BERNTHIS recently listed her top ten winners of the best "how I traumatized my kid" stories. Naturally when I read her original post requesting submissions, I couldn't even remember if I had any kids, let alone harrowing stories about my parenting.
But today, for some reason, a memory came tumbling back. Must have been our weekend trip to Grandma's that did it, with the twins' loud bickering in the back seat and me adding to the cacaphony by twisting in my seat, yelling as loud as I could,
"Shut the fuck up!" "Stop all the yelling!" This was over who belonged to a perfectly white, unused tissue laying between them. A single unfolded tissue takes up a lot of room, you know.
So back to my story of how I traumatized my child. This was an earlier trip to the other Grandma, when the twins were too young to bicker but old enough to whine. My husband and I were traveling on a cross country flight with our three kids: our son who had just turned four and our twin daughters, 9 months old, on our laps. Yah. Good times.
You're probably picturing a three-seat-across airplane row: Mom and Dad each holding a baby in their lap, and their smiling son sitting between.
Yeah, so was I. But it was not to be. Airlines had (still have?) some obscure rule that didn't allow five occupants in a three seater row. Whatever. So instead, we had to draw straws for which (lucky) parent got to sit with only one baby and which (very unlucky) parent got to sit, several rows away, with one baby in lap and a squirmy four year old in the seat next to her.
Short straw would be mine.
It was in the midst of the three hour flight. Having already OD'd on the treats we packed for the ride, my son became extremely antsy. I had become extremely tired and impatient. Climbing up onto his window seat, he was flinging himself into the headrest of the seat in front of him. My scoldings and pleadings and bribes were not helping. I wracked my fbrain. I used to run therapy groups for abusive and neglectful parents, for gawdssake. Surely I could come up with something.
That's when my ingenius ploy began.
"Then what happens?" He asked.
"The lady will come and yell at you."
His eyes got wide. "Oh." He sat back down in his chair. I leaned my head back, closed my eyes, and allowed myself a small smile of victory.
A few minutes later he was back at it. This time the inhabitant of the seat in front of him, an older lady with the teased frosted hair and a strong frown line, turned. In that exasperated way, she first looked at him, then at me, as if to say, "Control your little brat!"
So this time I whispered to him, "If you don't sit quietly in your seat, I will push that orange button and the lady will come and take you to the little room at the back of the plane."
He scrambled across my lap and leaned his head into the aisle.
I pointed to the (imaginary) door at the back of the plane."
"Oh." Eyes wider. A few moments of quiet. I could only wonder what was going through his little head.
There followed, of course, more squirming. More flinging. More irritated sighs and neck shirks from the disgruntled frost head.
I continued in my desperation. "And the room is completely dark. Pitch black."
But two minutes later he was undeterred.
"And she'll leave you there all by yourself," I warned.
One minute later.
The spiders did it. He sat quietly for the remainder of the flight (taxiing to the terminal by this point).
Years later, at a neighborhood barbeque, the host, a fellow mom, educator, and friend, pulled up a lawn chair next to me and said, "So tell me about the room in the back of airplanes. You know, the one with all the spiders?"