So...the day I've been dreading was yesterday. Tuesday. Dreading it because, with Matthew finally well and the fun of the weekend over, yesterday was the day we got back into a more normal, everyday, kind of routine...waaaaaaay less tv, no longer being able to dictate what he wanted to eat, no longer being hand-fed his meals by his doting, hovering mother, etc. The 'privileges' of being sick were officially over as of yesterday morning. I braced for the day as well as I could. And let me just say that, from Matthew's perspective, reality bites!
To complicate things, my usually cheerful morning boy woke up on the definite wrong side of the bed yesterday. He was grum-py! Didn't want to have a good morning cuddle (or even hug), and stomped downstairs with a pouty look to his mouth and his arms actually crossed over his chest. Hmm - not a great start, and I knew it wasn't going to get better. When he was ready for breakfast, I asked him to help me set the table, which was met with a derisive "no way!" So I did the setting up of the table - and didn't set for him...which made him outright furious. I calmly reminded him that I would like very much for him to eat breakfast with me, whenever he was prepared to listen to what I'd asked him to do (bring the milk from the fridge and get the flatware - really, was this asking too much?? I think not!). Finally, with tears, the request was met and breakfast was eaten. Whew - hurdle #1 over.
I knew hurdle #2 was coming quickly and I took the time over breakfast to mentally bolster myself. Sure enough, immediately after breakfast came the request that I was ok with (even encouraged) while he was sick. He asked if he could watch tv. Mental groan. Here goes. In hindsight, I should have prepared him for my answer by talking about it with him last night - he just generally does better with changes if he has advance notice. But I didn't think of it last night and so was stuck with the result this morning. As expected, Matthew's response was incredule first, then anger. Told me I wasn't fair, that I was being mean, that I'd let him watch tv in the morning for a "huge" number of days (really, the ten days that he was sick, which admittedly probably feels like forever from the perspective of a five-year-old)...blah blah blah blah blah. I'm sure you can picture the scenario. I explained to him - well, I explained it to a brick wall, really - that we needed to get back into a bit of a routine that included some bedroom tidying, some school work, and some play time - and yes, maybe even a bit of tv time later on. In fact, I told him that his just-turned-six-year-old cousin, M, had just called and wanted to know if Matthew wanted to come over to play this morning. I said that I was happy to take him over, and defer our bit of homeschooling until later in the day, as long as his bedroom was cleaned up before we left.
Well, what should have taken him twenty minutes to clean up in his bedroom (it could have taken five minutes because it wasn't really too messy, but I was factoring in time for little detours!), ended up taking ninety minutes. Yes, an hour and a half. The actual clean up that eventually happened took an impressive seven or eight minutes, but he occupied the first eighty-two or eight-three minutes weeping and wailing about the injustice of it all - all he wanted to do, he wailed, as he gnashed his teeth, was to watch tv and go to M's house to play. I wanted to shed a few tears myself, I tell you, and had to work hard to hang on to 'the plan.' Short term pain, long term gain, I kept thinking to myself. Unfortunately for him, because of all of the drama, I cancelled the plans for him to go to his cousin's place. Oh, the injustice of it all.
Eventually, after he had cleaned up his bedroom, we sat down on his bed, both utterly worn out by10:00 in the morning. Actually, I sat on his bed while he lay on it - buried under every teddy he could find so that he couldn't see me and I couldn't see him. He was mad at me. I wasn't quite sure what to do or say at that moment and so I just sat there thinking, trying to conjure up some kind of wisdom. Matthew asked me, in muffled tones from under the teddy pile, why I wasn't talking. I said that I was thinking and that I was praying, too, so that I might know how to be a wiser and better parent. He said that this was a good idea and that maybe God could help me parent him better! Then the muffled voice asked me what God had told me.
I started to tell him a story - not sure where it came from, but this is the way it went.
Me: Once upon a time, there was a daddy who had a very special little boy whom the daddy loved with his whole heart. In fact, he loved the boy so much that he knew that he would do anything for that boy, even when it meant making hard decisions that the boy might not like.
Muffled voice: Did that boy get to watch tv?
Me: Sometimes. But this isn't a story about you, it's about another boy. Anyway, there was something that that boy really, really wanted, and it was something that his daddy thought might be ok to give to the boy some day. But the boy decided that he wanted this toy right now and so he started crying and begging his daddy to give it to him right away.
Muffled voice: What was the toy?
Me: Any guesses?
Muffled voice: A nerf gun?
Me: Yes, it was a nerf gun. And the boy really, really, really, wanted his daddy to give him that nerf gun, and he cried and cried and cried, and wailed and wailed and wailed, and screamed and screamed and screamed for it. And his daddy had to make a decision about whether or not to give that nerf gun to his boy. He had to be wise about whether or not he would give it to his son.
Muffled voice: He should.
Me: Well, that was certainly something that the daddy thought about doing. It felt like it would be an easier choice for the daddy to give him that nerf gun, because then the boy would get what he wanted, and the boy would stop crying and crying and crying, and wailing and wailing and wailing, and screaming and screaming and screaming...which is what the daddy wanted. But he had to think about something else first.
Muffled voice: What. (not a question, but a demand)
Me: Hmm. He had to think about what the boy would learn from him if he gave him the nerf gun now, after the boy had cried and cried and cried, and wailed and wailed and wailed, and screamed and screamed and screamed.
Muffled voice: If he just gave him the nerf gun, the boy would stop his crying and whining.
Me: Yes, you're right.
Muffled voice, with a bit more zip: So...did he??
Me: Well, before I answer that, I have a question for you.
Muffled voice: What?
Me: If the daddy decided to give his beloved boy the nerf gun, after the boy had cried and cried and cried, and wailed and wailed and wailed, and screamed and screamed and screamed, how do you think the boy would act the next time he wanted something from his daddy?
Muffled voice: I don't understand.
Me: Well, if the daddy gave his boy the nerf gun after the boy had cried and cried and cried, and wailed and wailed and wailed, and screamed and screamed and screamed, what would the boy do next time he wanted something from his dad? Do you think that he would ask nicely for what it was that he wanted, or would he cry and cry and cry, and wail and wail and wail, and scream and scream and scream? Which way worked better when he wanted the nerf gun?
Somewhat muffled voice (having risen amongst the teddies so that I could see his eyes): Well, what worked to get the nerf gun was for the boy to cry and whine about it until he got it, but maybe, just maybe mom, I'm not saying that for sure this would happen, but just maybe, mom, and I'm saying just maybe, he would ask nicely for the next toy he wanted.
Me: So what you're saying is that if the boy learned that he could get the nerf gun by crying and crying and crying, and wailing and wailing and wailing, and screaming and screaming and screaming, you think he would still ask nicely for the next toy that he wanted?
Matthew (head fully emerged): Probably not. But do you think that if the boy stopped crying and whining, and asked the dad nicely for the nerf gun, that the daddy would give it him then?
Me: Well, that's an interesting question and I don't know the answer for sure. I know that if it was me, I'd certainly be interested if the boy were to stop crying and wailing and screaming, and asked nicely instead. But I think that I would still probably want the boy to learn that the crying and wailing and screaming never work to get what he wants. So if it was me, I think it would be wiser for the daddy not to give him the nerf gun today.
Matthew (starting to cry and crawling out from the teddies): Mom, I don't think that I should watch tv today. (crawling across the bed to me and sitting beside me, at which point I put my arm around him and pull him close to my side. I rest my head on top of his). Can you read me a story instead?
Me: I need five minutes to finish tidying my bedroom and if you'd like to give me a hand I could be finished a wee bit faster than five minutes. And then I'd love, love, love to read you a story.
Cuddles and hugs now acceptable? Check (somewhat to my surprise).
Bedrooms tidied? Check.
Stories read? Check.Homeschooling done? Check.
Fun this afternoon? Check.
Attitude better? Check. Double check.