The one aspect of parenting that I don’t think we’ve gotten quite down is striking a balance between paying attention to our kids and, well, everything else in life. Surprisingly, though, the problem seems to be that Sam gets too much attention. In the last few weeks she’s been demanding it like a junkie obsessing over a fix. It’s to the point where if we’re not playing with her or doing something for her, she just spazzes out and starts screaming her “request” at us. This makes having a conversation with another adult or even simple chores a monumental undertaking, and forget about trying to rest.
So lately we’ve been getting firm with her, saying that we’re busy and that she needs to play by herself. The effectiveness of this tactic can best be described as “laughable” since Sam just ignores us and continues to chant “Play with me play with me play with me!” and pull on our various limbs until we acquiesce. We’ve tried to teach her to say “Excuse me, please” when interrupting someone, but all that’s done is make her shout the phrase at the top of her lungs until we give her what she wants. Of course the next floor serviced by the Escalator of Discipline is usually the one containing harsh words and time outs, but it’s hard to bring myself to chew my daughter out and make her stand in the corner because she wants to spend time with me. It seems cruel and I’m pretty sure that would turn her into an ax murderer or performance artist of some kind. So I’m out of ideas.
Well, except for one: the TV. Popping in a DVD or bringing up her shows on TiVo always works, and would be the perfect solution if it didn’t also conjure up guilt over my child’s mental well being, especially if employed for longer than an hour or so per day. But it does deliver respite in small doses, and sometimes it seems like we have no choice.
Still, there are some boundaries on the TV as a babysitter to which everyone should pay attention. In fact, this conversation between me, Ger, and Sam after picking Sam up from the grandparents’ house kind of illustrates the point:
SAM: Grandma and Grandpa bought me a movie about bunnies!
ME: Bunnies? Really?
GER: Yeah, they got her Watership Down on tape.
GER: Watership down. The cartoon movie about the bunnies.
SAM: Yeah! It had bunnies!
ME: The cartoon movie about the bunnies that die horribly and violently?
ME: Geralyn, that movie is really violent and graphic!
GER: I don’t remember that. It had a Simon and Garfunkle song in it!
ME: So did A Clockwork Orange!
GER: It did?
ME: How should I know! But there’s a scene in Watership Down where a construction crew digs up the rabbits’ burroughs and kills them by filling their warren with poisonous gas. There’s a big rabbit that mauls and murders other rabbits, and toward the end there’s a dog that slaughters a bunch more. It’s really bloody! Like, there’s bunny blood all over the place!
GER: Really? Crap. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it. I don’t remember all that.
ME: Maybe she didn’t watch the whole–
SAM: THERE WAS A DOG THAT ATE ALL THE BUNNIES!
ME: Oh, goodie.
On the other hand, Sam reportedly enjoyed the scene where the rabbit Blackberry figured out how to cross a river by using a piece of wood as a raft and in which no rabbits were murdered, mauled, savaged, poisoned, asphixiated, or eaten. And I admit, it was a good scene.
(Actually, I’m holding out hope that she saw the more kid friendly 1999 animated TV series instead of the more graphic 1978 movie. But Sam’s “dog that ate all the bunnies” comment creates a certain amount of doubt.)
At any rate, Sam seems fine. So is Mandy, thanks for asking. this is my new favorite picture of her. I staged it because I was getting really tired of taking nothing but shots of her in her bed or bouncy seats, a condition brought about by her not being able to stand or sit or even hold her head up for long. I just noticed that all the stuffed animals seen in the shot are gifts, too. The purple dinosaur was a gift from Ger to me in college. The Paddington Bear was to Sam from Aunt Shawn and Uncle Brent (bought from the actual Paddington Station in London!). The brown mass in front of Mandy is a brown bunny that I bought for Ger on our second date. The little girl doll was a gift to Sam from friends David and Michelle. And the pink monkey was made a gift to Sam by her grandparents when they visited the zoo. So, none of those toys actually belong to Mandy, but she didn’t seem to mind.