Friday, September 7, 2007

Sit. Stay. Good Boy.

It just started wrong.

In our haste for food, I made some easy spaghetti and called everyone to the table. Our youngest son took one look at his plate, pushed it away and said, "I'm not going to eat this." Immediate frown on his face. Immediate frown on mine. He slid around on his chair, half off, half on.

"Sit still please," I said calmly, "feet forward."

I responded to his plate maneuvering by reading out an update about the impoverished community in Ulaanbaator, Mongolia that we help sponsor (perfect timing that our update came in the mail today). The kids are happy to have a home. They are happy to have parents. They are happy to have food.

And they are thrilled when they get a nice plate of spaghetti for dinner. (At least I think they are...)

Of course, that didn't work.

Then, we began negotiations on the eating of the spaghetti and I threaten immediate retreat to the bath and bed. Off to bed for you! He complains some more and his whining voice trembles. I threaten to revoke the Pokemon cards he has been working so hard for all this week. Tears come to his eyes.

He slips out of his chair, puts his grouchy head on the table, moves around a bit more and declares that none of this would have happened if I had just made him a hot dog.

"Sit still please, feet forward." This time a command.

He squirms and slides around.

Thinking that this is just going downhill fast, I retreat.

"Okay," I say quietly, "I'll make you a hot dog." I get up and move to the kitchen.

And then, while the water was boiling I very calmly asked him to come talk to me on the couch. And then, I helped him understand how none of this would have happened if he had been polite from the beginning and just asked nicely for a hot dog, and then maybe offer his spaghetti to his brother.

He seemed to get it, but he still squirmed and slid in the couch beside me.

My philosophy on parenting is that if you get angry at your kids, and don't take the time to calm everyone down, listen and understand, explain things and then compromise, all you have done is teach your kid how to get angry. Some say I'm too easy on my kids. I say I'm raising people that know how to communicate, compromise, and keep the peace.

We said sorry and I went to finish his hot dog. We started dinner again.

This time, he said thank you for making dinner, and smiled while we talked about cats and tea, and he said thank you again, and then said thank you again. And he said yum, this is good, and pulled his plate closer.

And then he squirmed some more and slid one leg off the chair. I screwed my face up into a half smile, half frown.

"I'm just not stayable," he says, a tiny grin on his face.

Ah, the sweet sound, the sweet look, of the way things should be.


Maggy and Me said...

Hey. I've been immersed in the lives of 2 and 4 year old boys (my nephews) for the past 8 months and now have a new perspective on meal times, negotiation, communication and how the heartstrings can be pulled at any moment! Love this description and your writing too!

Mika Ryan said...

Very sweet and really brings back memories. I had a similiar episode with my son, about getting dressed. I now realize that most of the time, when we hit these snags, he was trying to communicate something else. Not that I can't dress myself - but I need more of your time.