Monday, October 25, 2004

Can We Go Spelunking in That Cave?

One of my big parenting pet peeves is empty threats. If you say you're going to turn this car around if Johnny pokes Susie one more time, then by golly you should follow through.

Since this tends to bug me, I try to be consistent about enforcing rules, even when the ensuing meltdown is disproportionate to the disciplinary insult. Most of the time I'm pretty good about it.

Most of the time.

Right after Sean's bath tonight, Jeff was brushing Sean's teeth. Sean has this annoying habit of clamping his teeth down on the toothbrush and laughing as Jeff or I tell him to open his mouth so that we can brush his teeth. It's the laughter that gets to us more than anything---the more terse we become, the more Sean laughs.

I told Sean that if he didn't open his mouth, there'd be no story before bedtime. His response? More laughter, and we had to pry that toothbrush out of his mouth with a set of pliers. Well, not really. But we were tempted.

Minutes later, when I informed Sean that Daddy wouldn't be reading him a bedtime story, his tears were profuse and his unhappiness obvious: "I want a story! Please? Daddy read a story!"

You can guess what happened. We caved. But in a principled sort of way---one story rather than the usual three.

Maybe it's because the evening had been such a roller coaster, with tears and tiny bouts of hysteria over pretty much nothing at all. I just didn't want to end Sean's day on such a sad note.

Tomorrow maybe I'll turn the car around for real.