Just yesterday, while shopping at the craft store, I experienced one of those moments in parenting that can only be described as enlightening. It was an Ah-ha moment to be exact, as if the clouds had parted and the sun shone down directly onto my squeeky-wheeled cart that was jostling from side to side with the eratic movements of my two children inside.
I was in the ribbon section of the local Hobby Lobby, trying to find coordinating ribbon for a diaper cake. If you have no idea what I'm talking about don't feel bad. I didn't either until I saw one on an episode of Sex and the City and then later when a girlfriend made one for my baby shower. It resembles a tiered wedding cake but is made entirely from diapers. It's adorned with trinkets and baby items-kind of cute and disgusting all at once. It's really more of a showpiece than for any practical purpose.
Anyhow, my two year old was in the front of the cart facing me and the four year old, legs criss-crossed sat in the back. An arrangement ment to keep them from whacking one another, or from pulling yards of ribbbon from the spools. Appearantly, this situation was either too boring or too confining for the two year old, because he figured out that he could spring himself from this perdiciment if he just decided to stand up. For the life of me I couldn't get his stiffened little legs back through the little holes in the front of the cart. He was screaming, I was frazzeled and the lady at the cutting counter was giving me the stink-eye. Yet my four year old, she remained cool as a cucumber. With a shrug of her shoulders and up-turned palms, she cocks an eyebrow and says, "Well, I guess you shouldn't have had two kids" in an I told you so kind of tone. I could tell she was pleased with herself.
The two year old continued to squirm as I clenched him in the football hold, trying to wrap up this shopping expedition gone bad ASAP! He screamed vehemently and slung insults at a rapid pace. Things like, 'You a whacky banana.... and No Mommy, No!!' saving his best epithet until we were face to face with Ms. Stink Eye. "You a poopy!! " he shouted using his pointing finger for emphasis. The four year old, in her most compossed voice, looks him straight in the eye, and says, "Oh Salem, enough with all the poopy talk." And then, cutting her eyes to mine says, "I'm glad I'm being good, right Mommy?" "Yes Jacqueline, you are being good, thank you." What I wanted to say was, 'Hey, this is behavioral relativism, and I'm not fallin' for it! The only reason you're acting so good is because he is acting so rotton!' Of course I didn't, but the situation had given me some much needed insight into the highly sophisticated thought process of a four year old.
I had to find a way to level the playing field. I couldn't have her thinking she was only as good as her siblings worst fit. I had to come up with a different source of motivation, one that had no loop holes , something that would produce a positive correlation and put to rest the see saw effects of the current system.
The answer came to me from somewhere deep in the cosmos. A satellite transmission displayed on my XM radio as Broadway Hits was the answer of all answers. A song from the musical Mame came on and as I glanced in my rearview mirror, both kids where in full-tilt- boogie to the jaunty tune of We Need A Little Christmas. Still tightly restrained in their car seats, they managed to pump their shoulders and bouce their derriers, in time to the beat, exhuding high pitched squeels each time they heard the word Christmas.
It was almost a religious moment. The patron saint of mommydum had sent me a sign. Why hadn't I thought of it earlier? Of course...Christmas! You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout I'm tellin' you why...Forget all the ghoul and fright of Halloween, it's Christmas and all its glory that we will focus on from here on out.
"You know, Santa is watching you", I say.
Oh yeah, Santa, Poopy Santa!
Noooooo Salem!!! This is sewious! Santa won't bring us toys if we don't be good!!
"You got it Sista", I say, giving them my best, I told you so glance in the rearview.