Last week my younger brother Josh was hanging out at my place. He and his longtime girlfriend Susan live in an apartment on the floor below mine, and we see them a couple times each week.
Like me, Josh also works in media, and we love to talk business. While sitting on the couch chatting about client management, our conversation kept being interrupting by, “Helena, if you know what’s good for you you’ll pick up that tea set right now!” and, “It is never, EVER OK to hit anyone. Ever!”
The scolding didn’t come from me.
Josh was yelling at my kids. Best thing I’d heard all day!
My kids have a handful of aunts and uncles, and they’re all the younger, cooler, funner, better-looking versions of Helena and Lucas’s parents. Josh teaches the kids guitar, Susan teaches them to dance The Robot and gives them lime-green mani-pedis. They bring cupcakes when they babysit. They’re the aunts and uncles every kid should have.
They’re also a brother and sister-in-law every single mom should have. For one, we share similar sensibilities about most things, including how children should behave. It wouldn’t work if, say, I thought it was adorable for toddlers to treat Legos like confetti, and Susan admonished them to pick up every tiny block once it hit the shag rug.
There also seems to be an intuitive understanding of the power of another disciplining voice in a home with just one parent. Child discipline can be a tricky as a single mom. There is no second person to second a time-0ut issuance. No one to play good cop/bad cop, or take over manning the toddler tantrum just as you are about to become unhinged.
Plus, I have my hands full. If someone I trust wants to step in and help me scream at my kids, that’s fantastic. One less thing on my to-do list!
At the tail end of dinner of homemade mac and cheese last week, Helena realized her brother had intentionally cut the bowstring of her purple Brave bow. While Josh repaired the weapon, I laid down the law: “Lucas, tell your sister you are sorry.” He refused. It devolved into tens of minutes of naughty-chair-crying fits-”Say you’re sorry or get back in the naughty chair.” “Don’t you get up from that chair!” and so on. You’ve been there.
It was the end of the day. I was beat. He was tired and hungry and unreasonable. I couldn’t muster any more wrestling with a 3-year-old built of 40 lbs of muscle. Finally, we found ourselves back at the dinner table, Lucas pouting on my lap, nary an apology in sight.
“You can’t let him get away with it,” Josh scolded. He scolded me. He was right. If he hadn’t been there to support me I would likely have given up — to the detriment of both my kids and me. And so we launched into Round 7 of say-you’re-sorry-or-sit-in-the-naughty-chair-Don’t-you-get-up-from-that-chair!
A few minutes in, Josh thanked us for dinner and said good night. It was time for him to go home.
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