Home > Learning, Parenting > Trash can parenting?

Trash can parenting?

Dropping my son off for his first day of preschool was a challenge. Four days of classes later, picking him up is the challenge. He’s so happy at preschool, the thought of going home with me is about as pleasing to him as, oh, spinach and sardine cake. There’s kicking. There’s screaming. There’s biting, flailing, whining, limp-going, screaming, and all manner of behavior I didn’t even know my son knew.

Hand in hand: much better than either in the garbage can!

Hand in hand: much better than either in the garbage can!

After another showdown yesterday, complete with lots of screaming in the car afterward, I stopped for food. “Where are we going, Mama?” Li’l D asked.

“I’m going to dump you in a trash can,” I mumbled under my breath, or so I thought. I opened the car door, began putting on the shoes he’d thrown in a fit of pique and was marveling at the sudden silence when I felt a hand on my shoulder. Li’l D quietly implored me, “Mama, please don’t put me in the trash bin.”

“Oh, sweetie!” I said, mortified with myself. “I love you. I would never, ever put you in the trash can.”

He climbed out of the car and hugged me tight. “I’m not going in the trash can?”

“No,” I thought, feeling like I might deserve a dive there myself. “We’re getting food.”

“Oh. I love you, mama!” Immediately afterward, he began daydreaming aloud everything we’d eat, leaving me a chance to marvel at how quickly kids move on . . . and reflecting how I, as the adult in our relationship, should probably strive to seek–and communicate!–adult-appropriate solutions in the future.

  1. January 5, 2013 at 6:39 am

    “Mama, that’s you walking in the forest with me!” — Li’l D, newly awakened, climbing into my lap just as I posted this 🙂

  2. January 5, 2013 at 6:42 am

    You just can’t let them hear what you’re thinking. It’s okay to think it. We all do. My daughter was always involved in pre-school play and wanted to stay “just a few more minutes, Mommy” when all I wanted to do was get home and make dinner and relax. They can make you crazy but you love them.

    • January 5, 2013 at 7:17 am

      I’m looking forward to when Li’l D gets to “just a few more minutes,” because right now, it’s, “I don’t want to go home! I’m not going home!” The preschool folks inform me it’ll be no time at all, and I trust them, seeing as they have much more experience with three-year-olds than do I.

      I giggled at your first sentence. I’m still not sure how he heard it since I was outside the car and walking around it, but I did get a good lesson–or a few–from it. 🙂

  3. January 5, 2013 at 7:07 am

    Ahhh…transitions are hard. We went through that with grandson. “Five minutes!” I would say, and then, “two minutes…one minute”, then we would go. I learned not to park the car in the driveway blocking other pick ups. I learned, yes, I would have to park the car, walk extra steps so we could play the five minutes game. No, it didn’t always work–five minutes became ten several times.

    • January 5, 2013 at 7:20 am

      We’ve applied countdowns for other things and they work, but they’re not working (yet) for preschool. Going into several 10-minute increments is not an option for us; with our typical drive being 35 minutes each way before the peak of traffic, every additional minute we spend increases the traffic we encounter on the way home. I’m already uncomfortable with keeping Li’l D in the car more than an hour a day. Two hours a day is something we can only do very, very transitionally. I do trust the preschool folks when they say this is indeed a transition period that will seem short in retrospect. 🙂

  4. January 5, 2013 at 7:15 am

    As much as they love us they can hate us (or the situation) when they’re not getting their way, and it really pushes our buttons! This brings back memories, and I can honestly say I’m grateful to be past all that now. Just remind yourself when he acts out that his fiery display of immature emotions shows his potential for passion and determination, which can be very useful qualities when he learns to focus them toward success as an adult. Thanks for sharing this!

    • January 5, 2013 at 7:23 am

      Just remind yourself when he acts out that his fiery display of immature emotions shows his potential for passion and determination, which can be very useful qualities when he learns to focus them toward success as an adult.
      Oooh! I love this! Thank you for this perspective, which strikes me immediately as both true and wonderful. It reminds me of one of Li’l D’s doctor visits, where his doctor said that with nurturing, he could be anything that he wants to be. I just have to figure out what the right kind of nurturing is to develop him and prepare him to go the ways he wants to go. I’m glad to know so early how much support, encouragement and dialogue I’ll have along the way to help with that. Thank you. ♥

      • January 5, 2013 at 7:29 am

        Your heart is in the right place and that counts for most of it.

  5. January 5, 2013 at 7:25 am

    We’re lucky kids are so forgiving of us when our patience is running short! I remember reacting in a very similar manner when my kids tested my patience in similar ways. In fact, Li’l D had probably forgotten all about your comment long before you quit beating yourself up over it.

    • January 5, 2013 at 7:59 am

      We are lucky! Every time moments like this come up, I’m reminded how I’d like to be a little more kid-like. Big shenanigans, sure, but equally big forgiveness and love. 🙂

  6. January 5, 2013 at 8:04 am

    I always read your posts and come away with something.I love that you see how little kids can bounce back.They see our sentences so visually.He may have even thought of Ocsar the Grouch.You are such a good mom.

    • January 5, 2013 at 8:28 am

      They see our sentences so visually.
      That was one of my huge reminders last night! Kids perceive things literally and visually, so whereas I was half-jokingly grumbling, he was actually picturing himself in a garbage bin. D’oh! I thank you so much for your kind, encouraging words.

  7. Lisha
    January 5, 2013 at 8:11 am

    Hahaha! I used to tell mine I was going to sell them to the gypsies. Then they got old enough to learn what gypsies were and it sounded like fun. That’s when we learned about losing privileges.

    Keep up the good work, mama!

    • January 5, 2013 at 8:29 am

      HAHAHAHA! Your comment made me laugh aloud. I’m going to have to share this with Anthony when I, still chuckling, make the trek back to the bedrooms in a few moments. Thank you. ♥

  8. January 5, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Oh. My. Goodness. My parents said this to me all the time, but ALWAYS as a joke. So, I have said it to me own children (also as a joke). My younger kids know when I’m joking, but my oldest does not. So that has resulted in much anxiety. Actually a lot of my kidding around has poor results for the same reason.

    Thankfully, most kids are amazingly resilient.

    • January 5, 2013 at 8:37 am

      My mom used to say she found us in a Dumpster, which I now remember actually believing for many years. I just took it as a matter of fact and wondered why she was half-smiling behind her stern words. I must’ve been in third or fourth grade when I finally said, “Nuh-uh!”

      I have a realllllly hard time imagining saying this to Li’l D, but I love remembering my mom saying it to me. It’s a good reminder to bear in mind that Li’l D is not, in fact, a little adult, but still very much a literal-minded (and sweet and loving and wonderful) kid.

      I am so thankful for children’s resiliency. We had to take Li’l D in for an exam a few weeks back where I had to take an active role in what must have felt like torture to him. As he was screaming, “Mama, mama, hold my hand!” I did, choking back tears and wishing he could see me. When we left the room, Anthony asked, “Is he OK?” I promptly burst into tears, leading him to ask instead, “Are you OK?” Li’l D played on the iPad the whole car ride, while I cried. And then cried some more.

      I wanted to cry every time I thought about it for the next couple of weeks, but Li’l D? He made a couple of references to not wanting to go back in “the ‘chine” and made no more reference to it within a couple of days. He was comforted to know that there are “bad doctors” (who put you in “the ‘chine”) and “good doctors” (like his doctor, who would never do such a thing and need not be feared). We’ll have to correct this misinformation later down the road, but for a three-year-old, it was what we could do.

      I was thankful for and even a little envious of his resiliency. Whatever I can do to encourage that to remain even after he starts seeing not-literal things for what they are, I hope to always–or as close to always as possible–do.

  9. January 5, 2013 at 8:55 am

    My wife burst in to tears the other night realizing that the baby – who is a little under 3 months old – will someday leave home to go to college. It didn’t seem like the best time to mention kindergarten.

    • minisculegiants
      January 5, 2013 at 11:06 am

      I used to have nightmares about that kind of thing. So sad to see your children grow up! But so wonderful, as well!

    • January 5, 2013 at 11:21 am

      Hahaha! Hilarious. And by “your wife” did you mean “I.” 😉

    • January 6, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      I won’t lie: my first week back to work, I cried every single minute of every single drive, with lots of fun mid-day breaks for crying, too. Happily, it got easier. (Great for now, not so helpful then, I know!)

  10. January 5, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Ha! Like Lisha, we used to tell Carter that we were waiting for the gypsies to come and take him (this was during his very colicky babyhood) but they never did, lucky for us. We don’t have as much problems with transitions as we do with temper when Carter is told he is misbehaving or if he loses a game he goes off in a huge rage and thrashes his bedroom. I am at a total loss with how to work through this. We are doing the ignoring of his temper fits and when he calms down he had to clean up his handy work and we discuss alternatives such as punching his large stuffed hippo. Let me know if you have any tips or have come across some knowledge in a parenting book (I am not usually one for those type of books unless a certain problem comes up that I can’t solve on my own.)

    On the plus side Li’l D loves school! That is wonderful. If he like coloring or reading maybe you could have a new picture in the car with some crayons for him to color with (attached to a clip board so it is all official and different). I love that picture of you two hand in hand walking along that path. 🙂

    • January 6, 2013 at 3:50 pm

      Ai ai ai! I wish I had any tips or pointers, but . . . nada. If I see anything like this in my forays through blogs (the only place I read anything resembling parenting advice, a fact to which it sounds like you relate!), I’ll link it up here!

      I am so glad Li’l D loves school. I was terrified of a scenario where we took him, he didn’t want to go, and we ended up having to make an escape with him still crying. I’d much, much rather have it this way than the other, and I hope this love of school endures.

      I brought my iPad the first day, but forgot it in my office. D’oh! It has a drawing program and a few books that Li’l D loves. I’m aiming for 40-60% remembering this week. 😀

  11. January 5, 2013 at 10:27 am

    I swear, kids hear and pick up everything. Well, I know it may not be good he heard you but at least he was acting on his best behavior after that! 😉 I used to babysit these 3 girls and they literally made me want to tear my hair out because they wouldn’t share, and just wanted to sit and watch tv all day. If they waned to play the games I brought for them, markers, puzzles, etc. all three would want the same marker and start fighting. The youngest, who was only three and could barely talk, would end up breaking the fight up and sharing. She was my little comrade for her two older sisters!

    • January 6, 2013 at 4:05 pm

      I love that the youngest was an example in sharing! Do you know if she kept that trait as she grew older? I’d love to know!

      • January 6, 2013 at 10:26 pm

        I always wondered about the girls, especially the youngest and I definitely think she is still the same as she’s grown up. There were a couple of pictures with her head shaved, so I was worried if there was something wrong health wise, but she did it for a great cause. She grew her hair long and shaved her head for locks of love, so still such a kind hearted soul as she grows up it seems. 🙂

      • January 8, 2013 at 5:07 am

        So awesome! 😀

  12. January 5, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Oh. There will be other mistakes, Deb. Times we screw up and say the wrong words. It’s not like blogging. We can’t have all that control. There is no delete key.

    And yet.

    Children are resilient. And forgiving.

    And you have done a hundred bajillion living things that will offset this one moment. And you will continue to show love. Be gentle with yourself.

    • January 6, 2013 at 4:08 pm

      That was my consolation, really: that when I stacked up the really terrible moments against the really terrific ones, the terrible ones were but a small fraction. Now, as for the mediocre ones? There is definitely a heckuva lot of room for improvement on my end . . .

  13. January 5, 2013 at 11:57 am

    I don’t know, maybe it’s the mood I’m in, maybe it’s just my twisted personality, but when your first paragraph went into a description of “There’s kicking. There’s screaming. There’s biting, flailing, whining, limp-going, screaming, and all manner of behavior”, I was honestly waiting for “and you should have seen how L’il D acted, too!”. 😀
    Like I said, just my warped personality…..

    • January 6, 2013 at 4:13 pm

      Bwahahaha! That sure would’ve taken the post a whole different direction! I’m chuckling just to imagine it, frankly. 🙂

  14. Donnell Jeansonne
    January 5, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    It feels better knowing I’m not the only parent who’s said something upsetting that was heard and wasn’t intended to be heard. One time I upset RB so bad because he was acting up, and I told him he was being stinky. Then he kept it up and I said, “You stink.” And he just burst into tears. I wanted to die.

    • January 6, 2013 at 4:15 pm

      That was about my feeling. I looked at Li’l D’s sad, scared eyes and felt more terrible than I thought I could over a few words. I hopehopehope incidents like this will be few, although I am glad to see through the comments here I am not a terrible person for having slipped up here. Just a person.

  15. January 5, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    I don’t know … sometimes I think it’s good to let our kids see/hear our frustration with their behavior. They aren’t perfect and one day they are going to mess up in front of their kid(s). What happens if they never see us mess up? What if they never see God’s grace at work in us? What would that communicate to them?

    A long time ago I found myself lamenting over my lack of parenting skills. I was so frustrated with my own outbursts of anger and my inability to consistently communicate love to my kids. About that time a friend said something to me that helped a lot and then God said something to me that changed my life.

    My friend: “If your kids never see you mess up and change, how will they know God can change them?

    God: “Even if you were a perfect parent, it would still be about my grace.”

    God isn’t just about us doing it right. He’s about giving grace when we mess up – which we ALL do (and will continue to do). Grace is the point (Ephesians chapter 1 is a good place to start), not our perfection. Our kids need to know it’s okay to mess up. We teach them that when we mess up and then humble ourselves and apologize. They learn about grace through us, or they learn that God is hard-hearted and stern. If we don’t give ourselves the grace to mess up, how will they ever know that grace is there for them?

    Love you, Deborah, and your honesty.

    • January 6, 2013 at 4:19 pm

      I’ve made a few mistakes in front of my son, and I’ve been glad for them. I’m glad that he sees me as human and capable of mistakes, although he so far seems to think they’re just silly ones–even after Friday evening’s mistake! I agree that there’s merit in seeing parents (and other adults) make mistakes, own up to those mistakes, and hopefully not perpetrate the same ones again. Perfection is way too high a pedestal for kids to reach, and a dangerous one, I think, to aim for with too much gravitas.

      What made me so sad about this incident was he (not someone/something else) was directly hurt by my mistake. Still, there’s probably even benefit in that for him. I’m glad for this new light through which to see it, and thank you–immensely–for laying it out for me. ♥

  16. January 6, 2013 at 12:27 am

    There will be more of these moments I suspect. I don’t believe any of us escape the parenting trap without having said something aloud that should have been kept behind our tongues. When I was growing up my mother always said, “someday you will grow up and have a daughter, she will be just like you!” It wasn’t said in joy but as a curse.

    Of course I didn’t have children, thought often I had dodged that particular curse. Until two little boys entered my life. As my step-sons grew they were indeed just like me in more ways than they should have been. I often found things slipping from my lips that should have stayed in my head. Children teach us so much about ourselves and about life.

    • January 8, 2013 at 5:02 am

      I’ve already had at least one–gah! Yesterday, Li’l D surprised me by not wanting to go to school. He was half-limp and forcing me to mostly support him on the long walk to the entrance when he finally went fully limp. Frustrated and not wanting to be late, out of my mouth slipped, “Remember what I said about the trash can?” Just like that. No forethought, no nothing, just out of my mouth and into his ears.

      Understandably, he was even more reluctant to let go of me after that, but we got him calmed down and reassured I’d be back just as soon as I was done with work. I promptly called Anthony and explained what had happened, then followed up soon thereafter with a text explaining that nothing in this world is more important to me than our son’s safety, so I’d better act like it.

      Anthony texted back some very reassuring words: “Just like him, you’re learning too. We all are.” I learned a very, very important lesson yesterday. I’m sure to make lots more mistakes as I go, but this particular one will not, I hope, be among them.

      • January 8, 2013 at 5:18 am

        I should ask the loves of my life, those I adore above all others to compile a list of things I said through the years. I suspect it would shock me. They survived, thrived even. They turned into wonderful, loving and bright men. Believe me Deb, unless you are intentionally cruel these things pass, our children quickly forgive and forget.

      • January 8, 2013 at 5:21 am

        Thank you so much for the reassurances. ♥ About 30 minutes after my original message, Anthony sent another reassuring message. My heart was swelling with love and hope for doing it better next time. I later told him, “It was like you knew I was still sitting there beating myself up!”

        It seems almost too late to ask this now, but is it okay to call you Val? I’m always on the verge of typing it and then delete it in case you hate that.

  17. January 6, 2013 at 4:46 am

    I STILL haven’t caught on that the boy will hear everything I say. He fake honked and yelled “WHAT’S YOUR PROBWEM, WADY!” the other day as we drove, slowly, behind an old lady.

    • January 8, 2013 at 5:06 am

      This simultaneously makes me laugh and cringe, thinking of how Li’l D said, “Dammit!” a week and a half ago. I almost asked, “Where did you learn that word?” and then pictured myself stubbing my toe, bumping my head, dropping something fragile . . . alllllll to the same response. *cough*

      I wish I’d ignored his use of that word, because my saying “that’s not a good word” meant I heard it roughly eight dozen times the next two hours.

  18. January 6, 2013 at 7:26 am

    This post, and all these comments are so heartening. We have definitely all been there. Oh boy, have I been there. It’s something I’m acutely aware of, but you know, when you’re frustrated, well. Yeah. Kids seem to have an innate ability to reach right into your soul and squeeze it.

    My oldest’s latest thing is when my voice starts to get an edge of frustration in it, he tells me “I just love you, Mommy.” It’s like some evolutionary survival instinct. Must be. Also, whenever I speak even remotely sharply to my husband, my boys jump on it. “No, Mommy!” says the two-year-old. “Mommy, those are not nice words!” says the four-year-old. I like to think of them as my Mussar Rabbis. They keep me in check.

    Good luck to us all!

    • January 8, 2013 at 5:11 am

      Looking up “Mussar rabbis” confirmed my suspicions and made me smile. Li’l D is like that for me, sometimes. He, too, has taken to saying “I love you, Mommy” when I’m frustrated. On NYE I wrote a brief post about such an incident, which involved the most massive overflowing diaper I’ve yet encountered. It’s such a sweet response–so much nicer than the instinctive “bite me!” one to anyone who’s frustrated that seems to replace it in many adults, myself included.

      When I’m taking off my glasses and putting them somewhere they oughtn’t be, I often imagine my fiancee saying, “PUT THOSE BACK ON YOUR FACE.” Maybe when I’m getting frustrated, I need to picture Li’l D saying, “Be nice, Mommy.” The thought sure does make me smile from here.

  19. January 6, 2013 at 8:42 am

    Oh gosh….how many times I have muttered something, only to find a look of horror on my child’s face and I’ve had to do this very thing…reassure them. We’ve all been there. Just very few admit it. I love when others admit to being an imperfect parent…it makes me feel like I’m not as bad as I make myself out to be. We aren’t bad parents at all. Just imperfect. And that’s okay.

    • January 8, 2013 at 5:19 am

      I love it, too. I think it can be so hard in this world, where it feels like everything we say is being documented and catalogued by someone. I think that makes it all the more important to say, “D’oh, I messed up!” It’s bound to happen, since we’re human, right? My goal is to make it happen less and less. It’s kinda like how editing books makes for better writing. I made so many of some errors over and over again while writing The Monster’s Daughter that I was 842% resolved not to make those same mistakes as I wrote my way through my next book. It’s so much easier editing that book as a result, wouldn’t you know?! And wouldn’t you know . . . I’m making a whole new set of mistakes, but overall, the first and second drafts of this book are much, much shinier than even the fourth, fifth and final drafts of The Monster’s Daughter. Not such good news for Li’l D, perhaps, but great news for any siblings he might end up having! 😉

  20. Val
    January 6, 2013 at 9:53 am

    I don’t have kids myself but I often wonder what my mother said under her breath about me when I was a child! Can’t have been good!

    Your child sounds like a sweetheart – when not being unbearable! 😉

    • January 8, 2013 at 5:23 am

      He is a total sweetheart! That’s part of why I feel so bad when I snap. He’s so sweet and loving the vast majority of the time, and eloquent in his loving, that I can’t believe I have so little patience for the not-so-sweet moments. Like him, though, I’m learning as we go. 😀

  21. January 6, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    The capacity of little ones to process and move on is amazing……too bad most of us lose that as we get older 🙂

  22. January 7, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    I feel you, Deb. I went through this with Maycee in daycare. Not so much preschool. She seemed ready to come home every time. But, daycare and also day-long playdates when I had to work and other moms were off. They were so hard on me! The fussing, screaming, the whole nine yards you described here. The one side of me was so grateful she loved being where she was, the other side felt awful that she wasn’t more excited to see her mama…but then…lightbulb moment…I realized…it had nothing to do with me, ha, ha! Go figure. Now, Maycee still fights me on a lesser scale when playing with friends. She wants sleepovers on a moment’s notice, and when the big, terrible, “No, honey. I can’t do that without some planning” comes out…geez….you’d think I’d told her we’re moving to Zimbabwe and never coming back to see her friends again-ever! One phase ends…another is always beginning. Hang in there…it does get (a little) better. 😉

    • January 8, 2013 at 5:31 am

      Getting him into the car has been pretty illuminating! It’s like he’s on preschool time until he gets to my car, at which point he realizes he’s on mama time . . . and is, with the single exception, immediately happy to be there.

      The fact he loves these other facets of his life so much is heartening to me. A small part of me wishes I could keep him safe and close forever, but a much, much larger part is happy to see him taking to the whole wide world with such enthusiasm. It’s a beautiful thing.


  23. January 7, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    beautiful honest post. Xx

  24. January 8, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Oh, I don’t know. The trash can comment kind of worked, didn’t it? Would it be so wrong to buy a mini trash can and pat it menacingly the next time you pick him up and it looks like a tantrum is a-brewin? Would it?

  1. March 11, 2014 at 7:01 am

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