Monday, June 01, 2009


So Tom and I went to Sullivan's on Saturday for lunch, the place I've told you always reminds me of the 1950's outdoor diners of Happy Days.

All was quiet and sweet on the deck above the river when along came a mom and her five-year-old (I'm guessing) daughter. Before even ordering, they came to the rail near us to see the water and the occasional duck or two below. I could tell the daughter loved Sullivan's for its river and ducks like I do. Soon they left to order their lunch, then sat at a table very near the Order Here Window.

Uh-oh. The little girl began crying, shrieking, "I want to sit by the water! I want to sit by the water!" Well, this went on and on (and on), for the mom appeared to be taking her stand by making them wait for their food well away from the river.

As the noisy moments crawled by, Tom and I looked at each other, sighed, rolled our eyes, then began discussing what the mom should have done rather than subject the rest of us to her daughter's screams. At one point, the mom took her daughter to their car (just a few feet away from us), but the daughter just stood outside of the car with her mom and continued wailing her best rendition of the pitiful cry which most 5-year-olds can do most professionally. Eventually (felt like years) their order was ready, they sat at a table near the water and the girl happily ate her hamburger, not murmuring even one little word--and probably thinking, "Just cry long enough and loud enough and I'll get my way."

Sigh.

So what would I have done had this been me and a young Naomi? At Naomi's very first suggestion that we sit by the water and wait instead (and had she been the type to throw fits, which, of course, she wasn't because we took care of that at a much earlier age), I would have kept the upper hand and said, "Okay, listen. If you can be quiet for one whole minute, we'll go to the tables by the water and wait instead." Then I'd have looked at my watch and said, "Ready? Okay, start."

Most likely Naomi could certainly have handled being quiet for a minute, it would have felt like a game with a prize in sight, then we'd have moved. And I, the mom, still would have been in charge, rather than the other way around. There would have been no 20 minutes of shrieking. No fits. No fighting to get her own way. And no Tom and Debra (and other customers) rolling their eyes and wishing this mom and her daughter would just float away.

No, the lesson would have been reinforced that if one is quiet and obedient, one might just get to do what one wishes.

Is parenting so hard? No. But it does take wisdom. It does require thinking ahead and always remembering just who is in charge here--and who is not.

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And what if Naomi had refused to be quiet for one minute and began shrieking to have her own way? I'd have quietly taken her to our car, either sat inside with her or stood outside beside the door, waited for our food, then taken it home. Thus reinforcing the lesson that people who shriek and wail for what they want, get the opposite result.

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