Thursday, March 22, 2012
When we became pregnant with Em, C and I had some long heart-to-hearts about our parenting philosophies. We agreed on a great deal of the essentials: we’d try to breastfeed, we wouldn’t spank as punishment, we would cloth diaper (ok, that didn’t happen, but we THOUGHT we would be able to do it), etc.
We also agreed that as parents, we would try as best as we could to avoid overuse of the word “no”. It’s not that the word “no” was to be BANNED from our household by any means. We just thought that rather than saying “Emmy, no!” whenever she tried to do something unwise, like stick her hand in the toilet, we would EXPLAIN the situation and try to reason with her, a la “Emmy, toilet water is stinky. If you stick your hand in the toilet, you will get stinky too!” or we would OFFER AN ALTERNATIVE, a la “Emmy, rather than sticking your hand in the toilet, why don’t you stick your hand under this running faucet of fantastically sparkling clean water?” Our general fear was that if we overused the word “no,” Emmy would become immune to it, which could eventually get us into parental hot water.
I have to say, I think we’ve done a pretty good job at using our “no”s with discretion and caution. *Pat, pat, pat.*
But I was TOTALLY unprepared for the massive amounts of “be careful!”s that have been streaming out of my mouth like hot lava for the past several months.
The other day, I decided to try and monitor how many situations a day warrant my saying “be careful” to Em. What I discovered wasn’t pretty. It went a little something like this:
6:30 AM: “Emmy, BE CAREFUL getting out of bed. Scoot your tushy backwards and climb down. That’s right. Good girl!”
6:45 AM: “Emmy, BE CAREFUL with that hand! Mama is changing you and if you put your hand down there it is going to get full of poopy! Be careful, Em. Careful! Emmy, BE CARE… ugghh…”
7:30 AM: “Emmy, even though Mommy lets you walk around the yard before getting into the car, it doesn’t mean you can run into the street. You have to BE CAREFUL!”
8:45 AM: “You have to treat your books nicely, Emmy. We don’t THROW books, we read them. You have to BE CAREFUL with your books” (honestly, the word “books” in this last sentence could be replaced with one of many words: dolls, food, clothes, blocks… you name it. Em is knee-deep in an annoying throwing phase.
10:00 AM: “Em, please BE CAREFUL with your crackers. Don’t stuff them all in your mouth at one time. You will choke and then mama will be sad.”
10:15 AM: “You have to BE CAREFUL coming down the stairs Emmy. You can’t just run off a step like you are Wylie Coyote. Do you know what happens to Wylie Coyote? He goes SPLAT! I don’t want you to go SPLAT!”
11:00 AM: “Em, we have to BE CAREFUL not to eat dirt. We PLAY in dirt. Even though dirt sometimes looks like crushed up Oreo cookies, we should really not put it in our mouths, ok?”
11:45 AM: “Are you going to feed yourself? Ok, that’s great. Just BE CAREFUL not to put the spoon in your ear… or your hair, Emmy… awwwww, too late! The spoon is on your head. Guess we’re taking another shower..”
12:30 PM: “Em, BE CAREFUL with that toothbrush. You keep gagging yourself because you stick it all the way back in your mouth. Why do you do that, you crazy kid?!”
And that is a portrait of only HALF of our day. By the time dinnertime rolled around, I’m pretty sure I used about 837 “be careful”s. If there was a charge associated with using these words, I’d have some SERIOUS debts to pay off.
My fear is that, if I keep up this verbal habit, the words “be careful” are going to lose their sense of gravity, and Em will start ignoring them. So what do I do? Do I stop using these words?
Maybe I should mix it up, and say “Be wary, dear Emmy” or “Caution, little one!” or “Thou art engaging in dangerous behaviors, my sweet petunia,” even though saying these things will make me sound like I work at a Renaissance Faire?
Or maybe I should come up with a hand motion that signals “be careful”? But if I use the instinctive fingers-together-and-palm-facing-forward technique, Emmy will just slap me five, and mistakenly think I am encouraging whatever it is she is doing.
Or maybe I should just start saying “no” more often??
Sigh. This mothering business is so very COMPLICATED.
Any suggestions from mamas out there? Have you overcome an acute case of the “be careful”s? Looking forward to hearing from ya.