The disciplin(ing) of Scarlett

8:01 pm CMT june 3rd BGKY

Scarlett at three.

We are in the terrifying threes. Not just terrible but terrifying. Whereas Mac will use all sorts of rhetorical tricks and tropes to wheedle out of punishments and sanctions, Mac will at least play by the rules that everyone has agreed to. But Scarlett… Scarlett is doing something we are having a hard time trying to figure out how to react to, let alone countermand. It was like she was all sweetness and good during her first two years in order to get us to drop our guard, get complacent, fall asleep at the switch, and allow her to take over significant portions of our mental map before we could form an allied response.

Examples: You threaten her with a smack-bottom1 and she tells you go ahead, do your best. You tell her she will lose her toys, she responds she didn’t want them in the first place. You give her a direct order and she will look back with sparkling eyes and ever-widening smile, standing there, daring you to forget she is just three-years old and not some recidivist hooligan.

Recently, we had an event that crystallized the dilemma and signaled that she was going on the full offensive. For a few months now, Scarlett has been peeing in her pants again. She will stand there in the middle of the room and urinate down her leg onto the carpet. We’ve had to put her back in diapers which she did not, of course, refuse. So this past week, Jenn is watching Scarlett start to squirm again and exhorts Scarlett to use the toilet like a big girl and that she had better run over to the bathroom to pee and instead Scarlett runs up to Jenn and proceeds to urinate, forming a large, warm puddle right in front of Jenn’s chair. Jenn is aghast at her behavior and tells Scarlett not to step into the pee and then it happens: Scarlett looks down at the puddle and then cocks her head back up and dead-eyes Jenn while she proceeds to put her right foot directly into the middle of the puddle and turn her ankle in and out as if rubbing out the butt of a cigarette she has just taken her last drag off and flicked into the dirt, rubbing with slow, deliberate malice2 with the heel of her steal-toed boot, while slowly expelling smoke directly into Jenn’s eyes and channeling the leather-clad Sandy and her newly-found moxy at the end of Grease. There was a moment of stunned silence. The rest I can’t report because this is a public post, lest to say, we know we are in trouble.

~~~~~Aftermath~~~~~

After much thought, I realized we are in a pickle. Like I said with Mac, it is pretty simple to stick to your guns and not let him convince you to give in, but with Scarlett, you have no carrot, no common goal. What she is doing is negating/denying your presuppositions and removing the very base on which you stand. It is a radical skepticism that leaves nothing unquestioned, nothing truly knowable, and challenges convictions at their core. Suddenly you wonder if the totalitarianists weren’t right after all.

Although I gotta tell you another part me analyzes the situation and say: “She adapts to any situation and is bone headed stubborn… Learned well, she has, this young padawan.”

  1. Yes, I know we are also against coporal punished but like Neville Chamberlain learned, appeasement only works for so long. []
  2. well, as much malice as a three year old can muster []

the son’s dad

Marching 14th, 2011 9:24pm

I suppose like any other kiddie-sports league, watching what appears to be vast tracts of psychological damage and trauma, roots of neuroses and seeds of lifelong behavioral disorders being ruthlessly ground into the tykes is going to generate a certain amount of apprehension in any parent who actually cares about their kid.

Watching the look of heart-felt failure on the face of a dad as their little 3-4 yr old breaks out crying because some kid just kicked the ball from them, leaving them rolling in the dust, unable to score a goal yet again, is withering to a father’s psyche. I know this because I was exactly that dad last year1 when Mac had his first season of organized-sports practice.2 Watching the complex and uncontrollable maelstrom of emotions—anger, confusion, outrage, angst and despair—arise out of the little bodies of these boys is heart-wrenching and terrifying, but I sense also especially self-immolating to the americana dad.3 We’ve all been through these incredibly strong/damaging emotions and we want to protect our kids from it, yet we are told sports teach children how to function in a competitive society; it’s a given sports are healthy and good and develop model citizens, encouraging both team-sacrifice and the taste for the pursuit for excellence that quadrennially culminate as the Olympics.

I think the worst part is watching the confusion on the boy’s face as their supposed team-mate, the one they have been practicing with for last 45 minutes is placed on the opposing-side for scrimmage and what was all practice and teamwork and fun is now very much a 15-minute encapsulation of The Lord of the Flies: the soccer ball, the conch. Then he, the lost one, will stop running and stand there alone, crying in the body-wracking way little kids will cry, innocence lost and all that cal. The fathers will run up, at first smiling and calmly cajoling, while the inevitably large set of relatives watch from the sidelines having shown up to see little junior play, and so the cajoling will quickly turn into quiet pleading and eventually outright ordering or so help me… Soon frustration sets in as the little boy continues to stand in the middle of field shamelessly crying, while the rest of the kids run back and forth, completely ignoring the poor kid, no more an object in their awareness than a tuft of grass to be stepped on, while dad is bent over, arms outstretched on either side of the boy, gesticulating wildly, trying to push the boy toward the field of play without actually touching him. Any sort of physical contact now would be an admission of complete and absolute failure. Inevitably, you will see—it will happen to every dad out there at one point4—you will see failure washing over the dad’s face like the tears washing their son’s.

The mom’s get this. I’m not sure what all they know as they patiently calm their son that dad has made inconsolable. I do not know all that Jenn or the rest of the moms’ know but at least I know they already know that these are their little boys and not men, not ready for the testosterone-fueled competitiveness that is prevalent for much of man’s life. Scarlett of course, has been blowing any and every belief or myth or general sense of knowledge about girls, especially little girls, not only out of the water but vaporizing pre-conceptions a priori. Scarlett at this stage in the game, could literally run circles around the boys on the field, leaving them choking on her dust.5

BUT…

This year, it turns out that your kid actually does OK.6 No jags of crying that lock them up. This year it’s not you out there but another dad going through the same feelings of failed fatherhood, but now you know that being able feel this already disproves7 the fear. You want to go up to them and say my son did exactly same thing and that almost exactly one year ago8 on this same spot, I felt exactly what you are feeling right now, thinking it’s only your kid who stands apart from everyone else, tears streaming, overwhelmed with terror that roots them the ground, unable to think, act or walk, let alone kick a ball in any meaningful manner. You want to pat them on the back and say, “It’s OK. we’ve all been through exactly what you feeling and it will get better. And you’ll learn not to take the entire clan to watch little johnny play and score the winning goal. Next time it will be just you and him, one on one and it will be a whole lot better.”

  1. And to some extent this year. []
  2. we are in our 2nd year now. []
  3. those toss-the-football and play-catch myths are themselves demonstrated to be myths when I drive around the neighborhood and see what the other dads are doing with their kids. []
  4. each every kid having their own unique breaking point []
  5. And it’s a very wet soccer field. []
  6. Mac up until very recently had been doing a very subtle parody of Charlie Sheen. Mac has only one speed: SLOW! even when he has the ball and everyone is begging him to run, nay walk just a bit faster, he obstinately plods along. He has great ball-handling skills but molasses passes him. So this year, he actually has started running! This is a much bigger accomplishment to see than I can describe on paper. []
  7. I hope []
  8. Jenn reminds its only been 6 months []

Soccer meeting

We had our first official soccer meeting for Mac. They organizers had invited the parents to bring out the kids but since the meeting was being held at 7pm, most of the kids were already a bit loopy from staying up past their bedtimes and were glassy-eyed when they first arrived at the fields.

While a dense core of seriously-minded looking parents were closely paying attention to the organizers, a fair percentage of parents were in the periphery minding the kids as they (the kids) slowly got the idea they could kick their soccer balls as hard as they wanted to without any adult really paying any negative attention to them, and so they just took off, running and for the most part kicking the ball in front of them and eventually into the goals.

Mac initially arrived at the fields saying he didn’t know how to or couldn’t kick a soccer ball, but he soon saw the other kids playing and within a few minutes had absconded with some other’s kid ball and ran the length of the field, actually kicking the ball in a determinate fashion and finally getting to the goal and punting it in. It was quite neat to see him do what we had been practicing in the back yard for the past year: Our little bit of dad-tossing-the-ball-with-son schtick.1 Needless to say, Scarlett also was kicking the ball around. We are not exactly sure how we are going to keep her off the field during an actual match; she’s too young to be signed up.

I soon picked up on the fact that these kiddie games would be as much as an excuse for the parents to get out and socialize as it would for the kids. Of course we would enjoy watching our kids at play, but we would also get the enjoy the company of other adults which is extremely limited when smalls kids take up every waking2 hour available. Yes I know I am stating the obvious, but it’s new to me.

  1. Yeah I know I mixing metaphors []
  2. and non-waking []