I remember very distinctly the day I informed my mom, after she had paid for the class and the shoes and the recital rehearsals had begun, that I no longer wanted to attend ballet class. I was five. I remember my mother explaining that I had made a commitment and I would be expected to honor it. She had paid money, my ballet teacher had already choreographed me into the recital, the other kids were counting on me to do my part, and I would not be permitted to drop out. After the class came to an end, I did not have to ever sign up for a ballet class again. But, until my commitment had been fulfilled, I would be going to class.
Then she took me by the hand and marched me into the park district building. I was an excellent tree in that recital…I guess…I don’t actually remember anything about that class except for that lesson.
But the lesson was enough - I took it with me for the rest of my life. At the end of the day, all you have to recommend you is your honor and your word. It’s important.
Pip and Bunny both signed up for before-school clubs this semester. It’s an early haul two days a week but it affords us the opportunity for the kid who is not in class to have a special Mommy Date. Now that they are both in school for the same amount of time, there’s precious little one-on-one time and that time is really important.
According to Bunny, her Mommy Date is the only good thing about Thursdays.
So, last week, Pip had his Mommy Date with me on Tuesday while Bunny attended drama and, on Thursday, we took Pip to Taekwondo.
Only, Pip announced that he wouldn’t wear his belt.
I tried to reason with him. He wouldn’t wear his belt.
I tried to threaten “If you don’t wear your belt, you can’t participate.” He wouldn’t wear his belt.
One of his instructors came over and explained the importance of the belt. He wouldn’t wear his belt.
Pip started to cry.
His teacher said that it would be OK this time if he didn’t wear the belt if he would just come join the class. He said he didn’t want to.
I channelled my mom. I said, “Pip, you made a promise to take this class and I paid money and you made a promise to your teachers that you would participate. When you are done with this session, you don’t have to sign up again but, until then, you keep your promise.”
He said no.
Did he not just hear the speech that had precipitated my marching back in to Miss Leila’s ballet class in 1975?
“Pip. If you don’t participate, I will have to take you out of Taekwondo.”
“But…but…Pip! You like Taekwondo. Ninja Turtles do Taekwondo. Also – if you drop out of a club, you won’t be permitted to sign up for any more clubs for the rest of the year.”
“Bunny will take clubs and you won’t. At all.”
“You made a promise, Pip! You need to stay!”
“Nooooooooooooooooooo!” He burst into tears and clung to my leg. When he would occasionally do that at the start of preschool, I would hand him to the teacher and run out the door and he would recover pretty quickly. This was not that kind of situation. There were two teachers trying to teach a large group of kids and no one to hold Pip so that he wouldn’t cling to my leg. No one to keep him from running out the door after us.
Meanwhile, Bunny had not had breakfast yet because she had been promised her Mommy Date – the only good thing about Thursdays – and time was ticking away. Bunny was starving.
“OK, then, I guess you need to tell your instructor you’re leaving now.”
Bunny burst into tears. “This is MY day. He had his day Tuesday and this is MY day and he’s ruining it like he ruins everything always!!!”
Please kill me now.
Exasperated, I tried, “Pip! If you come with us, you will not be permitted to interrupt our Mommy and Bunny Date. You will not get a doughnut because you have had breakfast and you will have to wait in the car while Bunny and I have breakfast.”
“Taekwondo is WAY more fun than sitting in a car. Sitting in a car is awful and boring.”
ARRRRRGH! But...but...but...this is a negative consequence. Cause we're supposed to be learning a lesson, here! How can you not?…why wasn’t he?….how in the hell do you?…..ARRRRRRRGH!
So, yeah, fast forward over the part where Bunny screamed at Pip for getting out of the car when we got to Dunkin Donuts and I had to explain that he couldn’t be left in a parking lot by himself, we’d have to bring him in and then picnic next to the car.
Bunny said “You don’t get a doughnut!”
Pip said, “I know. I already had breakfast.”
But that’s not why! You don’t get a doughnut because you can’t be rewarded for this behavior! Why wasn’t he sad?! Why wasn’t he learning a lesson and wishing he was at Taekwondo?!!!?!!!?!!
Pip asked for a drink. AHA! I explained that this was not his Mommy Date and he had already had his drink and this was his Taekwondo time right now. That’d teach him.
We got our doughnuts and I took four sips of the worst coffee ever to be made by man. (Why is Dunkin Donuts coffee so consistently undrinkable? It makes me crazy. And why do they spell “doughnuts” wrong?)
Bunny and I sat on a curb in a busy parking lot for 10 minutes and tried to carry on a conversation while I kept looking over at Pip who was making faces at us through the window. Occasionally, Bunny rewarded him by laughing so that was helpful. I got up a couple times to tell him he had to stay in his seat and not climb over and try to drive and no, he couldn’t open his lunch box until lunch time and no, he wouldn’t be allowed to play on the playground when he got back to school.
It wasn’t much of a Mommy and Bunny Date.
When we got back to school and I walked Pip to his line, I got on my knees and said, “Listen, buddy. You promised me and you promised your teachers you’d take Taekwondo. You need to keep your promise.”
“I’ll expect you to wear your belt just like all the other kids but we’ll practice wearing it during the week so it doesn’t feel so weird.”
“I really mean it, Pip. No more tantrums. You go to your class every Thursday.”
“Sure. OK, Mama.”
Almost sounds like a victory, doesn’t it?
Fast forward to me cooking dinner that evening while Bunny was talking on the phone to her dad.
“Mama took me to Dunkin Donuts this morning but Pip wasn’t allowed to get a donut and then Mama locked him in the car while we ate.”
Have a good week, Mamas. Good luck out there.
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