Warning! Controversial parenting practices to follow. Read at your own risk and judge not lest you be judged. ;)
So, remember the other day when I hesitantly wrote that we're in a pretty peaceful time with Mr. Carson? Well, today I TAKE IT BACK! Someone slipped him a naughty pill when I wasn't looking, because this morning he was a nightmare. Most of the morning was fairly typical frustrating stuff--whining, arguing, refusal to do anything remotely close to what I asked, etc., but the event that took the cake was at the grocery store. I mean, of COURSE it was at the crowded, public grocery store at lunchtime!
I really should have learned my lesson by now: things are always worse when I'm in a hurry. We were on our way to lunch with my mom and my gparents, but I needed to stop and get something for the lunch and also something for dinner tonight at a friends house. I was all packed and ready to go, but we had to wait for Syd to wake up from her morning nap. I was a little rushed, and Carson can smell that a mile off like carnivore on fresh meat. Something catastrophic (sarcasm) happened while getting in the car, I don't remember what, and it led to a Grade A screaming fit before we had even left the cul-de-sac. The store I needed to stop at is just around the corner, and at this rate, I knew we wouldn't make it out of the car, let alone through the store, so I kindly asked if there was anything I could do to help him not be sad. He said turn around and get Minky. So, even though we were late, I turned around and got Minky as a goodwill gesture, hoping it would buy me a few moments of decent behavior at the store. It did not.
By the time we got to the store, he had taken off his socks and shoes and thrown them around the car, and not stopped whining about wanting to stay at home and that he was hungry. By the time we got INTO the store, he had screamed for all the world to hear that I was mean for not letting him ride in the "car" cart, which we don't do anymore, after the 37th time of getting one and him refusing to stay inside, but instead walk alongside me while I push one of those carts that takes the narrow grocery store corners like a semi-truck. The no-car-cart rule has been in place for several months, but OF COURSE, today it was an injustice the likes of which the world has never seen. By the time we got past the breezeway of the store, I had already had to nag him repeatedly that we weren't buying candy or treats, because he ran to the little "claw" vending game and was asking to play. (Have I ever let you? No. Why do you think that will change?)
By the time we got to the bananas, I had a 2 second heart-attack because he had disappeared, until I saw him at some candy display, reaching into some bulk candy. By the time we got to the bread aisle, I was completely out of my "Keep it together, Jen" pep talks, my reluctant-but-creative distracting preschool games like "Let's race!" or "Help me find what's on the list!", and I was completely out of patience. We got in line, and he ran down the nearest aisle to some Easter candy. I calmly brought him back, got down to his eye-level and said firmly, "You need to stay right by me, and you may NOT touch the candy, or you will have to sit in the cart."
OH, little man, you did NOT just do that!
Yes. He. Did.
He ran right back to where I had pulled him from and put one finger on a bag of blasted Cadburry Eggs and looked back at me. I walked over, grabbed his wrist, and pulled him back to the cart. Of COURSE, the child's seat was completely full of groceries, because Syd's in her carseat taking up the entire basket of the cart. (Sitting there quietly, watching the whole thing go down, by the way.) Holding tightly onto the wrist of a screaming, writhing, kicking child with my left hand, I started to load my stuff onto the conveyor belt with my right hand. All the people in all the lines were starting to watch. Then, I picked up that noisy, naughty little boy and forced his too-big legs into the toddler seat of the cart and buckled the belt. He screamed "YOU'RE HURTING ME! OW! OW! OW! THAT HURTS ME! STOP IT! STOP IT!", reached out to hit me, and then? He spit in my face. Oh, I am not making this up.
By this time, I'm sure you can imagine the scene, because we have ALL been nearby when something like this is happening. And I KNOW what people are thinking! That's what is so hard for me. They are all thinking that my child is out-of-control, I should GET him under control, and the best part is they are all thinking I should do this in a calm and loving manner without spanking him. FAT CHANCE! Sorry, what I mean is, I totally understand the choice not to spank. We rarely spank, but I have no problem doing it under total defiance like this. And once I give myself permission to stop the chitchat and do the deed, I experience an unexplainable calm. I took a deep breath (wiped the spittle from my cheek), and held his hand in my face. I said quietly, "That. Is unacceptable. You do NOT treat me that way. You are going to get a spanking when we get to the car."
I think he knew I was a little chicken to do it in public, because he continued the tirade of attempted kicking and hitting and screaming as I paid for my groceries and walked out, being stared at the whole time. My favorite part was when the clerk says over his yelling, "Do you want help out to your car?" I didn't know if she was joking or not. Get me OUT OF HERE, lady.
We got to the car, I loaded the couple bags of groceries, put Sydney in her seat, and judging onlookers or not, I pulled down his pants and gave him one swat on the cheek. It wasn't even very hard. He immediately melted in tears and his body melted into my lap. Yes, we were late, but we are firm that spanking always has to come with lots of physical loving afterwards. I just sat in the passenger seat and rocked him for a good 3-4 minutes. After a decent interlude, I asked him if he knew why he got a spanking. He said because he ran away. I said yes, but also because he was mean to me (with the hitting and the spitting? remember that?) and we don't treat each other that way in our family. He voluntarily said he was sorry. I forgave him. I told him I don't like spanking him and that I loved him very much. He let me hold him for a little bit longer.
Oh man, I wish I could say that was the first scene we've had like that in public, but it's not. (And I'm WAY more able to handle it when I'm not 5 and 8 months pregnant. But those are stories for another post.) And I wish it was the last, but I'm sure it's not. I wish I could say that his behavior was angelic for the rest of the day, but it wasn't. (It was better, though!) And for some reason, it feels cathartic to share my story with all of you, even if you would have done things differently. I do apologize to my friends (and sisters-in-law) who don't have kids yet. I know these kinds of stories should come with a warning label. But for everyone else, maybe the next time this happens to a distressed mother in line nearby, you'll give her a smile and an understanding nod, and say a little prayer for her!