No one listens to me. Out of all my gripes (and they are numerous), this is Numero Uno. I can cry, cajole, plead, threaten, bribe and rationalize, all to no avail. I can (and have) pitch a fit of epic proportions, yelling and stomping and throwing soft items (hurling a downy slipper is about as threatening as, well, hurling a downy slipper). I can sit calmly, establish eye contact, hold their hands and speak from my heart in a simple, easy to understand manner. Regardless of the approach, the effect is the same: Brick.Fricking.Wall.
I'm not alone. A friend recently told me the story of his wife lecturing their 10 and 12 year old daughters after the umpteenth yelling, smacking, name-calling fight between the two. At one point, she told them they were acting like stupid jerks (and if this strikes you as harsh, let me tell you that if you've never said something similar - or worse - to your children, it's only because the opportunity hasn't yet arisen. Sometimes our precious cherubs are a-holes, and sometimes, we let them know.). At the end of the lecture, the girls were both in tears. But not because of their horrible behavior, or because they felt bad about treating each other so poorly, or because they were overcome with sisterly affection and were vowing to never let it happen again.
No, they were crying because Mom said they were stupid jerks. They hadn't heard anything else.
I found myself in a similar situation tonight. Julia annoys the shit out of Katie. Katie, in turn, treats Julia like a dog. It pisses me off to no end. I was really ramping up to a good, long lecture, when I noticed their eyes glazing over. Julia was sitting there trying to fit her hand in her mouth, and Katie had suddenly developed an acute interest in her big toenail.
"This is just ridiculous!" I'm ranting on. "You're sisters! Is this how you treat your friends? Are friends more important than your sister?" I wonder if at some point I start sounding like Charlie Brown's teacher - wah wah wah wahhhhhh. I had barely gotten started and I had already lost them. I had to pull out my secret weapon.
I got silly.
I started making goofball noises and funny faces and flapping my arms. It got their attention. I danced around the room and pinched them on the butt. They started laughing. And now, now that I finally had them focused in on me, I found my anger was totally diffused. My girls were laughing and smiling and looking at me. I seized the opportunity, bent down and whispered, "Love each other."
It worked, at least long enough to get us through supper and everyone tucked into bed. Long enough for me to not end up frustrated and upset. Tomorrow is another day, and who knows what might happen. But for tonight, they listened, and so did I.
(Congratulations to Scout, who won my Fabulous Mystery Prize giveaway! Scout, I'll be contacting you soon, and I'll post the details of the fabulous prize.)
2 weeks ago