I remember an article I wrote about eight years ago reprimanding parents who let their children cry in church, disturbing the rest of us heaven-bound Christians who wanted to listen to the sermon. I also had a few words for mums who bribe their children with sweets and chocolate to get them to cooperate. Needless to say, I was young, naïve and had no children.
Fast forward to 2016 and I sit with my 11-month- old baby in the service where she imitates the preacher, dishes diapers to strangers and pats people’s heads for smiles. No, I’m not trying to distract everyone; just a desperate mom who wants to listen to a sermon away from the chaos of the crèche where you find the service ended and you have no idea what the preaching was about.
Which other ways have I been “that” mom who sets herself up?
1. I have bribed my son with treats to get him to cooperate. I make him popcorn or give him my phone to play a game so that he can stop whining when I want to finish a movie or chat on Facebook. In the supermarket, I have succumbed and bought him the chocolate he wants just because I do not have the mental energy to deal with a tantrum. I give him lollipop when we are in the car to make him forget he is hungry. For supper, I let him eat cake just because I didn’t want to get involved in the battle of wills.
2. I have forced him to eat, with varying levels of success. I used to be a firm believer that children should be allowed to ask for food when they are hungry, and to say no when they are full. Until I met my son who will only ask for drinking chocolate or juice and never food. The problem with leaving him hungry until he decides to ask for food is that hunger is the source of major toddler meltdowns.
So to avoid a meltdown when we are headed to school or church, which then gets everyone involved in a bad mood, I force him to take his breakfast even if that means I have to hold a cane to him.
3. On holding canes, I thought I would be the mum who gives hugs to the tantrumming toddler, does timeouts, never yells (especially that one), and has perfectly behaved children. Honestly, how are you supposed to talk reason to a two-year- old who will ignore you until you yell for the umpteenth time? Or one who keeps hitting his sister and runs away laughing telling you, “You can’t catch me.” I try not to result to caning out of frustration and anger. But sometimes only the “mwiko” can bring the results I need. And sometimes (hiding my face) I have been driven to the wall and need an outlet to teach them who is the mum.
4. I let my children sleep in my bed when they were small. My daughter hated her cot- she would wake up screaming a minute after being placed there, every time. Not even changing the mattress helped. She also woke up five times, sometimes more, in a night to feed. One night almost dropped her as I dozed while feeding her. That’s the night I started feeding her while lying down in bed.
Let’s just say I got my sleep but taking her out afterwards was hard work.
Related: Am I Turning Into my Mother?
5. I let my children run my life, sometimes. We have eaten chips because that’s what they want for supper. We have watched cartoons and entire day because the kids won’t let us change the channel. I let my son run around the house for hours with no bottoms on because that’s what he wants. Last Sunday even the dad succumbed and let him go to church in shoes that were clashing with his outfit because that’s what he wanted. We have learnt to choose our battles and to know that things that are worth fighting about.
Staying in the house with no shorts or underwear will not kill any of us so why fight over it.
6. I sometimes ignore bad behaviour. Often all a parent needs is 15 minutes of quiet and calm. So instead of always intervening when one does something to the other, sometimes I ignore them to test each other’s limits and willpower. As long as they are not strangling each other, I will ignore their bickering and toy snatching and let them sort it out themselves.
7. I have parented by threats that I don’t mean to implement. Like telling my son that I will never buy him another toy if he doesn’t let his sister play with his trucks. I also threaten to call the neighbours or visitors to our house to get my son to put on his pants.