Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What the Heck Kind of Punishment Is That?

I'm listening to Rosie being interviewed on a podcast: http://littlehousemothering.com/index.php/2015/07/19/stylin-motherhood/ She mentioned that the twins (Elizabeth and Mary Claire, currently about 2 1/2) recently were sent to their room as a punishment and started taking everything out of their dresser and closet, throwing it on the floor. As a punishment for that, their dresser was taken away. "You don't get a dresser any more? Who punishes their child like that?" Rosie asked, almost in despair.

Ohhhh, do I sympathize with that! Once I was so mad at my kids that I threatened them with a bath. Then I realized that that was not a punishment, but I had to keep my face in punishment mode. Fortunately, that threat worked. Whew! If it hadn't, I would have had to administer a bath as punishment, and that would have tainted baths forever!

In any case, once I took practically everything in Paddy and Peggy's room away. I had to make the punishment fit the crime, and the crime was—

<record needle screeches>

Well, let's back up. From 1984 to 1987, we lived in a two-bedroom apartment in what was then Merrifield Gardens. (It's now called Merrifield at Dunn Loring Station, but Metro didn't come there until 1986.) Patrick and Meg shared a room. When Rosie was born, she had a crib in the den, which had no door and was not counted as a bedroom.

One lovely summer weekend day in 1985, I was in my (our) bedroom talking to my mother on the phone, and it was going well. That was so unusual that I was willing to let the phone call go on longer than usual even though I heard an ominous silence in the background. Jonathan would take care of everything, right? Right . . . ? That silence was still going on when I got off the phone, and I rushed to the kids' room.

The kids had taken everything out of their closet and thrown it on the floor. They had taken everything off their beds. They had actually pushed a hole into the edge of the windowscreen and

they had thrown most of their toys and clothing out of the window.

You think that isn't a problem? We lived on the second floor.

They had thrown just about all their stuff outside. All that was left inside was a mattress and pillow for each child; those clearly didn't fit the hole in the screen. Jonathan and I had already noticed that stuff that was left outside (like Paddy's bike) managed to walk away.

So these two kids, aged almost-four and almost-two, were bored and found a novel way to entertain themselves. After they finished, they had the feeling that they had not done a good thing, but they didn't know how to get out of it. So they were just standing in their room staring at the lack of stuff and looking stunned.

It was hilarious! But a parent can never admit that an infraction of this sort is funny. So first I had to squash any hint of a smile, and then I had to speak sternly to the kids. They completely understood that they had done something bad; they were just wondering what the consequences would be. I was kind of wondering that, too. While I thought about it, I got their daddy to go and get all the stuff they had pretty much given to the neighborhood.

I finally decided that their punishment was to have nothing in their room for a week except what they had left in it. They were greatly relieved that nothing worse was happening to them. Gradually, I gave them back their bedding, toys, and clothes. It was summer, after all, and they weren't cold enough to need any blankets.

So I completely understand why Rosie took away her twins' chest of drawers. When they are old enough not to be tempted to do it again, maybe they will read this story. Then they can tease their Uncle Paddy and Aunt Sister about it!


  1. I've heard several versions of this story. Since I wasn't there, I won't comment. Much.

    1. The essentials remain the same, I hope. In any case, I was there, and I'm the only one who was an adult at the time, so I win. I mean, um . . .