Since having the twins, my Love and Logic skills have slipped and I’ve gone back into everybody’s “default mommy mode”: fussing endlessly at the kids to do stuff. I told you that last week I had a tragic napless meltdown, and this is what precipitated it. Tell me if you have enacted this scenario in your own living room. Let me set the stage: There are legos EVERYWHERE, no one is playing with them, and I have been tripping over them for the past 8 hours while I try to take care of 2 babies, a toddler, and do enough housework to maintain a semblance of order. I’m ready for the legos to be gone. As you read the following exchange, remember that there is a pile of laundry to fold and 2 babies crawling around and fussing while all this is going on.
“Ok boys, time to pick up the legos! Let’s clean up! Clean up time!”
S & A: “Ok Mommy! Clean up, clean up, everybody clean up!”
I smile. My little cooperative angels; I’m such a great mom, see how good my kids are?
5 minutes go by….no legos have moved….
“Guys, seriously, it’s time to clean up now.”
Adrian: “I get my truck out of ba-ment?”
“You can get more toys as soon as you’ve cleaned up what you’ve got! Clean up!”
S&A: “Ok Mommy!”
5 minutes pass….nothing happens….
“Sweeties! Come on, guys! Let’s clean up!……
“sweetie pie honey bunch….clean up….please…..”
“Hello? darling? clean up now….please….please…..seriously….come on…..I’m not kidding….really, just pick them up…..sweetheart? really? can we pick up please? sing our little clean up songs?….”
“Let’s see who can pick them up the fastest….I bet Adrian can pick them up really fast!….guys? what do yo think?…..”
S&A: “Ok, Mommy, we cleaning!”
When I return from trying to put a baby down to nap, not only have NO legos been picked up, but the living room is now messier than it was before because the boys are pulling the cushions off the couch. I snap.
“OK, that’s it!” I stride to the oven. “I am setting the timer for 5 minutes! If the legos are not ALL cleaned up when the timer beeps, you will go to your room until dinner! And then you will go to bed early! And then you will stand outside in the snow barefoot! DO YOU UNDERSTAND!????”
(Apparently, up until this point, all they heard me say was “wa-wa-wawa-blah blah blah blah yak yak yak yak yada yada yada nada nada nada”)
*Eyes open in terror, little bodies shake in fear**
S&A: “EEEEEEeeeeeee! Yes, we understand Mommy, we understand! We’re cleaning, we’re cleaning! Not the timer, Mommy, please, anything but the timer! We promise we’ll be very fast! No timer!”
“YES THE TIMER!!! THE TIMER IS COUNTING DOWN!!!! THOSE LEGOS BETTER BE PICKED UP BEFORE IT BEEPS!!!!”
S&A: “AAAAAAAAaaaaahhhhhh! THE TIMER!!! NOOOOOOOO Hurry, hurry, hurry….go go go….”
The legos were all cleaned up in THREE MINUTES.
Sorry if that poor parenting example made you cringe…it’s embarrassing. But as L&L always reminds, if you mess up, don’t worry: your kids will give you the opportunity to try again soon. SO when I had the opportunity to try again later that day, I set the timer from the beginning. Say it once, follow it with a consequence!
From now on, I have decided to quietly say, “You have x minutes to do x.” And set the timer…and they will know that if the timer beeps before they’re done, something terrible is going to happen. BEHOLD THE TIMER OF DOOM!!!