“If I have to say it ONE MORE TIME…”
If I had a penny for every time I have spoken these nine words, there is no doubt that I would be a millionaire living on an island that I own with at least one nanny per child and sipping a fruity cocktail that my butler hand delivered to me that has one of those fancy umbrella sticks in it and everything.
The obvious question that comes to mind is, “Why don’t I ever finish this statement?” It is quite evident that the inferred threat is not registering with my children. Clearly I need to be more specific with the consequences.
I tried it once. I was at my absolute wits end and actually spoke (I mean, screamed) these words to one of my children, “If I have to say it ONE MORE TIME, I am seriously going to run head first at full speed into that wall over there (I pointed at it and everything). And then guess what? I will be bleeding everywhere and you will have to drive me to the emergency room to get stitches, and then hopefully (God willing) I will be granted an overnight stay in the hospital. You know how to drive, right? And more importantly, I haven’t packed your lunch for tomorrow yet sucker.”
The blank stare I got in return was not a victory for me in the least, but rather a “Seriously Mom? What the hell is wrong with you?” expression.
I knew I shouldn’t have said it as the words were coming out of my mouth, but I wasn’t about to back down. I was in the middle of proving a point.
Not my best moment as a mother by far. My husband even gave me a disapproving look from across the room, to which I replied in a very irritated tone, “What?” He knows better than to fuel my inner rage. “Nothing honey, carry on. You look pretty tonight…and I know how to drive too.”
So why don’t I ever finish the threat? There are several reasonable consequences that come to mind that I could use to end that sentence. By the time I have reached the point of no return, I have said those nine words at least 17 times in a tone that ranges from a “nice mommy voice” to a “don’t fucking mess with me right now” death glare.
The fact is, it doesn’t matter how I say it. They are not scared of me, nor do they care what the consequences are for their behavior. They can hear too. We’ve had them tested. They plain and simply do not listen to me. It really pisses me off.
On a separate but related topic, I was feeling a bit under the weather a few weeks ago. I had no energy to be a “good mom.” I felt like shit. As a result, I let my children watch TV for pretty much the entire afternoon. I rarely let them do this. Don’t get me wrong, they watch plenty of TV, but I try really hard to limit their screen time as a rule on any given day.
They were on the back end of a 3 hour cartoon marathon when my middle child found me upstairs giving myself a sponge bath with Vicks Vapor Rub. She was a frantic mess, biting her nails, pacing the room, and looking pale as a ghost. “Mom, I really think we should turn the TV off! I don’t want our brains to turn to mush! There’s something wrong with Buddy!”
I use my children’s innocence (i.e. ignorance) to my advantage whenever possible. Yes, I have told them repeatedly that if they watch too much TV, their brains will turn to mush. I have made up stories of fictitious TV watching children who as a result of their behavior now stare into space drooling, cannot respond to their own name when called, can no longer speak, and are unable to eat sugary snacks anymore because they are unable to swallow. I am not overly proud of this approach, but I have found from experience that “the fear of the unknown” is a very powerful tool as a parent. I do what I have to do to survive.
I told her I would be down in a minute. I took my time.
I entered the room shortly thereafter and one of my most proud moments as a mother followed.
My 3 year old son was sitting two inches away from the TV, completely plugged in and no longer physically capable of blinking. Complete zombie mode at its finest.
My 6 year old daughter (who could give an absolute shit about her younger brother at any given moment in time) was laying directly in front of his face looking nervously into his eyes and repeating these words, “Buddy, can you hear me? Buddy…Buddy…Buddy?. I’m right here. Can you hear me Buddy?!”
He does nothing but stares into space in the general direction of the television screen giving her no indication whatsoever that he is aware of her existence. I couldn’t have paid him to do it better.
I suggest from a distance, “Buddy, maybe it’s time we turn off the TV?”
He slowly turns his head and responds in a robot voice, “No mom.” Still no blinking.
These two words spoken by my son triggered a response from my daughter worthy of a video post on YouTube. “He’s okay Mom! He’s okay!” The relief in her eyes was absolutely priceless. She was jumping around the room as if I had just brought home a pet unicorn.
Given the very real anxiety attack that she had just experienced, I probably should have reassured her that our brains don’t actually turn to mush if we watch too much TV.
Good one. I am many things, but I am not fucking stupid.
“Whew! We dodged that bullet. That was a close call, wasn’t it honey?”
The one child of mine that I am convinced never listens to me threw me a god damn bone.
Holy shit! She actually listens to me sometimes!
It’s a clear victory.