Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Let Them Play

Perhaps we don’t give our children enough credit. I certainly know that allowing our children to work out their own difficulties will sharpen their social skills. I never take sides. I require them to use their words, to make good choices, or to try again. There have to be consequences.

And yet, idiotic phrases dribble across my lips like an instinct that should have been phased out with the appendix.

“Be nice.”

“Stop it.”

These useless, idiotic phrases hover around my children like gnats. Except, they have come so accustomed to these gnats that they are barely an annoyance.

“Use your words,” I say. A little better, I think. That was more specific.

I look in my rearview mirror. I take another sip of my lukewarm coffee, knowing full well that no amount of caffeine will clear my head of the occasional mind-numbing job of parenthood. We are four hours into a six-hour car ride.

“Gladys, do not grab your brother’s ear.” That was direct, specific, and actionable.

Very good. I mutter to myself, quickly laughing having used the most tired and worn out of all parental phrases. Yes, ‘very good’ indeed!

Before I finish my internal dialogue, Andrew begins a game of rock-paper-scissors with Gladys.

After some argument over the exact rules, they play nicely for a few moments. Then, Andrew changes the game to rock-paper-anything.

Huh? Rock-paper-anything? I listen.


“What are you Gladys?”

“A mailbox.”

“I’m a 4x4 off-road Landrover and I smash you!”


“What are you Gladys?


“I’m a laser and I burn you up!”

This went on. I sipped my coffee. I listened. I am the youngest of three and recalled the frustration of being caught on the wrong end of a game with my older brother.

I survived, I thought. I often did even better than that. I am very good at (nasty) games.
It was hard to listen to it. It wasn’t fair. She continued to play. I bit my tongue.


“What are you Gladys?”


Very good. Yes, very good indeed.


Flea said...

So they worked it out. :)

When the kids were younger and we'd go on road trips, I put a box of things between them. Toys, coloring books, snacks, wipes & paper towels, etc. Just big enough box to keep them from clobbering each other.

We also, on those trips, discovered the joys of novels on CD. The Hobbit was probably the kids' favorite. They were all three just a couple of years older than yours.

Good memories.

Flea said...

I guess what I'm saying is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure ...

Badass Geek said...

God is the ultimate trump when it comes to Rock Paper Scissors.

Anonymous said...

Hooray! That's one for younger sisters everywhere. Well done Gladys.

I was sitting there beside you in the car on this one - at least that's what it felt like reading this.

MIT Mommy said...

I'm getting a good chuckle here. I want to know how you got that box between the three of them. We have Gladys in the middle, which puts her in a convenient location to clobber both of her brothers - physically and mentally.

Brigette said...

I too try hard to avoid those pointless reprimands that kids ignore and that get progressively more ineffective the more you say them.

One phrase that never, ever passes my lips, however, is, "Use your words." Not sure why I hate that expression so vehemently, but I do. Maybe it's my rebellion against New Age Parenting. I also refuse to use the term "Time Out." I'll say "Go sit in the corner" or "Go to your room and take a break" but I avoid the TO.

AreWeThereYet? said...

God?! Really?! The Almighty?!

Sweet little Gladys figured out the how to win the game -- any game -- in just three moves. That is my girl!

Does she play chess by chance?