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Archive for April, 2016

  All parents have child care tasks they detest. Mine is brushing and flossing my kid’s teeth. I would seriously, honestly, rather wipe my kid’s butt ten times a day. And this week, I had an actual bona fide fight with my kid about the aformentioned and detested task.

The Boo has always been a bit silly about getting his teeth brushed, asking me to play the part of his dentist and demanding hugs when it’s my turn to brush. So I allow lots of time to get through the routine of letting him start, then hitting all the hidden spots before we take the same tack with flossing. It takes a while, but we get the job done and have a bit of fun along the way.

But this week was different. Maybe because he was home sick for two days, maybe because of the full moon, or maybe because he’s growing up a bit. Whatever the reason, he suddenly amped up the fake hug tactic, and it bugged me. I just wanted to get the job done and move on, but he wanted to make a never-ending story out of it. In frustration, I pushed him away mid-hug, and he pushed back. I made a speech in a loud voice, and he stuck his fingers in his ears. I yelled, and he yelled. Finally, I left the bathroom.

Eventually I got him to cooperate, but things were no better that night. After I blew him kisses and closed his door, words from a very wise parenting coach came back to me: You can’t have a tug of war if one person drops the rope.

The next morning, I dropped the rope – by telling him the truth.

Me: “Honey, can I tell you a secret?”

Boo, eyes wide: “Sure!”

Me: “I don’t like brushing your teeth. It’s not fun for me. I do it because it helps keep your teeth clean so you don’t have to get so much scraping done at the dentist. I don’t like the hugs you give me before I brush your teeth because they’re not real hugs. I prefer to have a real hug when we’re done.”

He was still listening, so I went on.

Me: “I’m done fighting with you about brushing your teeth. If you want me to help you, that’s great. But if you don’t want me to help you, that’s fine too. And that might mean more scraping and maybe a cavity.But it’s your choice. You get to decide.”

He thought about it, opened his mouth for flossing, and then started up the old games. I threw the flosser in the trash and walked out, saying I understood his choice. He protested and said he wanted me to floss, really, please floss.

I didn’t floss his teeth that morning. I reminded him of the choices again that night, and after reminding me that a cavity might be one of the consequences of not brushing, he opened his mouth like a baby bird. A baby bird that’s making his own choices.

And then the next day we were back to square one, or maybe square one and a half. So now I’m singing him a “mystery song” every time it’s my turn to brush or floss. It’s working, for now, and when it no longer works I’ll change my tactics again and cross my fingers. 

This, my friends, is life with a four-year-old. 

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 Boo, cradling stuffed animals: I had two babies!Me: Congratulations! What’s this one’s name?

Boo: Zinc lozenge. 

Me: What do you call the other one? 

Boo: Green dot.

Me: …
Later…

Boo: Zinc lozenge likes to play baseball.

Me: Oh, great!

Boo: Now he’s tired so I have to sit on him to keep him warm. 

Me: …

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  Lately the Boo has wanted a story after books at bedtime instead of a song. If I had a bigger ego this would upset me, because I was a teenage opera major after all. Mais non, I am happy to be spared another round of “birdhouse in your soul” — which is a great song, but tedious when you’ve been on duty for fourteen hours and long to collapse on the couch. 

Anyway. The first time he requested a story, I asked him what he wanted it to be about. He said he didn’t know, so I started talking about a guitar, since he’d been really into playing with mine. It was an electric guitar with about three strings who lived in a dusty, smelly junk shop with a bunch of other electric guitars and desperately wanted to be bought and played. Long story short, one day someone did buy him because they could see how fabulous he was under all the grime. And naturally, they gave him to a little boy as a birthday present, but not before cleaning him up and hiding him in a closet, which the guitar found terribly sad, disappointing and confusing. 

You know, pretty standard stuff.

I spun roughly the same story for about a week and I was getting bored with it. And then one night the Boo interrupted me. 

“No, Mama! The electric guitar has 18 strings! And it’s unpainted! And the junk shop is not so dusty.” He spoke with urgency, gesturing with spread fingers as he does when he’s serious. 

“Oh, okay,” I said, and incorporated his details, plus a few new ones of my own. A friendly doll to repaint the guitar, several people passing it by before it finally gets bought. High drama. 

Weeks later, we are still telling a version of this story together every night, and usually at rest time too. The Boo often takes over, so excited his words tumble out faster than logic, changing the guitar’s home to symphony hall or giving a new name to the doll who paints it or getting the grownup to hide the guitar under the bed because the boy is coming upstairs OH NO!

One thing never changes, though: the boy always gets the electric guitar for his birthday. 

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