I thought I might try NaBloPoMo - that is, posting a blog post in November. I like to bend the rules to fit my situation.

Serenity wrote a post about her Diego negotiations that really rang true for me. I've got to tell you, the endless whining, pleading, pestering and tantruming kids do over much-desired objects and experiences is one of those things that pushes my buttons enormously. So much so that, as per a sage observation Rachel once made about kids being able to tell when something crosses your personal lines, we hardly ever experience the phenomenon around our house these days.

When we do, I have a protocol. First, I make sure my reply to a request has been a) heard and b) understood. Then I remove the item from the equation - by changing my answer from "maybe" to "no", or by declaring an amnesty of a certain time period during which the thing will not exist within our household. I have this whole lecture that goes along with it. At the beginning of the lecture, I identify with The Young Master's feelings of helpless yearning. I ask him to reflect on how utterly horrible he feels as they consume him. I assure him that these feelings are common to pretty much all of human kind throughout history, and explain the good news that many techniques have been developed so people can quell such horrible feelings when they are not productive.

At this point we have a little musical lesson centred around that well-known prayer - "Lord, grant me the serenity..."

I point out to him that this case falls into the "things I cannot change" basket rather than the "things I can", because he does not yet always have "the wisdom to know the difference". Then I ask if he'd like me to help him achieve that elusive serenity by explaining some of the most widely-practiced techniques, and if I time it right he is too busy trying to work his way towards the practical meaning of that last paragraph to do anything but accept.

Cue geography lesson: pretty soon he is holding his globe, and I am tracing monkey's Journey To The West and giving him Intro to Buddhism 101. He cottons on to this quickly, because we live next door to a Buddhist temple, and we frequently hear bells or chanting, and smell the burn of incense. I explain the practice of eschewing worldly possessions, even to the extent of shaving one's hair and wearing a basic outfit of robes, and of shutting out the experiences of the world in order to spend time in focussed meditation. (Sometimes, if I have given my lecture fairly recently and therefore need to use a different angle, I trot out The Sound Of Music instead, and we discuss Maria and nuns and prayer and get stuck for a while trying to define "flipperty-gibbet".)

By this stage he has forgotten any thoughts of tantrums in both his curiosity over where in the hell I could possibly be going with all this, as well as the simple passage of time. When I bring it all around full circle by suggesting we need to follow the ways of our neighbourly monks by removing the desired item or experience from his world so he can use the time to sit in quiet contemplation - if necessary, in his room - he looks at me sharply, suddenly aware that I have snuck up on him and now have him surrounded.

I give him a wry grin, followed (before he can answer) by a gentler, more serious face, then I tell him that I really do want to give him what he wants, as per my original reply, but I also can't have him whining, pleading, pestering me or throwing fits over the thing because - first of all - it's rude and unpleasant and makes me feel very stressed and angry, and secondly it feeds this horrible feeling of helpless yearning he tells me he doesn't like to experience. So I suggest he could either distract himself with a specified alternative or one of his own choosing or, if he thinks that won't work - or if he demonstrates its unworkableness - we can make like the monks. Mostly, the pestering subsides, but every so often he loses his judgement and crosses the line.

This happened most recently a few months ago. I can't even remember what he wanted, but I had told him I would get it for him as soon as I'd finished my current task, which I estimated would take about ten more minutes. Within that ten minutes, however, I reached my limit and revoked my earlier answer, declaring that the item was obviously causing us all problems and I was removing it (temporarily) from our world in favour of quiet meditation, and was willing to adjust the distance of that removal and the amount of contemplation in direct proportion to the intensity of the negative feelings he had on account of it. The Younger Master drew in an enormous breath and I braced myself inwardly for the drama, whilst trying to present a composed and sympathetic face and casting about for our globe.

His mouth opened. Then he shut it again, and stormed off. I stuck my head around the kitchen door to see where he was going. He took a sketch pad and a set of crayons from his stationary cupboard, sat himself at the coffee table, and began drawing with intense concentration. After ten seconds or so he looked at me angrily and said, "Mum, I am writing a story about a boy whose mum tells him no and he takes that no and gets his cricket bat and he hits the no outside and it gets run over by a car."

"Ok," I said carefully. He returned to his work. After thirty seconds or so, I shook myself from my stunned daze and returned to mine. In five more minutes I finished it, and came to sit next to him on the couch. He drew in silence, and I felt a bit superfluous, so I got out a book, read a chapter, then put it away again and completed some more housework. I prepared lunch, and did the dishes. I read half of another chapter. One and a half hours later, he finally completed his work, and presented it to me as a reading, for my commentary.

And I thought, "Oh my goodness. I've created a blogger."


Serenity said...

I worry, just a little, that this post gives me hope. Not that I'll turn Lucky into a Buddhist, but I really like the idea that we'll take away the said object temporarily since it's causing us problems.

But that if I stay firm, he will eventually find an outlet for something else to do.

And I love that you created a writer. I hope that Lucky finds an outlet like this someday.

Anonymous said...

That is the most perfect closing sentence!

Lollipop Goldstein said...

Best. story. ever.

I think this was my favourite sentence: I point out to him that this case falls into the "things I cannot change" basket rather than the "things I can", because he does not yet always have "the wisdom to know the difference".

Thalia said...

OMG totally love this story. What a testament to his character, your parenting and just good things in the world. Well done PB.

Aerotropolitan Comitissa said...

*Cough* can't claim that this is a typical day in the life, unfortunately, Thalia. Especially the last few weeks! But thanks!

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