One afternoon, our puppy Belle, and I were resting on the bench in our shade garden enjoying the beautiful day, the soft summer breeze, and the delightful fragrance of nearby Jasmine. Our neighbors had their house on the market, and a black Mercedes pulled into their driveway. I knew what that meant, and voices soon broke our reverie.
A well-dressed middle aged woman in heels stepped from the car and loudly announced, “Chloe, why don’t you and “the boy” stay outside while I show your mother the house again. You’ve already seen it several times and I think it will be better if he stays outside.
Chloe and “the boy” took seats on the bench at the end of their driveway. He was a cute little fellow, about three years old, with curly, blond hair, dressed in a red polo shirt with red and white striped shorts.
He jumped off the bench and in less time than it took a humming bird to dart across my small garden he was in the middle the neighbor’s back yard. He turned to Mommy and shouted “I’m going to jump on the trampoline!”
“Oh, Honey, they might not want you to use it.”
Without a response he was in the center of the trampoline shooting toward the sky.”
“Please Honey, come off! You could get hurt!”
Jump, jump, jump.
“Please, come down. Please, pretty please.”
My stomach was starting to ache.
“Please come over here, I’ll lift you down. I’m going to count to three, then you come. Please”
Jump, jump. “One.”
Jump, jump, jump. “Two.”
Jump, jump, jump, jump. “I’m going to say three, so please come!”
Jump, jump, jump. “OK, I’m going to count to five. Why don’t you count with me?”
Jump, jump, jump….
He didn’t come after five, so she counted to 10. By this time I was out of the garden and on my way into the house with Belle tagging alone after me.
“Mary,” I exclaimed. “If that family buys the neighbor’s house, we’re moving! There’s no reason a kid should act like that. Or, I should say, a mother should act like that!”
Lucky for us they didn’t buy the house and I never saw them again.
But it got me to thinking of the first time we took Belle to obedience class. Jo, the trainer, put all us human trainees in arm chairs in the center of the room. Then she asked us to put our dog to the left of our chair and tell her to sit. “If she doesn’t sit, push lightly on her back until she does. Then say, ‘Good dog,’ and pet her lightly on the back.”
I did as Jo bid and said, “Sit, Belle, sit.” Then I pushed on her back and said again, “Belle, sit, sit, sit!” and pushed again. Before I could get her to sit, a long, straight finger was in my face and Jo said sternly, “Tell her once!”
My face turned red, I pushed a bit harder on Belle’s back. She sat. “Good doggie!” I responded.
This was the first and best lesson I learned from Jo: “Tell her once.” Over the years I taught that lesson to many, many parents. With wonderful results.
Imagine if Mrs. Not-my-new-neighbor had taught her son that lesson how much easier parenting would be. Ms. Realtor would have taken both her and Junior into the house. Who knows, Junior may have become our neighbor and good friend.
One other event makes the point. While in a grocery I came across a three year old running, I kid you not, running in the cooler on top of the egg cartons. Standing by was a young woman who smiled at the boy and pleaded, “Please come over here Sonny, so I can lift you down.”
He laughed and continued to dance on the cartons. I was aghast! “Lady,” I shouted, “Your son is crushing the eggs!”
“I know,” she laughed. “I can’t get him to come down.”
“I can!” I replied as I lifted him off the eggs and put him gently on the floor.
“You made him cry,” she said, not masking her anger.
“Yes I did, and you’re making him a delinquent.”
Before either of us could say any more the store manager was by our sides. Mother explained what happened, how she was unable to get her little boy off the eggs, and offered to pay for the damage.
Why do parents find it so difficult to say “No” to kids or require them to listen and do as they say? Taking charge, not being afraid to direct our kids, and being comfortable telling them once makes parenting so much easier.
Isn’t that why God gave kids parents?