You know what I noticed, as my children are hitting the double digits? Apparently—and get ready to fall over here—kids that are older are harder to parent than kids that are younger. Bigger kids, bigger problems.
I can’t be the first person to notice this, right?
I tried calling my parents, but am getting absolutely no sympathy from their end.
I mean sure, we complain about the “terrible twos,” and how toddlers run around and don’t really understand every word we say when we tell them not to do things. Who flushes a potato?
Older kids, on the other hand, can understand you, but they still don’t listen. Or they don’t hear you, because they’re trying to concentrate on who-knows-what and they can’t think because you’re right over them saying… something. I don’t know.
Where do they learn to tune out adults? Is this something they pick up in school?
Another thing is that when all your kids are little, there are fewer of them. I have more kids now than when I had two little kids, and two of them are still little. And as it turns out, each kid has his or her own needs that you have to deal with at the same time, and while you’re dealing with one, the others pass the time by fighting. And that becomes your problem too.
“Oh my goodness; you’re fighting again? I just settled a fight!”
“No, this one’s dumber!”
You also occasionally get calls from the school, and they make it sound like you’re the only one whose kids have issues.
“Am I?” you ask.
“Um, I have to go,” the principal says. “I have another meeting.”
But they do have helpful advice:
“Get them to go to bed earlier,” they say. “Also, make sure they do all their homework.”
Well, it’s either one or the other.
And don’t even get me started on bedtimes. Yes, they have official bedtimes, but that’s a losing battle. Let’s say you want your kids to go to bed at 7. Let’s say you have an occasional victory where they actually go to bed at 7. You won, right?
Wrong. Because pretty soon it’s their birthday, and they have to go to bed a half hour later, because at a certain random date dictated by the sun and the moon, they will suddenly require less sleep. You think that gets better when they’re older? You think at some point they learn and go, “Oh, they’re telling me to go to bed for my good”?
But there’s no good way to get them to go to bed. At least with little kids, if they don’t do what you say, you make them do it. How do you get bigger kids to do anything? You can try saying, “1...2...3!” and then chasing them up the stairs, but that just gets their blood pumping, and there’s no way they’re going to sleep now. They can’t fall asleep after running up the stairs for their lives. Can you go to bed right after a workout? Ha. Workout.
I have an 11-year-old, and I still go “1…2…3,” only now she’s old enough to realize that there’s no real consequence when I get to 3. It’s basically just chasing them to where they’re supposed to go. So sometimes I have to come up with a punishment. But what?
They say that slapping is a lazy punishment, and I get it. But I have to come up with a new punishment every time, and I have three seconds to come up with something that fits the crime and is tough but fair while I count, each number progressively louder. Am I stalling for time? I bought myself three seconds.
And when I do think of something, it’s usually not that impressive, and they’re like, “That’s it? That’s what we were scared of?”
Or else it’s way too repressive:
“That’s it! You can’t leave the house until you’re 30!”
And I don’t realize until afterward how harsh that was.
Wait. Why would I want them here until they’re 30? They don’t even listen!
But in addition to constantly thinking of new punishments, you have to be rigidly consistent about them, or else one kid goes, “The last time I did something sort of like this, you gave me a worse punishment!” And I’m like, “That was three years ago; how am I supposed to remember that? Maybe I was shocked when you did it, but now you’ve jaded me.”
They have long memories, and they commit to memory all the punishments I’ve ever given them, because apparently they do make an impression. They can’t remember something I asked them to do a minute ago, but they remember how I punished them for it last year.
What am I supposed to say? “Go to your room until I can think of a punishment?” I can’t get them to go to their room when it’s bedtime. Do I have to sit outside their room and make sure they stay in there? Why am I punishing me? And how am I going to quietly call my parents and ask for advice from right outside their door?
Not that it matters. My parents are still not being helpful.
Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia, The Jewish Press and Aish.com, among others. He also has five books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected]