And (w)here's the other one

I love you too. Now, go jump on your dad.

Don’t argue with me

The other night, while giving the boys a much needed bath, Oliver immediately began to push the limits of bath time etiquette by continuously standing up with this playful little smirk on his happy little face. Sitting on one’s butt has always been rule number one while in the tub, and I’m not going to say that either if them has ever upheld that rule to the highest standard, but usually there is no argument. Typically, it’s Bennett that tends to be the button pusher in this situation, standing up every couple of seconds, but immediately and without contention sitting back down once instructed to do so. Now, like his brother, Oliver had no issue with sitting back down when told to, but again he stood right back up almost a soon as his little bum touched the porcelain. The funny thing is that Bennett, sitting nicely in his pool of bubbles, began to scold both Andrew and I for telling Oliver to sit down. He was waving his little finger and telling us what for in his cute little voice of inferred authority. It was adorable. It was all we could do not to smile or laugh at the sigh of this little, skinny, pale, naked boy spouting off very serious nonsense at us. I imagine he was saying something along the lines of, “That’s my brother, and he does what he wants.”

For as cute as it was, and yes Bennett was definitely aware of just how adorable he was being (that being evidenced by the smile that was plastered all over his face), I couldn’t help but realize he was simply imitating me, and I seriously doubt I’m ever as cute. Basically, he was bitching… Just like mommy. My son ladies and gentlemen.

Now, I’m not so diluted as to think that I don’t bitch. And I’m not so vain that I’m going to even try to convince anyone else of that. I do. I admit it. I own that. All moms do it. All women do it. There is a very thin line between having authority in your voice and yelling and an even thinner line between instructing (reminding, suggesting, informing, “just saying,” etc…) and bitching. So, even if bitching isn’t the intention, odds are, that is exactly what ends up happening.

So, as he sat there, my little comedian, playing mommy in the tub, I ironically realized just how much of a sponge both those boys truly are. They pick up way more than we realize, and perhaps we don’t realize just how much they absorb because they don’t tend to get the hang of the things we wish they would grasp. Like how they can poke a hole in the top of their juice box with surgical precision, but they can’t seem to figure out how to eat with a fork. They can say “Oh, shit,” after hearing it one flipping time, but they can’t say I love you, the one most commonly spoken sentence in our home (though they show it every day in how they look at us, give us hugs and kisses, and are forever stuck to our hips, and that’s a form of imitation that no words could ever duplicate). They dance around the house with Daddy (and yes they all have the same three moves), and they try to talk on the mouse phone like big boys, and they fake type on the computer, and they try to put “keys” in keyholes, and they hold intelligent conversations with one another like they see everyone else do around them, and they do countless other everyday things that were all learned via imitation. We just don’t see it that way. Our bad.

Once Bennett’s set was finished, and his encore completed, he was forced to exeunt stage tub to get ready for bed. He and Oliver were all chuckles and grins. Bath time had never been so entertaining, but now it was over and they were not happy about it. They both began to cry and thrash about and yell. Yell… They were actually yelling. At us. Remember what I said about that thin line between authority and yelling? Well, apparently, neither Andrew and I are 100% on ensuring that line doesn’t get crossed. So, are we sitting at home just yelling at our kids all day, no, but the situation would suggest that they learned that somewhere. Interpretation get’s lost in translation, and ultimately the fault was ours. We were definitely getting yelled at by two little boys who get most of their life experiences from watching their parents. Sorry boys.

Me: We really need to be more aware of the volume in our voice when we reprimand the boys. They are just imitating us.

Andrew: I know (said with booming realization).

Me: I just don’t know how to better be stern without raising my voice.

Andrew: I know. It’s hard.

Me: You know who is really good at that? Jonas.

Andrew: He really is. That guys scarey though.

Me: He can be (I laugh), but he is a really good dad.

Andrew: I don’t know how he does it. (Lowering his voice in both volume and depth, perhaps attempting to channel Batman and possibly even holding his breath) Stop that. Stop doing that.

Me: (Laughing uncontrollably) If that is what you think he sounds like, then yes he would be scarey.

Andrew: (Same Batman, breath-holding voice) Don’t laugh at me.

As the week went on, both Andrew and I were very aware of the tone in our voice and how were were speaking to and scolding the boys. It was damn hard. They would get into a little mischief, and most of the time, there was really no argument, and they would move on to something else. But there were plenty of times that I felt like Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: “No. Please. Don’t. Stop.” I was attempting to deter negative behavior but getting now where because I wasn’t being taken seriously. There was a definite lacking of authority in my voice, and they played on that hard. They would stop, look me dead in the eyes, and slowly go back to doing whatever it was that they were doing before. They were testing the boundaries very deliberately to see just how serious we were. So frustrating.

The phrases, “Don’t argue with me,” and, “There is no discussion,” became standard responses to their baby-backtalk. Ultimately, things got better. Don’t get me wrong, they are still normal, curious, and mildly defiant toddlers, but you just roll with the punches and adjust the way we parent depending on the situation. They’re still just learning, and so are we. The fact is, kids imitate. Unfortunately, they just like the bad stuff. It’s just like how it’s always the bad words that people learn first when trying to speak another language. That’s all kids are doing: learning a new language. So, am I going to stop cussing. Yeah, probably not. I want to set a good example for my children, but I’m not a fanatic. Plus, I couldn’t imagine myself being that friend that cusses using words like “French toast” and “front door.” That’s just not my style, and I may pay for that in the long run, but we’ll play that hand once it’s dealt.

Exhaustedly,

Jeni

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