No shave yet, but my two bits got a haircut tonight. First I took all three bits to a noodle/stew place for dinner, though not before the boys let out a little energy.
Not enough though. Dinner out with my children was little more than an exercise in food waste and parental humiliation. Katrina threw a tantrum and started to strip, and the boys came up with one thing after another to be admonished for. In general I don't like to give generic instructions like "behave," I like to be specific. Like, "stop blowing milk all over the table through your straw." But then I'm just shooting out "don't this" and "stop that" sentences rapid-fire, one after another, with the boys laughing and completely ignoring me. Then they started pushing each other and making a huge rumpus while I was up at the counter paying. I kicked Gabriel out, while a sympathetic waiter gave Katrina a gumball. Great.
Katrina surprised me with relatively cooperative behavior during haircuts, mostly wriggling around in the waiting area.
After haircuts, the boys got lollipops, which I snagged. No lollipops in the car anyway, but on the way home I told them they'd been so badly behaved in the restaurant that they could have their lollipops the next time we went out to dinner and they were good. I was really mad and meant it, and they didn't argue.
When we got home, Julian started in on the same old rigamarole about putting his lunch away. "It's SOOOOOOO muuuuuccch wooooooorrrrrrkkkkkk...." he complained. He threw himself on the floor with his daily foot injury and complained again. I told him he got one warning: if he didn't put his lunch away immediately, I was throwing away his lollipop. "UGGGGHGHHHH...," he rolled his eyes. "I don't HAVE to do what you say." I threw away the lollipop.
I was spurred by conversing with mom friends last night, including one who is unconflicted and unambiguous in doling out consequences. In theory I try to be too, but somehow it always devolves and escalates. Maybe I'm not being crisp enough in informing of circumstances, then icily carrying them out. Maybe even my boys will get the message if they think there is absolutely no alternative, and the only way they'll think that is if I think that.
Julian got the message, all right. He wailed and screamed and threw a huge fit over the lost lollipop. Here's a 20-second sampler of what went on pretty much until bedtime (over an hour), on his first trip up to his room, before things got bad.
He's shouting "LET ME OUT NOW!" at the top of the stairs, and keeps retreating because he sees the camera. Later, without the camera, he got much more aggressive to me, and destructive, on his way to his room.
I sort of enjoyed it, actually. For the first half-hour, anyway.
I sent him to his room so he could scream out of earshot, but he'd either come down unauthorized, or meet my criteria (no crying for 20 minutes) and start all over again and get sent back up again. Three times and that was enough. I told him to stay in his room until bedtime. Pants-down spanking if he opened the door.
No wonder I try to avoid these battles. They're loud, disruptive to the whole household, incredibly draining, and last all night. And they accomplish nothing. I can say with 100% certainty that it will not end with "and he never did it again." Julian will be right back in business tomorrow with major resistance to even the tiniest imposition on his time.
Can I be clear and consistent and calm every time? Can a little patience and compromise avert these blowouts? Or does it only fuel later ones? Do I want robotic, compliant children? Actually, yes. Do I have it in me to create that? Doubtful.
At least Katrina and Gabriel were fine when we got home. Katrina enjoyed her lollipop and started playing with her sign alphabet, so I tried asking her to show me some signs. I have no idea if these are right, because the only other person who could confirm was busy screaming his head off in his room.