We didn’t hear a lot of “that’s not how Mom does it” when the kids came to live with us. We had several family meetings at the dining room table during the first few weeks to lay down the law a bit, and made every effort to be as clear as possible about actions and consequences. But like most lessons when it took them a few tries to get it right. It also takes grandparents a few times to get it right.
For the most part, I must admit, the kids did a good job of following whatever rules we had for them. Not unusually the older two argued with us about bed times, homework, and cleaning their rooms, and the younger one tried at each meal to negotiate how many more bites she had to take before she could have dessert. All in all a fairly normal existence. We did encounter something though that their mom probably should have clued us in on about Kash including night terrors and his explosive anger.
After a bit of research about night terrors, I figured out that if I went up to his room about forty-five minutes after he fell asleep, shook him a bit just before he hit his REM sleep, he’d be just fine through the rest of the night. When I didn’t do this he’d be up an hour after he went to bed walking around the house crying, mumbling, and still sleeping–he never remembered it the next day. The anger issue on the other hand posed a bigger problem for us.
Most of the time Kash was a fairly predictable kid; we knew how he’d react to his sisters’ taunts and teasing. We knew he would seek out approval for a job well done or show excitement when his favorite show came on TV. Kash is a kind, caring, and loving little boy who enjoyed hugs and making us laugh.
One particularly hot summer day we were driving down the road after I’d picked the kids up from camp. I tried to make sure that I always had a snack bag and cold drink for them in the car because, while Warwick is not a big city, it takes about twenty-five minutes to get from camp to home. On this particular day I’d said “no” to something Kash asked to do or have, I can’t remember what it was at this point. When I said “no” Kash kicked the seat and started screaming. Then, from the back seat his black Croc came whizzing past my right ear and hit the windshield. I’m sure I yelled something back to him. Then I pulled over to the side of the road, rolled the passenger side window down and threw his shoe out the window. As I did, I said to him “You obviously don’t need it anymore.”
Over the next twenty-five minutes I endured wails of “You’re the worst grandma in the world”, “Are you going back to get his shoe?”, “How could you do that?” “Mom wouldn’t have done that.” At NO point on that ride home did I think for a minute I would turn around and get the shoe, nor would I ever pick it up. All I heard in my own head was my mother saying: Don’t remake a decision, stick to it. If you unmake a decision around discipline you’re only undermining yourself. Be consistent.
The next day I picked the kids up again and for several more days in a row. Each day we passed by the same stretch of road where Kash’s Croc sat lying near the curb. The second day Coco asked, are you stopping to get Kash’s shoe, I said “no”. By the end of the week and still seeing the Croc, it became kind of a joke among us “Did you see Kash’s Croc?” “Do you think it will still be there after it snows?”
Disciplining kids in general is a challenging business. Disciplining someone else’s kids…well, that’s a full contact sport!