It’s rare that Lori and I are booked on the same out-of-town project, but that’s exactly what happened last week. Fortunately, Gabe’s uber-fabulous godmother Aunt S., and her partner volunteered to take care of our brood. Armed with a 4-page schedule and a dry-run of pickups and drop-offs, our dynamic duo reassured us that all would be well.
Which it was…sort of.
Our first clue that something was amiss was the cryptic text we received Wednesday evening:
Difficult day. Shoe issue. Handled.
“Shoe issue” like they couldn’t find them? They don’t fit anymore? They are very stinky? Well, Olivia doesn’t wear shoes, but maybe they needed them at school? Perhaps Gabe’s foot grew a size in 2 days? Maybe Nick’s summer foot odor finally took over the house?
Since “difficult” could be code for “your kids are a holy terror and I rue the day I agreed to this gig” I excused myself our tech check to make a quick phone call.
After 4 rings on the house phone, Aunt S. picked up.
“So what happened today?”
And she recounted a conversation that went something like this:
Aunt S: “Nick, can you put your shoes in the mudroom before you watch Wild Kratts.”
Nick: “We don’t do that.”
Aunt S. “Um, yeah, you do. So I am asking you to please put your shoes where they go.”
Nick: “And I am telling you that we don’t do that in this family.”
On the one hand, I am appalled that he spoke back to his aunt like that. Really, I am. But…on the other hand, I applaud his ability to twist my words to his benefit. “We don’t do that” and “I am telling you” are my go-to phrases. And his cheekiness not only shows that he does listen to us, but that he actually understands what we say.
I am so proud of my future lawyer/politician. Now to lay down some discipline.
“Can I talk to Nick for a moment?”
In the background, I heard Gabe randomly yelling “Happy Birthday” and Olivia squealing with what I hoped was joy. If they missed us, I couldn’t tell. But Nick was clearly acting out.
But out of what?
When I say things like “we don’t do that” and “I am telling you” what I really mean is “your behavior is upsetting to my world order.” Like when Nick grabs a toy from his brother and I respond with: “Nick, I am telling you to ask politely.” Or when Gabe decides to hide under the table to poop in his pull-up rather than using the Kiddie Kommode in plain view – ah, the joys of potty training – and I react with: “Gabe, we don’t do that in this family.”
Is that what Nick was saying? Our behavior – specifically, our absence – was upsetting to his world order? We had prepped the kids – and by prep I mean the day before reminding them that we would be out of town for 3 days and did they not recall that we had mentioned something the week prior, no? Ah, right then. Well, we’re still going and we’ll see you on Friday. Mmmkay? Kisses!
It’s not an excuse for talking back to an adult because, of course, we don’t do that in this family. But I could understand where it was coming from. So when Nick did get on the phone, I didn’t launch into a list of things that he had done wrong. Instead, I tried to validate what he was feeling…then I’d lay down the verbal discipline.
“Hi, Nana.” Nick sounded so very young on the phone. His voice 6-year-old voice still carried a slight lisp from his absent front teeth.
“Hey sweetie. How ya doing?”
“Are you sad that Mommy and Nana aren’t home right now?”
“I miss you. When are you coming home?”
“We’ll see you Friday. It will be late, but we will come and check on you when you are sleeping.”
“I bet you’re doing a good job helping Aunt S. with your little brother and sister.” I knew he was – showing Auntie where we kept Olivia’s extra pacifier and Gabe’s extra snuggies which you think would have made it onto a 4-freakin-page list of instructions. These kids’ parents must be anal retentive or something…
“Mommy and Nana are very proud of you being such a big boy. And part of being a big boy is being a good listener. Aunt S. is taking care of you right now because she loves you. So it’s really important to listen to her. Do you think you can do that?”
“OK, Nana.” His voice had lost its earlier hesitancy and now carried a more confident tone. “No worries.”
I had to smile. He had pulled out another one of our stock family phrases.
“No worries, kiddo. See you Friday.”
Man, I love this kid.