Wednesday, January 09, 2008

1/9/08 The Misunderstanding

I have a new one-tolerance (as opposed to "zero") policy with Gabriel abusing Julian: one incident gets one warning, then one more, he goes straight to his room. I don't bother verifying; Julian's scccrreeeeEEECH of pain, preceded by Gabriel's bloodcurdling scolding (gee I wonder where he gets that from), is enough. They fight over Julian's piano, overall a good thing -- Gabriel loves to "learn" to play the songs and memorize them, but when Julian tries to play with his own birthday present, it often comes to blows.

Tonight, Gabriel got sent to his room for a second offense, and is so often the case, it didn't stop there. While I was making dinner, I had to run up the stairs numerous times to check on unsettling noises. One time I found two boxes of toys scattered about his room, and I told him he had to clean them up now....then realizing the impracticality of enforcing "now" (I had all four burners going on the stove!), I changed my story to that he couldn't go downstairs until he'd cleaned them up.

A few minutes later, he was downstairs. I was furious -- I hadn't let him out yet! I dragged him up in a rage. But his outraged-innocent response was genuine: "You said I could come downstairs when I cleaned it up!"

Hmm! Busted on a language subtlety. I meant he couldn't come back downstairs until I said so, as was the case to begin with, but now there was an additional condition: he'd have to have cleaned up the toys. But he took it to mean that cleaning up the toys was all he'd have to do to earn himself the right to go back down. (In retrospect, that'd have been a good exit strategy, if I'd thought of it.)

As it was, I had to give him an apology, a hug, and then a stern warning about pushing, kicking, pinching, scratching or generally injuring Julian again.

It struck me again how ordered Gabriel is: being banished and then dragged up the stairs didn't make him cry, but the injustice had him nearly in tears. This is why, at least for now, asking him what happened when there's a problem is effective. When he's innocent, he really acts it.

(As a side note: much brother-bashing goes on around here ignored, that's just part of life. But there are blatant offenses on one end of the huge gray zone called "boys will be boys," and those are punishable. I've seen handprints, teethmarks, red welts, long scratches and countless other Gabriel-inflicted injuries on Julian over the years. I look forward to the day when Julian is bigger and heavier than his brother and gives him a sound beating-up, but I'm losing confidence that'll ever happen.)

Speaking of troublesome...Katrina! Actually, she was full of wiggles and giggles this morning, just about jumping out of her skin with laughing and raspberries and overall silliness. But she's started genuine tantrums too: throwing herself on the floor and flailing her arms if she doesn't get her way (like having crayons taken away when she starts to throw them).

When I picked her up from Melissa's today, Katrina had her whole heart and soul wrapped up in this book, and I had to plan carefully to pick her up and go, because I knew she'd throw her whole body into a fierce protest. Fortunately, she and Melissa have a "game" of Melissa "chasing" Katrina as I carry her to the car, and that turns her energy from furious to joyful.

I keep telling myself that if she's going to turn into a Gabriel, that's overall a good thing. Or will be in another 2-1/2 years. Meantime, I could use some guidance from William Safire.


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