Friday, December 12, 2008

What I really want to know is, are you kind? (3 of 4)

Although The King may dispute whether that third season was markedly different, I did the best I could to live by that credo. That doesn't mean that I didn't have my moments; it was a demanding environment. The first week of my first season, I promoted a good guy to crew chief only to have to fire him later that week, and in that final season, I had to fire one quarter of the stage crew at one time. One lesson I learned at that theater was that unless you're caught in a recession, in a political appointment, or with a despotic boss, you don't get fired by someone else--you fire yourself.

Despite all that, my new slogan must have worked to a certain extent, since that's the season that I met Mama, who's not only the most compassionate person I know, but also the least likely to tolerate any meanness.

This has made it hard on her when 3B has done what, in an adult, would be considered mean, like hitting or pinching in frustration. I've tried to remind her that while he does know that he'll get a reaction from us, he doesn't really understand that he's hurting us, or what it means to hurt someone.

Of course, that's all well and good until he socks me in the eye or tries to pull my lip off of my face.

Then, several conflicting reactions flash through me:

  • React without emotion.
  • Emphasize the hurt, not my anger or frustration.
  • Fuck, dude, that hurt!
It takes me back to that moment with The Producer. I know 3B can see my reaction on my face. I also know that he can see what I do with my reaction. Do I stay calm? Become angry? Use polysyllabic epithets?

Tomorrow: Dude, where's my lip?

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  1. Anonymous8:15 AM

    Ahh what a great trrip this is.

    TCB on fire.

  2. Anonymous4:57 PM

    Hey, I think kids need to know that their actions have repercussions and that even mamas and papas feel pain and frustration. But yes, it behooves us to be calm and model the behavior we want to see in them. I can see clearly that my kids have a hard time dealing with frustration -- and I sometimes have a hard time remembering that they're still learning (as we all are) and that my needs are not topmost in their minds!

  3. He needs to know it hurts, but he also needs you not to model hitting back, or pulling his lip off in reply. The words, well you seem to be stuck in the monosyllable kind for the moment. Sometimes putting him down might work, if what he wants is to be up. Of course if you are containing him from something worse, like running wildly around the store, there comes a time when we parents just deal with it. Reviewing all these options on the spur of the moment would be beyond me too.

  4. I am not kind, so I don't even know why I am still reading your story.

    I would answer with a sharp and quick, "That is not okay behavior." so that the kid can hear the pain in my voice and they would soon realize that getting mommy mad is not a good thing.

    You, on the other hand are very kind. Not just to your son and your wife, but to me too.

  5. King: It was a great trip then...still is now.

    Amama: Yes, humility is a lesson valuable enough to be worth learning every day for me. The hardest times seem to be when my frustration collides with 3B's.

    CAGirl: Right, the idea of time out is to remove from him whatever appeals to him, as well as breaking whatever pattern he's in. The only problem is that time out is often more appealing to him than what we want him to do. So now we need to figure out what's more appealing to him than time out that we can take away, because otherwise what we're left with is taking away time out.

    KMoo: Saying something like that is pretty much our first response, which is instinctive. I can think about it all I want, but when it happens, thinking is often trumped by instincts.

  6. Anonymous10:20 PM

    Yeah, and when you figure that out, please also update me on what the hell to do for "time out" or whatever it is that make their lives uncomfortable when they're misbehaving in their beds an hour or two after lights out.

    Because I could use some help with that. It's not like you can put them in time out when they're in bed.

  7. Amama: Yes, I just listened to a 90 minute performance art piece that might have been entitled "My Day as I See It Now from Within The Bars of My Crib." It was amusing to listen to as I cleaned up the house.