We don’t do timeouts.
When Boobaby acts like a jerk (an age-appropriate jerk, to be fair, but a jerk no less), we give her one chance to straighten up and then it’s up into her bedroom to “think about it.” A few minutes later, when the crying subsides, one of us goes in to talk about why she had to go up there.
In other words, we give her a timeout.
We don’t use that word, though, and we haven’t since the day Boo dropped her fork and told me that it — the fork, now — needed a timeout. She also gave three warnings to her shoe once, so we dropped that habit, too — now it’s one strike and out. We saw how badly we’d failed as disciplinarians the day that she asked to have a timeout, and furthermore, wanted me to take the timeout with her.
Happily, the topic doesn’t come up very often — I go days without resorting to the “go-to-your-room-and-think-about-it” sanction. One punitive morning I can count on, though, is Monday.
This morning, like nearly every single Monday, Boo pretended to be unmanageable. She tossed Cheerios on the ground. She tearfully insisted on shorts and a T-shirt instead of the parka more appropriate to a San Francisco summer.
She wouldn’t even let me teach her this week’s new joke. (Today it was “What kind of clothes does a house wear?”)
got a timeout went to her room to think about it and a scant five minutes later, she was back to her normal joyful self, and stayed that way the rest of the day.
I have a lot of theories about why weekends wreak this horrible transformation in Boo. Our weekday routine is frequently upset by baby parties or dinner guests. I could blame Working Mom, but the truth is that she sticks to schedules better than I do. Maybe the problem is me. I’m usually around the house on weekends but mostly not engaging with our daughter — I’m busy with laundry, installing light fixtures, and scraping dried cracker paste out of my diaper bag. It wouldn’t surprise me if that pisses off Boobaby.
For whatever reason, Boo is much more pleasant — much more herself — when there’s just one parent around. I’ve always thought that coparenting (and co-teaching, for that matter) isn’t about interacting with kids jointly so much as tag-teaming: you’re the chief parent for a few minutes, then I take over, then you, then me. The trick is knowing how to signal that you’re ready for the changeover and then pass the parenting baton.
Just a year ago, being a dad felt mostly like being an animal husbandry technician. Get the poop in the right chute, wipe, and you’re done.
Now, suddenly, I have to become expert in psychology — mine and the baby’s.