, who updated her blog header the day her last daughter came home, I have FINALLY updated mine. Call it what you will. Maybe I wasn’t ready. Maybe I’d just forgotten how to use Cyberduck to upload the file to my theme, or more importantly to resize the picture. Maybe I’m just lazy, and the kind of hostess who leaves the giant bottle of nature’s miracle (used to remove the scent of doggie “accidents”) on the mantel when she has a party.

I’m thinkin’ d) all of the above.

And I have just been reminded to do the same on my rather rarely used Facebook page.

tonight I thought, well, ok, Wyatt, I’ll make Rice Krispie Treats with you guys! This is a special thing for Wyatt. Unfortunately, I suspect that’s because it’s something we usually do together, just the two of us. Tonight both of his sisters joined in, and there were ground rules intended to preserve my sanity–no sticking a fist in the rice krispie box, no eating the butter, no touching of any cooking utensils until so directed.

Wyatt got sent to his room briefly, and both he and Rory lost cooking privileges for unlicensed touching of cooking utensils and supplies. In other words, although the treats were made, very little fun was had, and then Sam came home from hockey and dropped a WHOLE BOTTLE of soy sauce on the slate floor of the kitchen.

Look, I would like to be patient mommy. I have even recognized that everybody–even me–is way, way happier when I am patient mommy. And I think that I have therefore improved. For example, although Sam was made to feel guilty, there was no yelling. And let me just say there is a LOT of soy sauce in one of those bottles, and there is no excuse for how quickly we go through one, and that in general it was good when they had those little plastic thingies that meant you had to shake them to get the soy sauce out, although not for cooking. And tonight was really a very good night, in which a good dinner was served on time and no tv was watched and no tantrums were had and there was little or no bonus scolding. But it wasn’t a particularly warm and fuzzy night. It felt more like I was cycling through the motions of being patient mommy than like I was really BEING patient. They say if you fake a smile, you actually feel happier. Do we think that works with patience?

On another note, I have been reading NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman. It’s an excellent review of the recent social science surrounding parenting in the Malcolm Gladwell style, and very readable. It also offers a lot of food for thought about how you parent without actually telling you how to parent. I commented a little on the chapter about teaching kids about race and racism on Double X, but today I’ve been thinking about the chapter on lying–or, more specifically, tattling. What I took away from it was this:

When kids tattle, they’re usually telling the truth. And they’ve been trying to work it out, and now they are at the end of their ropes, and they really need your help. And when you send them back with a little pat and the instruction to “work it out,” you are really saying: Don’t come to me with your petty problems as I am useless to you. And do, when they are older, they will not come to you with their problems because you have taught them that you are no help. And they will lie.

This strikes me as reasonable, so of course I thought, well, fuck you, Po Bronson. (Sorry Ashley Merriman–I too have been a co-author, and I know that it’s awful for me not to include you in my loathing filled inner cursing, but I just didn’t. Next time, I promise.) Because really, where does that leave me? If I have to believe them every time and act on it every time “Wyatt push me!” or “Lily take my phone away!” or “Rory snatched the cards right out of my hands!” then I should just give up cooking, dishwasher emptying, laundry or any of the other things I do for fun and move, body and soul, into the playroom. And probably buy a black-and-white referee uniform, because oh, the more I react, the more they come tell.

But I buy it, I do–I buy the argument. Sort of. Then I think, well…can’t they tell the difference? Some times I do help. The snatching of things, for example–I will often intervene to retrieve the thing if I’m convinced that it was truly snatch. I would help if you told me your girlfriend barfed up every meal, too, really.

Man, what DO you do when they tattle–or, really, just come to you with the whole he hit me, she pushed me thing—because I don’t think of that as tattling, it’s more seeking personal justice. Tattling is when Wyatt is trying to sneak a popsicle out of the freezer and one of his sisters rats him out (and once he gets savvy enough to sneak three popsicles, that will end). This whole interpersonal crisis management–Po (who is actually an author I love, love, love and who I even corresponded with once, making me feel very cool and writerly) was no help. No, instead, he just drew my attention to the problem and abandoned me to it, and I would really like some ideas here.

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1 Comment to Updates and the Tattle Brigade

Nancy
Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Two suggestions, although they may not work as well with 4 kids as with my 2:

First, Child of the Day. I had an ‘odd’ kid and an ‘even’ kid, and on her day, that child got to make all the decisions – pick the movie, pick the restaurant (we ate out on Mondays before violin), whether to go first or second at violin, whether to take a bath together or separate. The child whose day it wasn’t seemed to accept this, knowing that the next day she’d be all powerful. The most important thing was the Child of the Day got to talk first (and most) so if anything happened at school, that child got to tell me. One of my kids didn’t care about making any of these decisions (except the video), but it taught the one who cared that she had to take turns, wait, and not be so bossy. Ten years later, we’re still working on the bossy thing.

Second, many of the best toys belonged to me, not them. I was extremely good at sharing, as long as they played together and cleaned up after, but as soon as they were fighting and tattling, I took my toys away. Santa brought me a very nice set of Barbie ‘Kelly’ dolls and a play house, and those were all in a plastic storage box. They’d get them out (after asking me) and play together with them and put them away when they were done. I can’t remember them ever arguing or fighting when using my toys, because they knew I’d take them away (and I would).

And I’ll admit I found it easier to have two of everything, identical, and put their names on them so the evil sister would never touch the other’s things. Again, one child didn’t care, the other cared desperately that everything in life be even and fair, and she’d rather settle for something she didn’t really want that was just like her sister’s than to have the item she really wanted, because if it was just like her sister’s, then she knew life was fair. Anything I didn’t want two of was mine, and the sharing rules were implemented.

I’ve been blessed with one child who really doesn’t care, and the younger one learned that arguing with yourself is just not as much fun as arguing with a sister. They are a team, often against me, and that cuts down on the tattling.

Nancy

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