Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The action figures have gone away

This week we have had a problem with hitting. On Monday Henry hit Amelia over a disagreement about who could play with the Daddy in her new dollhouse, he may have hit her again while they were playing in the yard (I couldn't be sure because she retracted her accusation, not wanting to lose her mud-digging partner to a timeout), and he definitely hit her while washing hands before dinner because she was taking too long at the sink.

Normally, Henry is so sensitive to criticism that a stern, "I am very angry right now, Henry," elicits a cascade of tears and an immediate cessation of the offending activity. But after the third hit, it became clear that more severe consequences were in order.

"We don't hit in this house," I told him. "No dessert for you."
He was quiet through most of dinner. I thought maybe he was reflecting on what he had done, contemplating the error of his ways. Finally he held out his hand to me and said, "How about this? If I don't get dessert, I'll throw a fit. If I do get dessert, I won't throw a fit!" He beamed at me.

I smiled back at him. "How about this?" I said. "If you throw a fit, there's no dessert tomorrow night, either." Henry scowled.

After a few moments he spoke again. "If you don't let me have dessert, it will make me hit Amelia a lot more times," he said, this time with a smirk. This was the four-year-old version of hardball.

"If you hit Amelia even one more time," I said, "your action figures go away."

Henry's jaw dropped. I leaned over until my face was level with his. "I don't negotiate with terrorists," I said.

"I am very angry and annoyed with you!" he said.

"Fine," I said.
"I am going to be very, very sad if I can't have dessert!" he said.

"That's good," I said. "Maybe you'll remember that next time you want to hit someone."
From then until bedtime, there was more wailing, more pouting, more discussion of his feelings on the matter. I stood firm. I stayed calm. Finally, at bed time, he said, "I won't hit Amelia any more." I felt pleased with myself.
The next morning he hit the cat. Twice. First time was a warning, second time his action figures took a 24-hour hiatus. Worse, the cat would have nothing to do with him. He was heartbroken and, possibly, chastened. He hasn't hit anyone or anything since. I'll keep you posted.
(Meanwhile, I told this story to my mom and she was instantly trying to figure out where the "bad influence" lay. "Is he learning this from kids in his class?" she asked. "Is it from TV?" Preschools and PBS: secret hotbeds of violence.)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cheering on the inside

Simon and I have achieved something of a cease-fire, which is good, although we have declared cease-fires before and you see how far that's gotten us. Note to Israel and Palestine: I totally get it.

Honestly, I have no idea what an acceptable end-point for a marriage might be. I know people who would say "NEVER" and people who would say "When it stops being fun." I know happy and miserable people on both ends of that spectrum.

Let's say it's actually something like this: when it's more damaging to my kids that their parents stay married than that their parents get divorced.

I'll keep you posted.


In other, less depressing news, Henry got his very first, very own library card yesterday. He signed the application and card by himself (just Henry, like Cher or Madonna). He remains wary of the whole "borrowing" concept--he doesn't want to have to give the books back--but he was delighted that he could bring home five books without a lecture from me about poor children who would trade their shoes to have one-tenth of his home library.

His picks included Star Wars ABCs, I Spy Spooky Night, and something about a robot babysitter.

When we got in the car to go home he said, "My insides are cheering because I got my own library card."

My insides are cheering, too.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Corpse marriage

God, my last post was FOUR WEEKS AGO? It seemed like just yesterday I was whining about Santa stories. Partly I was just busy with Christmas and, well, mostly Christmas. How much productivity is lost in this country as a result of that holiday? Possibly a million work years a season.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about divorce. I'm nearly positive that's where things are heading, and it's just a matter of when and what we do with the house and whether I'll fail to get custody because I am such a class-A freaking lunatic.

I looked up "signs your marriage is heading for divorce" on Google (which should be a top sign in itself, but wasn't on any of the lists I saw). My favorite sign was "Your wife changes back to her maiden name." Really? You think that could be a sign of trouble?

A dying marriage is a fascinating phenomenon. You know what it was, you remember holding hands after a dinner out, or running together to catch a boat that time on vacation, or semi-seriously adding "Data" and "Lor" to your list of possible baby names for twins, and although sometimes you can still see that basic idea, it's become horribly distorted. A bloated, discolored, rotting corpse of that earlier time.

(Sign #2 your marriage is heading for divorce: You describe your relationship as a "bloated, discolored, rotting corpse.")