Here was yesterday's conversation on the way home from the zoo.
(Everyone is sitting in the car, I'm thinking I'm a great mom for driving all the way to Fort Worth to see the fake alligator. And I'm savoring the connection I now feel with my dear children as we altogether sing songs off of the Steve Green memory verse CD.)
Caleb: Mom, I'm hungry.
Me: Well, Caleb, we are going to stop at Wendy's and get something to eat.
Caleb: I want to go to McDonald's
Me: No, Elise is getting sleepy so we are not going to play today, we are just going to eat.
Caleb: Well Elise doesn't have to play. Elise can just watch.
Me: Caleb, listen, we are going to Wendy's
Caleb: (In a voice that even now as I think about it causes the hair on the back of my neck to stand on end*) Mommmmmmm . . . I wannnnnnt to gooooooo to McDonald's.
Me: No. Anymore whining and we are not going anywhere.
(Silence while we pull into the parking lot of Wendy's.)
Caleb: Mom, can we go to the Snooty Pig (Yes, an actual name of a restaurant we frequent.)
Me: No Caleb, not today.
Caleb: (*same as above) Mommmmmm. . .
Me: (Tossing deep connection with four year old out the window, turning off the cute memory verse CD and turning on Dr. Laura.) We. are. going. home.
Caleb: (Incomprehensible though quite audible meltdown in the back seat of the car.)
So this episode along with a few, well, more than a few, other very similar ones has prompted some reevaluation of my techniques. Generally, I think I'm holding the line okay. But I've seen no change and it doesn't seem to matter what I suggest, Caleb always has another idea. I could say, "Caleb we are going to Disneyworld!" and he would say, "Can we go to Universal Studios?"
But I'm taking from my dieting playbook which has exhibited some, albeit slow, success. The rule is:
It is easier to start than it is to stop.
And a slightly different variation:
It is easier to replace than it is stop.
In dieting this means that it is easier to replace my midday snack of food-I-won't-share-with-kids because--darn it--I'm a great mom! And I'd never let them eat that kind of crap . . . with a thirty minute nap and a cup of hot tea by the fire with a Jane Austen novel.
Now, the below conversation is made up for clarity's sake, but it represents our replacement for the conversation above. My son's four, so our conversation didn't flow so smoothly as below. Plus, I can't remember all of what we talked about anyway.
Caleb: Mom, can we stop at McDonald's?
Me: No, not today.
Caleb: (Same whine as above.)
Me: Caleb, let's count our blessings. Can you think of ten right now?
Caleb: I have five Spidermen.
Me: Wow! You already thought of five blessings! Can you think of five more?
Caleb: I played on the computer at the gym. I played at the park yesterday.
Me: Did you play well with others?
Me: Did you help them to have a good time?
Me: Then you were a blessing to others. You see God gave you a blessing because you got to go to the park. Then you used that blessing to bless other people. That is why God gives you blessings--to bless others. You helped me carry my gym bag into the gym, so you blessed me! God made you strong. That is a blessing and you used that blessing--that God made you strong--to bless me.
So anyway, you should be able to get the drift. My life is not a sitcom, so I can't say that Caleb's contrariness has been resolved within thirty minutes and after 20 commercials, but replacing the first conversation with the second seems to be working so. much. better. *sigh of relief* In fact, tonight when we picked Caleb up from the babysitters he opened the door for me and said, "Hey mom, I'm being a blessing!"
And, yes. He is.