Photo: Ursa Major on the day we gave him his bike…
I love my husband, but Lordy, this weekend… he was trying my patience.
Our weekends are probably typical for parents with small children: We stay up too late on Friday night, the kids wake up early on Saturday morning so one of us gets up while the other one “sleeps in” (puts a pillow over their head and wakes up every 15 minutes when something crashes or a child screams), we eat a real nice breakfast and chug coffee, and figure out a way to get the boys out of the apartment so as to wear them out before nap. Rinse and repeat on Sunday (with the addition of trying really, really hard to listen to CBS Sunday Morning over various attempts to get our attention or strong, yet futile, attempts to put on Sesame Street).
All of that is well and good. But there was a disturbance in The Force this weekend in the form of an innocent Radio Flyer tricycle. Ohhh that damnable tricycle…
You see, we bought that tricycle for Ursa Major for his first birthday present. It was perfect: Wooden and built to last, classic and beautiful, it would evoke good warm memories, it could be passed down through all of our children, and if we took good care of it, we could even pass it down through our grandchildren. Yes, we think that way. Yes, we’re weird. We made a big ceremony of giving him the bike before any of his other gifts got here. We sat him on it, excited to see him scoot-along on the carpet. We were such awesome parents.
He hated it.
He fell off of it.
He kicked it.
Then he decided that it was more interesting when he wasn’t on it. So he started playing with it the way that he played with his other toys with wheels: Rolling it back and forth and watching the wheel turn as he did so.
He never once used that trike as an actual trike.
Turns out it was too small for him. Ursa Major is in the 90th percentile for height. He was too big for the scooting and he was uncomfortable.
Well la dee da.
So I eventually I tucked it away in a corner to gather dust until Ursa Minor (who I was pregnant with at the time) would be big enough to take his shot at it. Every once in a while, Ursa Major would take a glimpse of the bike and ask for it. I’d remind him that he was too big for it, and he’d fuss for a second before going on to something else. No big deal.
Well flash forward to last weekend. Ursa Major re-discovers that bike in his father’s presence. “Oh yeah, the trike…maybe [Ursa Minor] can use it!” My husband says, excitedly. I’m not so thrilled. He puts my baby on the bike, my baby looks at him as if he’s flippin’ crazy, he leans right and flops right off of the thing (husband caught him). Just as Ursa Major had planned! He jumps up to take his rightful place atop the Raido Flyer throne. He scoots all about the apartment, albeit a bit labored because he’s still too big for the thing, “showing” his brother how to do it. Husband is thrilled, though he has a hard time getting Ursa Major off so that he can get Ursa Minor back on so as to try again.
Great. So for the rest of the weekend, I’m either dodging the stupid trike or I’m tripping over the thing as it seems to be constantly in a place where it ain’t s’posed to be! On Sunday night, after the boys go to bed, I tucked that sucker right back to its corner. No reason to have it out anymore. Am I right? Right??
Ursa Major wakes up and goes straight for it. And thus begins my struggle:
“Bike. Bike. Bike. Bike. Bike! Bike! BIKE!”
“When we want something, there is a magic word that we have that denotes requests.”
“Can you say please?”
[Sigh] “Here.” So I give the bike to the boys.
Ursa Major gets on it. He then does one of the following three things:
1) He falls off of it with a huge thud and screams bloody murder. He’s fine.
2) He chases Ursa Minor around, eventually taking pleasure in running him over with the bike. He then gets a timeout.
3) He chases Ursa Minor around, especially in the kitchen, especially when I’m cooking, so I expel them from it. He then throws a tantrum.
After all three scenarios, the bike was put in the corner. By Thursday, I was all set with the trike. They asked for it, I simply said no.
Until Saturday. Dad’s home. Guess what?
Ursa Major: “Bike. Bike. Bike. Bike.”
Me: “No, baby, you don’t need to play-”
Husband: “You want to play with the bike? Sure, let’s play with the bike.”
I look at my husband with an open mouth and a stern eye. He shrugs. “It’s fun. And I don’t really get to spend any time with him over the week…”
So all weekend, these two babies are being obnoxious with this damned bike and all my husband can do is be like “their having fun!”
I swear I thought I was going to punch him in his nose.
Then at two on Sunday afternoon, Ursa Major decided that he needed to wash his hands. Though his hands were perfectly clean, and the two of us were having a fairly urgent conversation about calling our realtor (because the deal on our house fell through. Will post about that on Wednesday.)
Me: “I just feel like we should consider expanding our search to different communities, but we need to consider your commute–”
Ursa Major: “Wash our hands! Wash our hands! Want to wash our hands!”
Husband: “I think it will be fine to consider one or two other places, as long as their along route two–”
Ursa Major: “Wash our hands! Wash our hands!”
Me: “Should I e-mail her and–”
Ursa Major: “WASH! OUR! HANDS!”
Husband: “What? Oh? You want to was your hands? Let’s go wash your hands!”
Me, flabbergasted: “What? No, he doesn’t need to wash his hands right now” (to Ursa Major): “Mommy and Daddy are talking right now. You can wash your hands before dinner…”
Ursa Major pouts.
Husband, shrugging: “It’s ok, it’s not going to hurt anything…”
But here’s the thing, it does hurt something when Daddy decides to be good cop all weekend: It unravels all of the systems and foundations and lessons that I’ve been putting down all week. Because when home boy is at work making the bacon, I”m here trying to hold it down with the “please” and “thank yous” and all of the other stuff in between. So now, suddenly, Ursa Major gets it: When Daddy is at home, all bets are off.
Daddy has dad guilt. And Dad guilt means no rules.
I don’t want to be the bad cop all of the time. I’d love to say “yes” far more than I say “no,” and I’ve been trying my best to re-frame the way that I correct behavior. Lots more explanation and softer tones rather than the stern “no.” At least with Ursa Major. With Ursa Minor, who is still grasping language, the stern “no” is still important for stopping behavior immediately. Ursa Major has had a lot less timeouts lately (which we don’t call “timeout” we invite him to “have a seat” in a particular corner for 2 minutes), and indeed, he responds better with explanations and less immediate stern feedback. Unless there is an imminent thing that is going on that’s really bad (like the daily no-jumping-on-the-couch battle), I’m doing a lot less “NO!” lately. But then again, as we know, with toddlers it’s different all day every day. The truth of the matter is that I’m the main disciplinarian in the house. There is no “wait until your Father gets home up in here.”
But I feel like always putting me in “bad cop” position is extremely harmful for the rest of the week. The working parent should burden the at-home parent by bending the rules all weekend purely for the sake of “fun.” I get it–he gets less face time with the boys than I do. But the precious time he gets could be used more constructively…
So here I am on Monday evening, exhausted but not overly so. It wasn’t a high discipline day because of morning playgroup. It’s not about the Mondays after. It’s about the Wednesdays and the Thursdays, the days when we’ve been at it all week where the rule bending from the weekend can start to rear its ugly head. Hopefully it will be a good week, but roar.
Anyone else have this problem??