It was a cold Tuesday morning. The snooze button had been subconsciously hit about three times too many. Morning was upon us and if the girls were going to get to school before lunch, I needed them to move. Our daily morning routine has been boiled down to the essentials. I like to tell myself that it actually teaches the children the life skill of holding a really tight schedule and prioritizing critical steps to reach a goal. No judging. I know that is complete BS.
This particular morning was made worse by the fact we hadn’t done any preparation the night before. Our children wear uniforms to school and the older two wear the same size clothes. On mornings when we are running late having clothes laid out the night before is critical. Two pants and two shirts. Easy enough you would think.
The twist is that our oldest, Jane, is a pants-only kind of girl and Prima loves skirts and dresses. Prima will wear pants but Jane isn’t as flexible. We started the khaki load of laundry the night before and hadn’t moved it to the dryer. Skirts were the only bottoms that we had for them to wear to school. Zero other options and the clock says we have about fifteen minutes to get out of the door. Supermom took the skirt and tossed it to Jane who didn’t even try to catch it and instead let it hit her in the chest and roll to the floor. Her face was twisted in a painful disapproval. Then it started.
Jane lost her ever loving mind. She had a total and complete meltdown in protest. Neighbors probably heard the wailing and thought that I was burning her toys or butchering live kittens in front of my horrified family. The level of panic over wearing a skirt confused me and I thought maybe she had a burst appendix or was suffering hypoxic-hallucinations. These kids exhibit no shame or humility at home so a knee length skirt should be no problem.
This went on for about five minutes with no sign of letting up. There were threats, reasoning, bribes, and ultimatums. Then we pulled out the big guns. Grounding. The concept of taking something they love and denying all access for some hellish period of time. The legal negotiations went as follows:
I started the conversation with reasoning, “You understand that if you don’t wear this skirt to school then I will have to ground you for this kind of behavior.”
“I don’t care!”
“What is the big deal? Wearing a skirt is the worst thing you can think of?”
“I don’t want to wear one EVER!”
“You are not going to be able to go with your sisters to your Grandparents house or ride your horse.”
She starts pleading out loud and I have no idea who she is talking to. “Ohhh, Im soooo confused. I don’t want to wear a skirt? What do I doooo?”
I try to help her out with some encouragement, “Just wear the skirt. You don’t have to be grounded. You have a choice.”
So continues with her rhetorical questions to God, “Why is life soooo hard?!?”
“It isn’t hard. It is a skirt and you even have leggings so it is like pants with giant pleats.”
“If only there was a way to not be grounded. Whyyyyyyyy?”
I am sincerely worried about her logic skills at this point. I gave her the step by step of how to avoid grounding. I have backed myself into a corner. On the one hand she has a deep seated issue with a skirt but I also have given a consequence for the action and I don’t want to back up and encourage this freak-out behavior. Empty threats mean nothing to kids. I decide to deliver the promised punishment and also make provisions to avoid the skirt.
Supermom found a single pair (can you have a single pair?) of pants and Jane was given a house arrest sentence of two weeks. Two weekends of not leaving the house or riding horses. Surely a punishment she would remember and use to make better decisions.
It is now two weeks later and I have to say that grounding is the stupidest idea I have had to-date. What dark and sadistic bastard started this idea? When I describe “Grounding” in the simplest terms it is very obviously a bad idea; Take a kid who is pissing you off and require them to remain directly under your feet for a long period of time. Maximize the awfulness by pointing out all the fun the kid is missing so they work extra hard to piss you off more. Spiraling into a feedback loop of almost hate where you are yelling and smashing furniture. Anyone had that happen?
My God, I’m a genius. Those two weeks were miserable.
I’ll never tell her but grounding is out as a punishment. It is the functional equivalent of telling a child, “If you don’t follow my rules I’m going to kick myself in the groin.” You better hope that kid has a strong empathy instinct.
I give up. Discipline is for someone but not for me. I’m just going to start drinking more heavily in the evenings so the loud noises and crazy ideas might start making sense again. I have to find my bluff with these tyrants. Grounding is not it.
For you parents who have been down this route, This post is for you. You’re Welcome.
-Underdaddy to the Rescue!