Once you’ve tried to get a pistachio out of your son’s nose after you’ve spent a good five minutes explaining why food doesn’t go in your nostril, you start to think to yourself: I suck at explaining. (You don’t go all the way to I suck at parenting because for God’s sake, you aren’t morbid or overly-dramatic. You know how to rein it in.)
When it got too irritating to have offered such cogent explanations only to have my children proceed with their chosen courses of action, I decided to do an experiment. I’ma teach my kids about consequences.
Consequences became my silent battle cry.
I started keeping my explanations short– it might be messy if you poop in the tub or eating Mommy’s lipstick means you would have any to use next time you want to look “fancy.” I resolved to let them learn lessons they apparently needed to learn the hard way.
Then, I heard my name called over the loudspeaker at gymnastics.
At first, I was sure that Sadie had crushed her clavicle trying to do a head stand or that Simon had taken a bite out of one of the instructors, since that’s his new thing. I spotted one of the instructors holding Sadie’s hand as they headed towards me.
“Do you have other clothes for Sadie?”
“I don’t,” I said, remembering that the only things in the stroller were Goldfish crumbs and squeezy applesauce packets.
“Well, she can’t do gymnastics in her princess costume. It’s dangerous because she keeps tripping on the skirt.”
I looked at Sadie who was trying to hide behind the teacher’s leg. I had mentioned to Sadie that trying to tumble in a princess costume would be a problem, but she insisted. I’d eschewed the power struggle and told her as long as she wears some leggings or shorts under the dress I’d let her prove me wrong.
The teacher kept apologizing to me as if I was the one who had my heart set on my daughter wearing a princess costume to her gymnastics class. “Believe me, I think this is all turning out perfectly,” I assured her.
A mother sitting nearby offered Sadie an outfit from the inventory in her stroller, which included whole grain bagels, almond vegan cheese, and a leotard! I helped Sadie get into her borrowed duds and stuffed the princess dress on top of the snack crumbs. I watched her do her thing out on the mats, wearing a stranger’s clothes and waving at me after every “cartwheel.”
I wondered if my approach to consequences was right. Thing is, I won’t know until Friday when it’s time to suit up again for gymnastics. I’m not sure what I’ll do if she insists on wearing something impractical, like a miniature ball gown made of cheap tulle. I think I’ll offer her a friendly reminder about last week’s “situation” and then pack a spare leotard next to the snacks.
I still suck at explaining, but I’m getting good at consequences.