Lasker Pool

Lasker Pool
Central Park, summer 2011

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Punishing the Unpunishable

I have no idea if most pairs of seven-year-old twins are as ungovernable as mine, but a story my sister Deb told me does make me feel better about my wild things.
A friend of Deb's, with adorable little boy twins, took everything out of their bedroom except for their beds, bedding and one dresser outfitted with kid-proof drawer locks. And the remaining heavy items--beds, dresser-- she nailed to the ground.
Otherwise, the little guys would simply go wild when left to their own devices, turning the room into a maelstrom of toys, clothes and, um, dresser drawers.
I remember those days, when my then-preschoolers would rip the mattresses from their toddler beds and turn them into bouncy slides, when they'd remove every item of clothing from their drawers, when they'd empty the contents of the big wooden toy box on the ground and then crawl into it. Sometimes in the morning I'd find a twin asleep inside the toy box, clutching a blanket.
One day, in a stunning example of teamwork, S and J pulled over a bookcase, spilling their board books everywhere and trapping a howling Jesse underneath.
Not our finest hour.
They're in second grade now and reasonably mature, at least in comparison to their preschool days. But there's something transformative, apparently, in being alone together in their bedroom at night that can, on more occasions than I'd like to admit, turn Seth and Jesse into screaming demons.
So, long after bedtime last night, when their fort-building, Nerf-wielding, stuffed-animal hurling energy was inexplicably not yet spent, my husband and I simply lost it.
After threatening the boys with: loss of Game-Boy time, loss of TV privileges,  and no dessert for three days, Mick resorted to the unthinkable: removal of all the stuffed animals from their beds.
That changed the tone immediately, setting off cascades of tears and deep, shuddering sobs. "No daddy, no! You can't take our stuffies away. We can't sleep without them! We'll be good! We promise!"
A few minutes later, with the boys flat on their backs and covered by blankets, we had a discussion. "You don't like to get yelled at our punished, right?" I asked.
Seth shook his head woefully. "No, mommy," he said.
Jesse shrugged. "I don't really care," he replied.
Doesn't care? What seven-year-old says he doesn't mind discipline?
"But it makes you sad and upset when Daddy yells or takes things away, right?" I pointed out. "You cry."
Jesse pondered this. "Well, when I lose TV or Game Boy, I get a little sad, but it's not a big deal," he explained. "I know I'll get it back. But when I lose them for a few days, I get more sad and then I cry. But I'm not a lot, lot sad. Plus, we're only bad at night, so we're good a lot."
"Not the point, Jess," I said. "But you guys were so bad tonight that you almost lost your stuffed animals. That seemed to make you sad."  By now, Seth was asleep.
Jesse shook his head and actually rolled his eyes a bit, as if to suggest that I was badly misreading the situation. "Taking my stuffies? Mom, that's just wrong."
I surrender.

No comments:

Post a Comment