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I relinquish my role as Primary Kid Wrangler to my husband after dinner. The exceptions being those I-can’t-take-it-anymore days when I am desperate to punch the proverbial time card the moment he sets foot in the house and those nights he is working late, has a meeting, or is going out with his Peeps. Most nights, though, our deal is: I clean up the kitchen and he cleans up the kids.
We’ve never talked about this division of work. It happened organically, and over time, it became our pattern. I am happy with this arrangement (he might not be but I’m not asking) and on those nights I am required to pull double duty, I am reminded how lucky I am that he is an involved parent.
But, as in most things, we do things differently.
“Mommy,” said Henry, splashing in his bath. “We thkip da shampoo tonight?”
“What? No. We have to wash your hair.”
His scowl matched his displeased mutter. “Daddy doeth.”
He pointed at the plastic rinse cup on the opposite side of the tub. “I’m thirthty. Gimme dat.”
“So you can, what? Drink the bathwater? No.”
I raised an eyebrow and stared him down (this is easy to do when you have a 30 year advantage).
He glared at me. “Daddy doeth.”
I attempted to wash the grime from his ears. “Are you growing cabbages in there?”
“No, Mommy, don’t!” he screamed. “Daddy doethn’t do dat!” He thrashed from side to side trying to escape the dreaded washcloth. By the time bath time was over, I was soaked and the bathroom floor was dotted with flotsam from our battle. We both wished that his father was there.
He had one last question for me while I was drying him off. “Mommy? Can you thtand up and pee?”
He smirked. “Daddy doeth.”
I was more than irritated when I discovered another scribbled-upon wall. Liam was ensconced safely at camp; Nora has never drawn on anything but paper. That left but one suspect.
“Henry! Please come in here!”
“What’s going on?” asked my husband, wandering in from the kitchen. I said nothing. He followed my gaze to the wall and then snorted in disbelief.
“I’m gonna kill him,” I whispered.
Henry bounced into the room. He looked from me to the wall to Brendan. “Nah-uh, Mommy.” He smiled, confident in his knowledge that I would never, could never, hurt him. “’Cuz of God,” he said solemnly.
I turned away to smother a disrespectful smirk. Fixing my frown, I leaned over him. “Do you know why Mommy is not happy?”
“’Cuz you uthin’ dat voice.”
Sighing, I pointed to the wall.
“Oh!” He jumped in front of his latest masterpiece with his arms extended—trying to block my view. “Oh, dat! Thorry, Mommy.”
I explained to Henry why it was not okay to write on walls. I reminded him that we had had this conversation before and firmly informed him that I did not want to have it again.
He looked down at the floor and shuffled his feet. He was obviously feeling guilty. Just as my attitude started to soften, a paradigm shift. His eyes blazed with the Greatness of his idea. “It not me! Piggy did it!” He thrust the purported offender forward.
I was at a loss. This was a new one.
“Well…,” I stalled, casting around for the right response. Was I going to have to lecture him about lying? Was this the time to analyze the differences between what is real vs. pretending something is real? “Well…,” and then it came to me. “YOU [and I prodded his chest for emphasis] are responsible for Piggy. You know that you are not allowed to write on the wall. And SO, you should not let Piggy write on the wall either.” I paused, pleased with myself for having out-argued a three-year-old. “Now, you and Piggy need to clean up your mess.”
He nodded at me. “OK, Mommy.”
Later, I was gulping a glass of wine and reviewing the tapes inside my head. Even though Henry had tried to blame his alter-ego, ultimately, he had admitted his misconduct, expressed remorse, and received an appropriate consequence. He was learning to accept personal responsibility.
Brendan touched my shoulder. “Honey? Did you happen to notice the ‘pictures’ Henry drew on the tan chair?”