Posted by: Kate | August 2, 2009

Tell Me All Your Secrets

…parenting secrets, that is.  Some things, I just don’t want to know.

But I mentioned my ever-so-sneaky way of getting Jacob to clean up after himself, by arming him with a handheld vacuum cleaner and announcing that it was his special tool, thereby creating an instant pride whenever he came up with an excuse to use it.

I also got an “oh, good idea” from my dad’s girlfriend today, when we were out shopping with the kids and I steered them clear of some argument or other by figuring out the date – “Look, guys, it’s August 2, that’s an even day… Emily gets to choose first on even days.”  In a situation involving choice in which there’s no compelling reason to let one child pick first, decide between options, or otherwise preside, we check the calendar; Emily gets even days (because her birth month is April, an even number) and Jacob gets odd (so glad he was born in July and not August).  This wouldn’t be so useful to those of you with single children, but when the bickering between theoretically loving siblings has brought you within a hairsbreadth of an impromptu four-letter vocabulary lesson, it can be a truly wonderful thing to have a pre-established arbitrary rule for settling the current round.

We’ve also been practicing things that I’d previously taken for granted, but have realized – particularly given certain recent tidbits of conflict in our lives – that there are certain seemingly natural things that are actually quite advanced skills, requiring great effort and repeated practice for mastery.  Things like being able to maintain silence for five minutes at a time and then remembering what you thought about during those five minutes, so as to gain a smidgen of control over your verbal impulses and organize your thoughts a bit before letting them fall out of your face.  Or like learning to deliver a thorough, meaningful apology, instead of a muttered sorry followed by immediate efforts to make it the other person’s fault… intead, we practice – after the arguments which the “even/odd days” rule can’t prevent – the harder sort of apology, which goes a little something like this: “I’m sorry that I ________ (ate the last cookie, screamed at you, knocked over your block tower).  I didn’t mean to ________ (hurt your feelings/make you mad/ruin your game).  Next time I will ________ (ask first/try to use my words/watch where I’m going).”  It’s formulaic, true, but if they grow up to be adults who can acknowledge their own actions without instantly pointing fingers and protesting their innocence, I’ll be seriously proud of them, regardless of an uncreative sort of recitation.

That’s all I can think of, at the moment.  Perhaps the rest of my parenting approach is singularly mediocre and uninspiring; that would be OK, because at least I have a few things that make me suspect that maybe I’m not screwing everything up completely.

So, then, whether you have small creatures at home or not (because, sometimes, the people who know the most about parenthood are the ones who have yet to procreate), please share your strokes of genius, whether those strokes are fine or broad.  Inquiring minds – who still feel exhausted and frusrtated and overwhelmed a measureable part of the time – want to know.



  1. The small thing: I allow candy in small doses. So, LouLa gets candy after dinner. She’ll ask how much she can have. I’ll ask how much she thinks she should have. She’ll tell me, and I’ll say yes. Every single time, she’s said a number much lower than I was willing to go, so it’s a win-win (i.e. She’ll want five M&Ms, but I was willing to go to eight). She totally thinks she’s getting away with something and it makes her think she’s won the negotiation. This strategy works for other things, too, like staying at the park, or watching tv.

    My two big parenting things are:
    -I never let something happen once unless I’m willing to let it happen over and over again. This was especially true when LouLa was smaller. She’s older now that I can sometimes say, “This is the ONLY time we’re doing this.” and she gets it.
    -When starting something new (i.e. new sleep schedule, taking away the bottle long ago, etc.), I give it a week before I give up. If I give myself an end date, I can handle the unpleasantness that may occur. It also is enough time for LouLa to know that I mean business.

  2. Obviously, I haven’t got any parenting tips to offer just yet, but when I do, I’ll let you know. There are a couple things I want to make policies, though:

    – I have no problem with swear words, but I do have a problem with hurting words. (I have no problem with “Oh, shit!”, but I do have a problem with “You’re a piece of shit.”) So the challenge will be teaching kids WHEN to use certain words, which seems like a more complicated concept, but I think will be worthwhile.

    – I want my kids to have a healthy appreciation of food and to enjoy it, but food is not a substitute for entertainment. I spent too much of my life eating because I was bored.

  3. Thought of this at breakfast this morning. I’m pretty proud of getting my kids to want to put toasted wheat germ on their yogurt and other things by calling it “sprinkles.” It just sounds magical. Izzy can’t get enough of it. Small but useful. 🙂

  4. Part of our daily routine is at some point in the day, I approach each one of the boyz separately and ask them, “Did you kiss your mother today?”

    It’s a good time for a quick connection with Momma.

  5. I am the queen of routine…so many friends and family members make fun of me because I work really hard to stay on routine. When we deviate too much or too often I can tell. I guess with Derek’s history with doctor appointments, on feeding machines, medicines and even dialysis training I had to have down time and “normal time.” I need a place and time where all of that stuff just didn’t exist, it was a method of survival that I truly appreciated and I think it worked because Derek is a pretty normal kid. 🙂

  6. We were never allowed to just say sorry. Mother lamented that the word was too easy to just throw out, making the speaker think they were then absolved of their transgression. The way to apologize in Spanish is, “perdoname,” which means, “please forgive me.”

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