Friday, April 10, 2009

true confessions in parenting

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.

I told my son, "If you don't sit quietly in your seat, I will push that orange button."

"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.

"And there are lots of spiders in the dark room," I hissed.
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?"



blognut said...

Oh hell! The lies always come back to haunt you, don't they?

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

What is it they say about desperate times and desperate measures?!

Reinvent Dad said...

I'd have to substitute mosquitos for spiders as two of my four-year olds are scared of mosquitos...I'd have to come up with a doosy for the third as nothing seems to bother her...btw, have you read "Tweak" by Nic Sheff? I read "Beautiful Boy" and loved it.

Margo said...

You do what you have to do on airplanes. Definitely a desperate time/desperate measure. There were several times when I would think my plane must have gone down and I was in hell.

Allie said...

Eeeeek...the spiders would have done it for me too!!


Deb said...

I totally get it. I used to give the kids benadryl when they were little and we had to fly.

Tit for Tat said...

Now that is too funny. As I say to my daughter, "Save it for your Psychotherapist when youre 30"

Dr. Deb said...


phd in yogurtry said...

margo -- haha, yes, I was certainly in one kind of hell.

deb -- one of my kids got wound up on benadryl, so I was never brave enough to try.

tit for tat -- I think that all the time while I'm working. "Oh gawd, what will my kids be saying to theirs one day."

dr deb -- I've ruined him for life, eh?

imom said...

You were brave to fly with 3 small children, especially having to have one on your lap.

I would have told a story like that and the spiders would have been the last straw.

Sometimes you just gotta do, what you gotta do!

bernthis said...

priceless my dear. Too bad I don't have oen small enough to actually fall for that.

could you send me your off line email address?

The Girl Next Door said...

SPIDERS HA! You're killing me.

I used to have to fly internationally ALONE with my 2 and then 3YO twins. Thank goodness I had traumatized them in the car about carseats so that when I put their carseat on the plane in the seat and strapped them in, they stayed there. For 6 hours.

oh except for the night they threw up all night all across the atlantic. That was fun...

Maggie May said...

airplanes hold their own realities!

katydidnot said...

i love you. can i use that?

Jocelyn said...

I officially worship at your altar.

Vodka Mom said...

holy shit!! I bow to your greatness!!!!

dkuroiwa said...

Thanks for that...I'm going to keep that one just in case I need it this summer when we are on a plane for a gazillion hours!!
(and just for the record...people will tell you that Benadryl is good to help kids sleep, they don't really stress that it can make them wired!! I also learned the hard was not pretty for anyone!!)

I think that anything we say or do in times of desperation are passes...or at least that's what I tell myself!!!

AnnD said...

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I wouldn't feel too bad, if it had been me, I would have justified it by thinking: "Well, it's like Santa Claus. Eventually, he'll be old enough to realize that I'm lying but he'll also be so old that he won't even care because it happened so long ago and he'll understand why I had to do it."

Agent X said...

I thought that was just good creative mean it's not?

phd in yogurtry said...

imom -- would have hired a nanny to fly along, while hubby and I took it easy in first class, but, well, no first class OR nanny fund here.

bernthis -- you'd be surprised.

girlnextdoor -- bless you. international flight would do me in alone, let alone juggling toddlers.

maggie may -- in more ways than my shabby example of controlling a four year old.

katydidnot -- only if I can sign a waiver.

jocelyn -- thank you, thank you!

vodka mom -- another admirer. in that case, I've got a few more hidden in my closet.

annd -- I'm hoping, yes. He's not afraid of spiders, but he used to have a mean phobia re: scorpions.
hmmm. note to self: next time use scorpions.

agent x -- creative yes. good? not so much.

Magpie said...


Donna said...

OMG... giggle snorted my coffee at the tissue escapade. :)

Found your blog through another favorite... thoroughly enjoying it!

Kelly said...

My husband is absolutely terrified of spiders. Perhaps his mother used a similar story on him?

A. said...

That's awesome.