Confession time...I let my youngest child eat too many chicken nuggets. Don't judge me. Or do. Just keep it to yourself.
So, we returned to McDonald's today. Last time was so unexpectedly heart-warming, I was willing to go back sooner than usual. Sadly, this time was much more what you'd expect. Worse actually.
After Ben and I sat down, I heard a very angry dad at the table behind us. He was reading his kid the riot act, "I can't believe you are treating ME like this! This was supposed to be a treat, but if YOU are going to behave this way, I will NEVER do this again." And on and on. You get the picture.
I finally turned around, expecting to see him yelling at some six- or seven-year-old boy, who I was picturing squirming around with ketchup on his head or something. God knows, I've been there.
Instead, I see a little girl sitting very quietly in a high chair. She's maybe three years old, and she is not uttering a peep. Just staring wide-eyed as her dad berates her. Mom is sitting there too, looking tired, also not moving and not saying a word.
Turns out, dad is mad because little girl is not eating her food. So, he threatens her until she eats, and he's literally commanding her step-by-step, "You've got six minutes. Put it in your mouth. Now chew. Now swallow." And on and on.
He finally bullied the poor kid through her meal, and they all left. Thank God.
The guy was just too scary and out-of-control for me to confront. I'm a wimp, I know. But I so wanted to talk to him about children's developmental stages, reasonable expectations for toddlers, that sort of thing. But I figured he'd kill me, and then Ben would've witnessed that in addition to the other hideous behavior that he was clearly baffled and troubled by.
That little girl was just tired and ready for her nap. Many little ones that age might've been misbehaving, even melting down into a good old-fashioned tantrum. But this tiny sweetie was too scared of her dad to engage in that sort of age-appropriate behavior. I shudder to think what that home is like.
On a more positive note, I had a parenting win this week. Ben was prescribed a really gross-tasting (and smelling) antibiotic, and he cried for 30 minutes after swallowing the first dose. I'm thinking, we've got nineteen more doses to go over the next 9.5 days, we'd better figure this thing out.
So, after he calmed down, we talked about it and came up with a plan:
1. I squirt the medicine into his mouth with the little syringe thingy rather than him drinking it out of the little cup thingy (no idea why this is preferable, but not a problem, I can accommodate).
2. Ben then immediately drinks his cup of ice water (not plain water...it must be ICE water...again, not a problem, I've got this).
3. Ben then grabs and consumes the popsicle of his choice (can do...those things have been sitting in the freezer untouched all summer...it's about time someone eats them).
That simply, the problem is solved, and the following doses have gone perfectly smoothly. No tears. I love it when a plan comes together. I especially love it when my kid demonstrates such excellent problem solving skills.
A friend of mine posted on Facebook this week about her recent struggles with her toddler at bedtime. He stays in bed but cries and cries, and of course, it's driving her nuts. He wants her to sit with him until he falls asleep, and she is afraid of creating a bad habit. Sound familiar?! I think it is mandatory that every parent go through some variation on this theme.
She received a lot of good comments in response to her post, so I never weighed in. But it did make me think about the special challenges presented by little kids--especially when it's your first kid and you're just learning all the many difficult things they do, which drive you far crazier than you could have ever imagined possible.
I couldn't stand all the crying and getting out of bed when Jack was little, and I definitely went through a too-long phase of lying down with him until he fell asleep. Eventually, I successfully bribed him with a gift--he stayed in his bed and fell asleep on his own for a whole week, and I rewarded him with some toy or other. Magic.
I don't remember going through anything similar with either Sam or Ben. Maybe I got better at it, or maybe things just don't bother you as much by the time you get to your second and third kiddo. Who knows. I often say that it's worth it to have three children because by the time you get to the third one, you finally feel relatively competent.
Kids are challenging. Parenting is tough. But how we do it matters. I've just shared examples of the Ugly, the Good, and the Bad (screwed up the order, but what are you gonna do?).
For the Ugly--I pray that guy was just having a really bad day and doesn't routinely behave like a douchebag, terrorizing his wife and kiddo in ways that are going to cause irreparable harm. Get some help, dude, you'll all feel better.
For the Good--Share what works and those special little victories when you have them. I've discovered that the calmer I remain, the more simply I focus, and the more I engage with and empower my kids, the better off we all are. Oh, and we laugh a lot too. That helps.
For the Bad--Hang in there, take deep breaths. It doesn't feel like it, but whatever tough phase you are going through truly is temporary. A new one will come along before you know it, and you will be the old hat giving advice to the new parents in your life.