Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Refereeing in romper room

Cabin fever has set in here.

Monday morning I took the kids to the library when Owen decided against his morning nap. He also opted out of his afternoon nap. And didn't go to bed until 8 p.m. I had 14 hours straight of quality time with Owen on Monday.

And Tuesday looked like this: 
yuck. ice.

Wednesday I had to get out of the house with the kids despite the icy path to the ice-caked van. My main dilemma was how to get myself and the baby to the van. Since I couldn't very well carry him while walking unsteadily on ice, I sat him down on the ice and gave him a little nudge. He slid down slowly to the bare pavement quite nicely and seemed to enjoy the ride. Next dilemma? Getting a freaked-out Danny to the van. He was not getting the hang of traversing the ice like his sister who was very nonchalantly shuffling along. Next up? Getting a half-inch of ice off the van windshield. A metal from the kitchen worked well.

Once on our way, it felt quite nice to have them strapped in and physically unable to reach me or each other. The only thing better would be a divider (think taxi cabs or limousines) between the front and back of the van. Why is this not standard equipment on every minivan? Then I wouldn't be questioned endlessly about the snack I was trying to sneak.

Several ice-bound days in a house playing referee among three warring parties is mind-numbingly exhausting. 

Nobody likes the referee, I'm finding. And it's not that I want my kids to like me. I'm not that mom. I would, however, like not to be "on duty" all the time. Even real referees are only on the job for up to an hour of play. At least their game ends.

My game? It starts two minutes after Danny and Fiona greet each other in the morning and doesn't end until after they go to bed. And even then, we get the occasional skirmish. One night this week I heard a scuffle upstairs and looked up to find Fiona lying on her stomach with Danny on her back. She was a little upset. Understandably so.

"She got out [of her room]," he said. Thanks, Sheriff Dan. 

Even the baby has figured out that if he screams like he's being stabbed when one of them takes his toy, he'll get my attention. And someone will get in trouble. Smart kid. He even smirks when I'm berating.

A truce, for now.
This afternoon I overheard a battle that broke out after about 10 minutes of quiet.

"Back off."


The problem? Danny had "traded" leap pads with Fiona.

"Danny, did you just take hers and give her yours?"

"Uh huh."

"That's not trading, that's taking. Give it back."

"OH!" And off he stomps. Fiona plays with the leap pad for two more seconds and then leaves.

Fiona the doll slayer
Speaking of Fiona, she's got an aggressive streak these days. When she's not throwing toys at Danny, she's hitting or biting him. Whenever Owen screams and she's nearby, I fear the worst. She's very good at making sure I don't see whatever she's done. And her dolls ... she hits them in the face and tonight started biting them when I tucked her in. I'm a bit worried.

Some days I'm tempted to let the two of them work it out, even if it comes to blows occasionally. And I've heard that some moms do that. Is 2 and 4 years old too early to start this policy? I'm tired already. As I listen in on their "solutions," it's clear that the 2 year old is getting the short end of the stick because a.) Danny does not rule with fairness. and b.) she can't talk well or rationally enough to defend herself.

So I intervene. About a thousand times a day, it seems. By the end of the day, I feel like I've had not one positive interaction with them. And I'm often hoarse from yelling. I spend the day sorting out property rights, breaking up romper room brawls and explaining the nuances of interpersonal relationships. For instance, it needs to be explained that rushing to grab a toy your sister is going for is the same as taking that toy from her. Or a toy trade needs to be a mutual decision. Or taking the bigger piece because you are "bigger" is not necessarily fair. Or you can't make decisions for your sister; she'll decide what she wants to eat or play with herself (he's a bossy first born). Or people don't respond well to a demanding tone and loud voice, even if you say please. Or coughing on someone in retaliation is rather aggressive, especially if you have a cold.

I'm a big fan of natural consequences up to a point. If a kid is going to behave a certain way, he's going to learn better from his peers what is acceptable and what is not than from the authorities. And there's a good chance he'll respect that verdict more than he will an authority imposing an arbitrary sentence.

Sometimes when Danny is provoking Fiona and she retaliates, I don't feel like punishing her too severely. I feel like telling Danny to just stop bugging her. But, really, a bite or swat or shove is only a natural consequence when dealing with people who are mentally off or anyone under the age of three apparently. The challenge is getting them to understand and remember in the heat of their little battles that biting, swatting and shoving are considered a bit anti-social by most of us.

Some days, though, I wish that I had a whistle.


Cassidy, Lily and Finn's Mom said...

OH, I've SO been there! I am still there, although it has gotten (slightly) better as the girls have gotten older. And then there's Finn - the baby of the family - who thinks he can do whatever he pleases and actually smiles at us when we scold him. He's taken to shaking a disapproving finger and scolding us with baby babbles whenever he thinks we've misbehaved. He's in a screaming phase right now...the top of his register is like nails on a chalkboard. Lovely.

When the girls were younger and Lily screamed, I made the mistake of assuming that Cassidy did something to her. Lily - no fool - quickly figured out that she could scream and get her way AND get big sister in trouble. Mommy - not the sharpest knife in the drawer thanks to years of sleep deprivation and 24/7 interaction with toddlers - was slow to catch on to the manipulation.

Kelley said...

Brian used to work out those "solutions" as well. I think my parents went the way of letting us work it out though in favor of giving me advice on how to improve my own negotiating skills.

Josee said...

Kelley, I had a feeling you'd have something to say about this one! I know eventually they will have a good relationship and Fiona will probably be very good at sticking up for herself by then! I get the feeling that second borns and beyond are better at that than first borns.