Tag Archives: argument

Fighting the dumb fight

There’s a moment in between the biggest fight of our life week and the time when we’ll make up when it’s realized I may have been insane.  This is the only explanation as to why I chose to purposely make up my bed on the couch to avoid sleeping with someone who got mad because somebody talked during his movie.

I do believe this is not only our biggest fight of the week, but the stupidest fight of our week life.  But what am I supposed to do when the movie was so dumb?

The movie had 20 minutes left and the main character and his lady love interest were about to get it on, something that had been inevitable from the very beginning.  And just as they were, something interrupted their moment of passion.  At this same time, I noticed some kind of shrubbery thingy on a sock I was folding.  Because I care about the fact that Mr. W just spent all morning cleaning the living room, I stood to place the shrub in a bowl on the far end of the table instead of on the floor.  In the process, my ass may have gotten in the way of the TV.  But since I had just worked out, one would assume that Mr. W would much rather see my ass then whatever was interrupting the inevitable love making.

Nope.  Wrong.  It appears that Mr. W hates my ass.

10 minutes later, and the main group of guys in the movie sat around and began to talk about what their next plan of action was.  I was suddenly reminded about how boring the movie was, which also reminded me that Taz and I had to wake up early the next morning for his baseball game.  So I took this moment of boring talking that was going on to remind Taz to set his alarm, at which we got into a debate over what that time should be.  Seems that Mr. W was into foiling our plans of waking up on time and insisted we cease our conversation so he could hear the boring parts.

Fine.  Whatever.  We’ll just wake up late Mr. W.

The clincher, however, was in our conversation after the movie when we both argued about who talks the most during films, how one of us wasn’t sorry enough, and the other was mad that the other was mad.

Are you following?

Neither am I.

All I know is that I am sitting on a couch with a computer in my lap while he is probably lying wide awake in our comfortable bed all because both of us have been guilty at one point or another of talking during a movie.

Dumb.

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Teenage showdown

It was a showdown in our living room this past weekend. I gave her a task to complete, she refused to do it. And finally, when she saw that I was just as stubborn as she was, she huffed off and went to go do my bidding…or so I thought. When I came to her almost an hour later, she was face down in her bed, doing her best to ignore me. And when I asked her why she hadn’t finished the task I set out for her to do, she mumbled into her pillow that she was better equipped to do it in the morning.

ARGH!!!!

The next morning, she informed me that she would be hanging out with one of her guy friends. No asking. Just telling. And it was insinuated that I was not invited. So I informed her that this sounded too much like a date, and as she was only weeks from being just 13, this was not going to fly. The argument from the night before made an encore into this tense conversation. And fireworks were soon being set off right and left as we danced around a battle of wills to see who would win and who would submit to defeat. Thing is, I’m the mom. That is supposed to automatically make me win, right? And in her mind, she was just RIGHT, so that automatically made her the winner.

Obviously, neither of us was even close to backing down.

We eventually stated our final testimonies, leaving each other to stew in our own anger before letting it simmer to a gentle roll of thoughts and emotions that included a “maybe I was too harsh”. Of course, uttering those words would mean automatic disqualification, so neither of us was really keen on saying them out loud. But I am the mom, after all. And that gives me a slightly bigger responsibility to stop being immature and try to diffuse the situation. However, my daughter made it a little easier in her own way.

I continued making breakfast – soft boiling the eggs, pushing the bread down in the toaster, and buttering the already toasted pieces. She silently stepped in beside me, flipping the bacon when she saw that I was too occupied with the rest of the breakfast to keep them from crisping too much. And she helped me crack the soft boiled eggs and put them on the plates for the rest of the family. It was her way of making peace without ever uttering any words of concession. And it helped to soften the argument to the place of actually getting down to the root of the whole problem (which was separate from what we were actually arguing about, as it usually tends to be).

“I understand where you’re coming from,” I told her, regarding this separate issue. “I really do. And it sucks. I’m sorry,” I said. And she just smiled a small smile, letting me know that while she still didn’t think it was fair, she was willing to at least work with me on it.

And with that, it was over.

It was reminiscent of the arguments I used to hold with my own mother, the ones where we’d be at each other’s throats, screaming awful things at each other as we both struggled to be the one in the driver’s seat. And eventually we’d become so enraged that we’d be forced to separate and retreat to our own rooms where we could wish the most horrid things upon the other while mourning our own suffering and pain. And after a time, we would calm down and be able to diffuse the situation in a matter of moments, giggling and laughing as if we hadn’t just been guilty of leaving the household in an uproar as we bombed each other with the words we used as weapons, nicking anyone who was stupid enough to get in the way. And it would leave my poor dad wounded as he shook his head in disbelief that two totally stubborn women who had waged such an embarrassing war of words were now carrying on like nothing happened. I mean, where were our battle wounds? Because he seemed to be carrying the bulk of them.

And this was the case of DQ and me. Mere hours after our blowup, she insisted a seat next to me in church (an ironic place to be after a hell of an argument), and then spent the rest of the day hanging out with me as if she sort of liked me. And Mr. W was left to shake his head at the whole incident – though he had managed to avoid injury by quickly retreating during our flurry of angry words earlier that morning.

She turns 13 next week. And as my aunt (who raised three great kids who are even better adults) told me when I shared my story, “You’ve got a mountain to climb my dear, but you’ll eventually reach the other side. And it will be wonderful again I promise. I speak from lots of steep, rocky, avalanche-prone climbing experience.”

Ah, teenagers. Here’s to some steep mountains of torrential avalanches and gorgeous views.

One in the limelight, the other in the shadows

….and mom is the scale to balance it out…

Sometimes one child gets to be in the limelight, and that's when the rivalry starts

As usual, I was checking the Taz’s homework folder this morning 5 minutes before we were supposed to leave for school, just to make sure that he finished all his homework and to sign everything off. Tucked in the corner of the folder was a folded packet of papers that his teacher had addressed to me. Upon opening it, I saw that it was a recommendation that the Taz be tested for the GATE program, the Gifted and Talented Education program for kids who seem to have an advanced grasp on the studies of their age level and are capable of being challenged.

To be nominated for this program by a teacher is a huge deal, needless to say. However, I was careful not to crow about the Taz’s achievement too much once I realized that my daughter had stopped what she was doing and was scrutinizing my reaction. Over the past several years, she had been bugging me to sign her up to be tested for the program. My daughter is smart, definitely smart enough to be a part of the program. Unfortunately, I could never get my timing to coincide with the small window of opportunity to have her tested. So she never took part in it. Basically, I failed as a mother, and she let me know how bitter she was about it.

“None of my teachers ever recommended me for GATE. I guess I’m just stupid,” she muttered in the back seat as we drove to school.

It’s so hard to play the seesaw game when it comes to our kids’ achievements. I could see DQ’s point for being so upset about this. She has always been a good student, and has been quite independent in successfully finishing top notch projects that her teachers rave about. She is the student that teachers love to have. She has incredible organizational skills and manages her time well when it comes to the work she is required to do. She is the kids I can depend on, as can her teachers. The Taz, on the other hand… Well, you’ve read the stories. The kid couldn’t sit still if his life depended on it. He’d rather goof off in class than pay attention to the discussion. He won’t do more than what is required of him. He’s too distracted to listen to instruction, and will sometimes make art projects according to his own decisions rather than what the class is being assigned to do. He rushes all of his work that he turns in. It’s almost always 100% correct – if you can read through the chicken scratch. And it has come to the teacher’s and my attention that a lot of it is that the Taz already knows everything they are being taught (a fact the Taz laments to me as he does his homework in 5 minutes tops).

Thing is, the Taz is incredibly smart. And so is DQ. But they are bright in totally different ways. And they have very different gifts when it comes to their talents. As their parent, I am caught in the middle as I rave about each of their achievements. If I commend one child too heavily on one subject, the other gets bent out of shape. In this instance, I found myself reining in the excitement I felt about the Taz being nominated for the GATE program, and then downplaying the program to DQ when we were in private so that her feelings might be spared a bit. It didn’t work, of course, and I was left feeling like ends had been left undone on both of their parts of the subject.

Do you have two very different kids who excel at different things? How do you handle sibling rivalry?

The Excuse Maker vs the Howler Monkey

Howler MonkeyThere is a certain sound resonating in my household that is akin to fingernails on the chalkboard or a dog howling out of tune in the middle of the night. Without warning, this noise modulates into a higher pitch with each note, getting more frantic if it is left to continue. This annoying clamor, unfortunately, is an epidemic. What starts out as an innocent first becomes a habitual occurrence. They come more frequently as time goes on. And the result of this reverberation to anyone within earshot (mainly those it is directed at), is an elevated heart rate, a clenching of the fists and teeth, an ability to see red, and a sudden burst of mania that comes forth as a string of shrill commands even louder than the original sound.

I am, of course, talking about the “excuse maker”.

It’s funny. I used to view whining as the all-time most annoying sound ever to experience. I would tell the Taz to put his things away, and fight him as he gave me a slow, “But whyyyyyyy……..?” The whining would grate on my nerves, and would usually result in said item to be taken away. But now? I would gladly welcome back the innocent whine to this:

“Pleasemompleasedon’tmakemedothatIjustneedtofinishdoingthisandyou’re
ruiningmylifeandIwilldieifIcan’tfinishdoingthisandIjustwanttofinishthislevel
itwillonlytakeasecondwhyareyoualwaystellingmewhattodoIcan’tstandthis
pleasemompleasepleasepleaseplease…..”

Except, imagine that run-on sentence made in one breath and getting shriller with each syllable until it is barely a squeak by the time it ends. And me? I am clenching and unclenching all parts of my body until I am one big ball of stress ready to unleash. And unleash is what I do.

Mr. W was describing his own mother’s conduct when he and his brother’s would pull some sort of childish action. For many years, she would remain calm, talking in a quiet voice about their misbehavior and what the consequences were. But being that there were three boys in the family, and being that their antics were only getting more mischievous as they got older, Momma W ended up correcting them in a much louder way. Read: she turned from a controlled superior to something that more resembled a screeching howler monkey. And, of course, this would leave her boys in hysterics (on the inside, of course), and unable to take her seriously.

Frankly, she had lost control. And when I look back at how I’ve dealt with the Taz as he’s frustrated me to no end, I wonder what kind of screeching animal he’s comparing me to.

The biggest obstacle I’m struggling with the Taz on right now has to do with responsibility. Our biggest dispute is over his ability to remember important details I have laid out for him. When he goes to his father’s house, he forgets half of his clothes at his dad’s house when he comes back to me. When he goes to school, same deal (it’s amazing he doesn’t come home naked…). Getting ready for baseball games is an interesting ordeal, as he has left his uniform all over the county (his dad’s house, school, his friend’s house, my parent’s house…). He consistently gets late notices from the school library for the books he has failed to turn in despite reminder after reminder from me. Homework that we have meticulously worked on the night before comes back unread in his homework folder because he hasn’t turned it in, or he has left his folder on the kitchen table. When it is time for chores, he will goof off if left to his own devices. I have to stand over him to get him to do anything. And after 10 minutes of that, the “excuse maker” and the tears start.

Frankly, I’m exhausted. I can understand the importance of keeping on him to get all of his responsibilities straight when he was younger. But at 9 years old, it is my belief that he should be able to manage his own responsibilities to a degree. At the very least, he should be able to remember to bring home all the articles of clothing from his father’s house or his classroom, turn in his assignments on time, and not have to be reminded constantly to do the same thing that is required of him every single day. And, unfortunately, growing tired of repeating myself, the Howler Monkey comes out in me. I think the Taz has successfully learned how to tune out the Howler Monkey.

When relaying the tug-of-war I’m experiencing with the Taz to one of my friends, and lamenting about my reaction to his irresponsibility, she relayed to me how her grandmother handled it when she was young. Her grandmother rarely raised her voice. Instead, she’d keep her voice in an even tone, alerting them of their screw up. And then she would calmly point them in the direction of the bathroom. For the next few hours the mischievous child would scrub the room from top to bottom. And when they were done, their grandmother had to inspect it and approve. More times than not, she would find one or more things wrong, shake an entire can of Ajax over the whole bathroom, and order them to clean it over again. To this day, my friend cannot stand the smell of Ajax, and will not let it anywhere inside of her home. And she also learned to stay the straight and narrow.

What I got from my conversations with Mr. W and my friend is that a quiet voice and a firm composure is much scarier and more effective than a screeching Howler Monkey.

This weekend we had the chance to test this theory. The Taz left his baseball hat in his desk at school on Friday, meaning that he wouldn’t have it for Saturday’s baseball game. The old me would have howled at him, ranting and raving the whole way to the store as we bought a new one. His punishment would have been ineffective, as the screaming and yelling on my part took up a good majority of the energy I could have used on creating a real consequence. Instead, I kept calm and told him that Saturday morning would be spent cleaning my bathroom top to bottom. And I explained to him that the yelling in the house was going to be kept to a minimum. If he failed to execute the minimum responsibilities required of him, he could expect to do some heavy cleaning as a consequence. This seemed to go over well with the Taz. And the next morning, he woke up before I did to clean the bathroom and get it over with.

cleaning 002

He woke me up to come check his work, and I did with a critical eye. I told him all the things that still needed to be done.

“ButMomIhavebeenworkingsohardonthisallmorningandIjustwanttohavefun
whydon’tyouevencareaboutmethisistoohardyou’reruiningmylifeIjustwantto
goouttoplaywithmyfriendsandI’mhungryandthebathroomlooksfinewhycan’t
Ibedone?”

Instead of clenching and unclenching my hands, hyperventilating with a raised heart beat, or seeing red, I stood there watching him in anticipation. His “excuse maker” tapered off and he waited for my reaction.

“Are you done?” I asked him.

“Yes,” he said.

“Good. Now do what I’ve told you to do. You can eat breakfast only when you have finished.

We went through three more occurrences of failed cleaning attempts until I finally sat cross-legged by the door and pointed out one by one what needed to happen for me to be satisfied. 2 hours of total cleaning time, and he was done.

I’d love to say that this one event has cured him of all irresponsibility altogether. Of course I would. But come on, we’re talking about kids here.

“Mom, I’ve decided I want to quit baseball,” the Taz told me last night as I drove him from the meeting point his dad and I set up halfway between our homes.

“Why?” I asked. I had just finished telling him that we had an extra practice the next day.

“I just want to quit. I’m not enjoying it.”

I told him we weren’t just going to quit like that. And then it occurred to me why he was having a sudden change of heart.

“Did you remember to pack your uniform from your dad’s house?” I asked him.

“Um….no. I have everything except for the jersey.”

Right now I am enjoying a quiet house with a purring kitty, fondly eating some strawberry yogurt. And upstairs, the Taz is plugging away at making sense of the chaos in his room until I deem it acceptable. Maybe it’s going to take some time until he has mastered the art of responsibility. But my house is about to get really, really clean.

Is there a Howler Monkey living in your home? How about an “excuse maker”? Share your horror stories, or how you accomplished getting those two unwelcome guests evicted.

Inked

My mother called me over the weekend before the clock even hit 9 am.

“Are you at home right now?” she asked.

“I am.”

“What time are you going to take the kids over to their dad’s house?” she asked.

“Around 2,” I told her.

“Oh. That’s too late. Nevermind.”

She was being awfully cryptic, which of course got my curiosity up.

“Why? What’s going on?”

“Well…..” She asked me if I remembered the Ninja Star that the Taz had been coloring at her house. Of course I remembered. He had colored it pure black and told me how all he had to do was throw it and it would whip through the air slicing anything in its way. I suggested that he not throw it in the kitchen, at least.

“I remember. Why?” I asked her.

“Well, apparently he was coloring it in my living room…”

Crap.

“Where?” I asked her, almost afraid for her to continue.

“On my couch. With permanent black ink.”

“We’ll be right over,” I told her. I was still wearing my robe and slippers. I hadn’t brushed my hair or teeth yet that morning. I looked pretty scary as I marched outside to go find the Taz. He was not out at the basketball courts in our complex like he said he was going to be, and his friends who were already playing out there said they hadn’t seen him yet. So I tried my luck over at one of his friend’s house. The Taz opened the door.

“You’re coming home. And you’re in trouble,” I told him, not even beating around the bush.

“Mom, I tried to call you to tell you I was at Todd’s house!” he protested.

“That’s not why you’re in trouble.” He followed me home, asking me over and over what he did.

“But it wasn’t me!” he said, once I told him of his crime. I saw red. I laid into him as we walked home, fully aware that the neighbors were probably hearing every single word I was saying to my son. I didn’t care. Now I was not only furious about the ruined Ethan Allen couch that sat in my parents’ living room, I was furious that he had the audacity to LIE to me. The next door neighbor sat on her front porch, smiling and waving at me as we walked up the walkway. Without breaking my tirade against my son, I smiled and waved at her. It was only seconds later when I realized how ridiculous I must have looked as I lectured my son and still kept up appearances, somewhat, to the neighbor – all while still sporting my robe, fuzzy slippers, and wild hair.

We got dressed and went over to my parents’ house. My son sat miserably in the back seat, occasionally letting out a sniffle. If there was anything scarier than his mom (and lately, I think I’ve lost the scariness factor…), it was his grandparents.

“They’re going to kill me,” he sobbed, finally admitting fault about the marked up couch.

“You’re right,” I told him. “And this time, don’t even look to me to protect you. You’re on your own, buddy.” It brought back memories of the golf ball through the window. I had felt it my duty to take the brunt of the punishment of my father’s anger before it was passed down to him. But this time? No. It was all on the Taz.

We got to my parents’ house, and my dad greeted us with a smile, obviously trying to lighten the situation. My son slunk out of the car and faced my dad, much like walking the long pathway to his executioner. My dad led him into the house and called my mom. Together they went over the various things that the Taz had done just this past week. He had left the gate open so that the horse was able to get out and potentially stomp all over my dad’s newly landscaped backyard. He had missed the toilet and peed all over the floor. And now my mom’s couch held numerous black marks that might never come out.

It came time to talk about correcting this situation. My parents looked to me, the hopelessness in their eyes. They had been growing increasingly frustrated over the past year as the Taz messed up at their house. He had been eating their leftovers planned for dinner after school. He had been eating food in the living room. The house was growing messier and messier because he wasn’t picking things up. He was going to his friends’ houses and not coming back when he was supposed to.

“Maybe he needs to go back to daycare,” my mom said. “I’ll even pay for it if I need to.”

“No, Mom,” I said. I couldn’t let him go back to daycare. His teachers there had been wonderful. But the Taz was a handful there too. I was constantly being called in because of something the Taz had done – breaking the pencil sharpener, experimenting with potty language, not following direction, doing gymnastics during circle time… With a bunch of kids as his audience, the Taz’s behavior would only get worse. “But he can’t come over here anymore. I’m probably just going to have to take him to work with me and let him sit and be bored for the last 2 hours,” I said. It was the only option. At my parents’ house, he had too much unsupervised time. My dad was there, but he was working. And the Taz’s ideas for self-entertaining were just not working. I turned to the Taz.

“And your Xbox is gone, again.” He shrugged his shoulders.

“That’s ok. At least I have my friends,” he said. Seriously? I mean, seriously? The kid was under scrutiny right now, and actually had the audacity to brush off his punishment?

“Well, they’re gone too. Is there anything else you’d like to mention that ‘at least you have’?” I asked him, daring him to speak.

“I’m thinking…” he said. I think smoke may have been coming out of my ears at this point. “Nah, I have nothing.”

“Taz, aren’t you tired of getting your things taken away from you?” my mom asked.

“Well, I’m kind of used to it,” he said. “I get my things taken away from me all the time.”

And it’s true. The Taz screws up. And then he opens his mouth and denies it. And then we argue about it while he shifts the blame on everything and everyone around him. And by the end I am so mad that I have taken away his video games first, then his friends, and then, if he continues, anything else that is within eyesight that he cares about. He’ll then be on his best behavior for a couple weeks or so until he has earned everything back. And then, the cycle starts up again. It’s never ending.

It reminds me of my childhood. When I was a teenager, I was a punk, straight up. And because I symbolically stuck my middle finger up at my parents by blatantly disrespecting them in all things I did, I constantly had things taken away from me. First to go was always the car. Then it was time taken from being with my friends or my boyfriend. Phone use was taken away, as was my stereo. Little by little, all my belongings were taken out of my room and stashed away until I had learned to talk a little more respectfully and had done my time for whatever infraction I had committed. Thing is, I got in trouble so much that I stopped caring, and pretty much acted like I could do what I want. If my parents took the car away, and everything that came after that, it stopped phasing me. And it definitely didn’t improve my attitude.

And now, I am having this same battle with my 9 year old son, struggling to reach him as he makes himself unreachable. And if he is acting like this now, what is it going to look like when he is a teenager? If he has a constant need to break rules as if he’s forgotten them, lie and blameshift when he gets caught, backtalk when the conversation isn’t going his way, and then get in a power struggle with me as I try to correct the situation and he acts like he doesn’t care, how horrendous will it be several years from now?

I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried talking to him, getting down to his level and allowing both of us to talk about our feelings in this situation. I’ve tried the silent treatment, limiting my conversations with him to one or two words, telling him I cannot speak with him until I have cooled down considerably (and sometimes taking days because it has set me over the limit). And of course, I’ve been mainly resorting to taking away his possessions.

Nothing’s working.

The only answer I have left is constant supervision. Obviously I have to be the Taz’s shadow. If it’s attention he wants, well, he’s going to get it. When he isn’t in school, he will be at my side. Truth is, he does better when he is under my thumb. So I will be taking the extra measures to make sure that this is what happens. I might be losing my freedom in a big way, but the behavior issues need to be addressed and put to a halt before they get any worse.

I’m not going to lie, though. This bites. Totally open for suggestions…

Is it ok to discipline other people's children?

It’s important for our kids to have friends. At a technical level, having friends teaches our kids their first lessons of interaction and socializing. But mainly, it feels good to have friends. Their first friends are usually their parents’ friends’ babies – and dubbed their first boyfriend or girlfriend. They are friends with their brothers and sisters, their cousins, and whichever small child is brought along for a playdate so that the adults can get in some coffee and chat time. But it isn’t until they hit preschool that they get to choose their own friends. And this is when your child will be drawn to other children without someone else telling them they have to be friends and play nicely with each other. For the first time in their life, they get to like someone because, well, they like them.

We want our kids to have friends. Many of us will go out of our way to open up our home for playdates, or to organize birthday parties for our children’s friends to attend. We will learn the names of our children’s friends’ parents, and suddenly the shoe is on the other foot – our children are choosing our friends for us. But it’s welcomed, an easy way to meet new people and also stay involved in our children’s lives as they near that road of independence.

But sometimes friends aren’t welcome. Little Timmy comes over to play with your son, and lets himself into your home as soon as you open the door. And even though he came over to play with your son, suddenly your child is playing by himself in the living room while Timmy rifles through his things upstairs. He invites himself on your family outings. He opens your refrigerator to see what you have to eat. Maybe he lies repeatedly. Maybe he makes a mess of your home and then leaves before cleaning it up. He might use language that doesn’t fly in your home. He might be a hitter, or a biter, or use some other form of brutality to get his way. He might even steal your child’s belongings, maybe even yours. Whatever he’s doing wrong, the kid gets under your skin. Little Timmy has no sense of boundaries whatsoever, fails to follow the house rules even though you have reminded him of them repeatedly, and you have noticed that your child’s behavior has gone downhill dramatically ever since Timmy made his first appearance. And yet your child insists he wants to be friends with him.

So what do you do?

Do you do nothing, since this isn’t your child and have no place telling him what to do? Do you hope that maybe the positive energy of your home will have some effect on this troubled child? Do you discipline the child, coming down harsher than the gentle reminders about how the household works? If spanking is a part of your own family’s discipline, do you spank your child’s friend if they cross the limits?  Or would you give them a time-out, or any other form of punishment?  Do you go to his parents and talk to them about Timmy’s behavior? Do you forbid your child from playing with Timmy?  How far is acceptable when it comes to other people’s children?

How Rebellion is Born

“Did you eat your breakfast?” I asked my son this morning as he turned on his video games before school.

“Uh, yeah,” he said.

“Alright, what did you eat?” I asked my little Tasmanian Devil.

“Oh yeah, I didn’t. But I’m not hungry,” he told me.

“Turn off the game. You’re not allowed to play until you have finished getting ready, and that includes eating breakfast and brushing your teeth,” I reminded him.

“Oh my gosh, Mom! You don’t care about me?” My son likes to go into dramatics when he isn’t getting his way, especially when it’s getting in the middle of his game playing time. “I told you I’m not hungry, and now you’re making me eat!”

“Turn off the game,” I told “the Taz” again. “Go eat your breakfast.” And grudgingly he did so. He ate as fast as he could, put his bowl in the sink, then went back to the games.

“Did you brush your teeth?” I asked him. He loudly groaned, then stomped upstairs to do a poor job of brushing the gunk off. 7:45, and he went back to the game. “We don’t have time for you to play. It’s time for us to leave for school,” I told him, totally aware of his reaction just as I was aware of the time.

“What?!? You mean I ate breakfast for nothing?!? You wasted all my time!” he yelled.

“No, you have to eat breakfast before school. You wasted your own time when it took you 20 minutes just to get out of bed this morning,” I pointed out to him. “You’re just going to have to play video games later when you have more time.” And while we all got ready to leave the house, he lay on the floor and sulked until we left.

I think my biggest pet peeve is the arguing that goes on over things that we have to do. Once a week I have to go grocery shopping. It never changes. If we want to eat, we have to have food. But tell that to my son and he moans and groans like I am extracting one of his teeth, and even produces a bit of tears. I have taken to scheduling my grocery shopping at times that aren’t that convenient for me (during lunch breaks or right before I pick them up after work) just because dealing with the inevitable tantrum is much more stressful. The house has to be clean. If I want peace of mind, the table needs to be cleared, the toys need to be put away, and their pigsty of a room needs to have a little bit of order so that I can get to their drawers and put their clean clothes away without killing myself on a Lego landmine. But it takes twice as long to get them to clean as I have to urge them both to keep going and not murder each other in the process. After breaking up fight after fight between them as they attempt a task they really don’t want to do, it’s hard not to succumb to just telling them they’re done and just finishing it myself. Or, more often than not, just living with the mess.

“Bedtime is at 9 pm.”

“Wash your hands after you eat.”

“For Pete’s sake, will you please tie your shoe?!”

“Homework is to be done BEFORE you play with your friends. Yes, all of it!”

“Do not eat your snack in the living room.”

“Your school lunch needs to have something more than a granola bar and a Capri-Sun.”

“You need to wear underwear if you are going to school.”

“Will you please stop doing somersaults in the grocery store aisle?”

“Stop sitting on your brother.”

“Can you please stop changing every word to the song on the radio to ‘poop’ or ‘butt’?”

“It’s after 11 am. Can you please wear something around the house besides your underwear and a blanket?”

“Why? Because I said so.”

Those are the words that used to make me cringe the most in my childhood days. “Because I said so.”

“Crissi, clean your room right now!” my mother would order as she surveyed clothes and books over what might have been a floor had it been visible.

“But why?” I would ask. “It’s my room! I’m the one who has to live in it!”

“Because I said so.”

And after that, I would take my sweet time cleaning, grumbling the whole time, doing a halfhearted job of it so that it looked like I had made a little progress, but also so it was clear that I wasn’t going to do a great job just because my mom wanted me to.

Arguing is ingrained in us. It’s part of our nature. Tell anyone to do something, and their immediate reaction is to rebel, to argue the point, to harbor resentment that someone is even trying to control our movements. Once a kid gets to the wonderful age of the terrible twos (or its even worse cousin – the tumultuous threes), they learn that they have an opinion, and it is usually opposite of yours. For the very short window of time before that, these precious little beings went along with everything their parent told them. As far as they are concerned, you hung the moon. They will follow you to the ends of the earth. After that, however, they come to the realization that they don’t have to go along with everything you say.

It all goes downhill from there.

At ages 2 & 3, kids are so into their newfound independence that they will say NO to anything you say just so that they can assert themselves. By age 4, they understand that they can make a choice based on what they want. Sometimes that goes inline with what you want. Sometimes it doesn’t. But the idea behind their decisions isn’t based on just defying your wishes, it’s an actual calculated decision that they are even willing to discuss with you. It’s a heavenly age for a child, and it continues for a couple of years. But right around age 8, they revert back in time and start questioning anything that gets in the way of their own freedom – the freedom to have scummy teeth, dirty hands, and time to play with their friends or their toys. And once they hit their teenage years, they are age 2 all over again, fighting anything that you say just because you said it. Except this time you’re an idiot and couldn’t possibly be wise enough to know what they are thinking about or doing or what goes on with them and their friends. And when the apple of your eye starts questioning your authority over and over and over again, sometimes the only thing your exasperated mind can think of to say is, “because I said so.”

(In case you missed it, a repeat of a classic example of “the Taz” arguing with me:

So how do you get through the constant arguing that occurs between a parent and a kid? I know for me, I am so exhausted from having to put up a fight to get anything done around here. It’s draining. Things would go so much easier if the kids didn’t fight me on every single task I lay in front of them, especially since it’s not like these required tasks have changed. And yet, I fully understand what it feels like to not want to do something just because it was ordered to me. Any other parents have ideas on how to change the arguing to actual agreement, or can even relate to the constant power struggles between adults and kids?