Rule number 1.
You don’t negotiate with terrorists.
Why is this trauma mama writing about terrorism? Well, because I have been negotiating with terrorists for the past 9 years and now it is coming to bite me in the a**.
I confess, I live with two terrorists. One has light brown skin, curly dark hair, and is 34 ½ inches tall. The other is covered in red fur and weighs 140lbs.
It all started 9 years ago when this lovely cuddly face entered my life. Otis Benjamin, our beautiful Bullmastiff puppy was our first child. And, he was an easy puppy. Easy to potty train, fast to learn “sit”, “stay” and other commands. But then, he hit his adolescence and I was not mentally prepared for it. Almost every day posed a new problem. Otis ate a hole in our wall and is in the corner looking like a crack addict with white powder all over his face? My fault, I probably don’t walk him enough. Otis ate the washing machine? Yes, this really happened and again, my fault because I’m sure he was bored. You can see where this is heading. Luckily, as usual, my husband stepped in, took control and there were no more negotiations. He was told to do something, and it was expected that he obey 100% of the time. If he didn’t obey, there was no cajoling, pleading, or persuading (my modus operandi) being done. He got punished. I probably should have prefaced this by stating that outside of the hospital, I am a wimp. I just couldn’t punish him. I thought being nice and sweet and understanding would lead my 140lb dog to obey because he would know I loved him. I thought, if I am “mean” to him and punish him, he won’t love me anymore. I know, I can hear all of you chuckling because, duh, my dog doesn’t think like that. He just wants to eat, sleep and know the rules so he stays out of trouble and in our laps. Yep, I said laps. He weighs more than me, but don’t tell him that!
My child, my lovely happy easy baby boy is now 19 months old and has become a hitter. He hits everything and everyone – including Otis. I’m not going to lie it is pretty funny watching a 28 pound little human go after a gigantic dog who just rolls over on him, but it isn’t right.
Wikipedia defines terrorism as “the systematic use of violence as the means of coercion for political purposes”. Although my child obviously has no political purpose and he isn’t necessarily violent, his behavior has taken my household hostage. I have tried re-direction, saying “no”, saying “no” louder, and even giving him cookies to have him stop hitting. This is now the second time I have negotiated with a terrorist. The first time has resulted in a 140 pound dog who although loves me and protects me with all his heart, doesn’t listen to me at all. About anything. In fact, I’m pretty sure he is laughing at me on the inside whenever I tell him to do something.
Two days ago, I was showing my son pictures of himself on the phone (his favorite activity and yes, I know that definitely makes him my child) and out of nowhere he slaps me in my face. In a resolve to not have another living being in my house that won’t listen to me, we had our first time out. I did it. Despite the ever present evil Mommy guilt and deep rooted concern that my child doesn’t love me, I disciplined him. I told him “time out”, plopped his little behind in a chair, held his hands and let him cry. Did I tear up a little bit? Sure. Was it hard? Absolutely. Was my husband on the couch watching us and laughing at me and how hard I was taking it? Of course. But I did it, and that leads me to the following:
Three promises to my son as we enter toddlerhood.
- I promise to try and understand.
I get it, it must suck. You completely understand what is going on, you have definite wants and needs, but you don’t have the words for it. All you have are hand gestures, emotions and a few words to try and convey sometimes very particular ideas/wants/wishes/needs. Just try it. Try to tell your friend/spouse/significant other what you want for dinner with a vocabulary that consists of doggie, ball, up, off, cow, light, fan, bye bye, and night night. It is absolutely okay for you to have emotions, get frustrated, and be upset and I promise to try and understand and be patient with you.
2. I promise to discipline you.
You are going to want to be popular one day. You are going to want friends, be invited to parties, and most likely, play sports. You are going to want to be successful in life. And this is one way in which I can help you achieve that success. Discipline will show you the rules, what is right and wrong, how to behave at home and in public, and most importantly how you treat other people – whether you like them or not. Although you hate your time out chair, your time out chair will play a role in you achieving your dreams. You will be a better person because you understand what “no” means.
3. I promise to love you.
Even when you go noodle bodied on me in the grocery store and I can’t pick you up because when I try you remain limp and everyone is staring at us and thinking how terrible of a mother I am surely because their toddler is having a meltdown, I will love you. It hurts me when you cry, but I love you too much to give in. I love you too much to allow you to behave in ways that in the future will only hurt you. And even during the hopefully brief times that you are mad at me, know that I will always love you.