No thank you

unnamedI envy the calm, lilting tone I hear some mothers use. “No thank you!” they recite, gently guiding their child away from climbing the radiator around the perimeter of the children’s room at the library that all kids gravitate toward.

“We’ll get them at the patch this weekend,” they sweetly croon in the Hannaford aisles to their four kids waving their arms threateningly around the pumpkin display.

How are these parents managing to not freak out?

I could blame my Italian blood, my husband’s weekend 12-hour overnight shifts, low blood sugar or my work-frayed nerves, but I have no such patience.

My two-year old son Henry is a sweet cherub 90% of the time, but in the difficult moments, I manage to channel all the gentleness and tranquility of a cat whose tail has been stepped on.

I guess the short fuse is part of being Type A. I’m an overachiever when it comes to behind-the-scenes parenting. I research which sunblock is free of nanoparticles, expertly manage a calendar to ensure proper Henry-care coverage, and buy organic, vegan, nutrient-rich local foods to lovingly prepare.

But when it comes to face-time parenting, I’m graceless.

One Saturday morning, we had a screaming match over shoes. It ended with a sneaker-clad child only due to strategic convincing by Charlie, Henry’s best friend who happens to be a creepy kid-sized puppet. Henry loves Charlie, and thankfully listens to his suggestions.

We went to the library and Henry jumped right in to play on the radiator. I sighed and looked in the other direction, which happened to be toward the shelves.

A book called “ScreamFree Parenting” leapt out at me. It’s by Hal Edward Runkel, LMFT. I didn’t know whether it was less screaming from the kid, or less screaming from me, but either way it sounded good.

Henry and the radiator hadn’t hurt one another yet, so I let them play together while I read the first few pages and found myself quickly engrossed.

The main thing the “ScreamFree” method touts is that you can’t control your child (or any other human being), but you CAN control yourself. It says that our society has become too child-centric: Of course we are at our wits’ end catering to our children’s every whim. We’re exhausted and snap easy because of it.

As they say, you put on your own oxygen mask first. You can’t take care of your child if you’re not taking care of yourself. “Grow yourself up and calm yourself down,” it says. I know this will take a lot of practice, but it seems like a solid plan.

I looked up from the book. Henry was okay. His friend Maxwell came in with his parents and they played for a bit. We stayed a while longer and eventually I had to tear Henry away from the toy room.

When he protested, I took a deep breath and said, in a calm, lilting voice, “No thank you.”

Just kidding. I didn’t. But neither of us screamed, at least.

This Family Time column originally ran in the Glens Falls Chronicle on October 9, 2014.
Click here to read “On living the scream-free life” as it ran in The Chronicle.

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