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9to5to9: Reality discipline gets Big Guy to school on time

Submitted by on Wednesday, 1 October 2008 No Comment

Two events the neighborhood’s been able to rock-solid set watches by of late:

  • The school bus rumbling down the street, its brakes squeaking to a halt at the stop sign at 7:50 a.m.
  • Big Guy stumbling out our door 10 minutes later in tearful panic, shrieking “But I don’t want to be late.”

The problem in part is that Big Guy is the victim of a bad genetic mix.

His father know two speeds: Mosey and feet in molasses. He makes lackadaisical seem like a rush job.

I, on the other hand, relax by slowing to a frenzy. I’ve never mastered the “wait” part of “hurry up and wait,” though I’ve nailed “hurry up.”

Which is why Big Guy would spend 45 minutes every morning fixing the feng shui in the living room, alphabetizing his medicine and debating important issues with his brother. “You’re stoopit.” “No, you’re stoopit.”

Then he’d panic and shriek out the door.

“But I don’t want to be late.”

Until recently, he had me over a barrel so line after line of baloney tumbled off my tongue every morning: The boss is going to put me in time out, the boss isn’t going to let me play with the stuffed Poomba today, if I get to work late I’ll have to stay late.

Since that’s ceased to be an issue for a while, I had a window to make punctuality Big Guy’s problem.

Time for a dose of reality discipline.

I don’t do reality discipline well. Sitting down and shutting up is antithetical to me. But years of alternating chirpy reminders, stern demands and angry orders hadn’t worked.

Maybe making Big Guy responsible would.

Warning: The drawback of reality discipline is that things get far worse before they get better.

Wednesday, Big Guy was a football field away from his classroom when the first bell rang, so I started Thursday morning. I warned him when he loped out of bed that it was up to him to get to school on time. He’d hear no hysterics — not even a whispered reminder — from me.

OK, so I lied a little. When the school bus lumbered by at 7:50 and Big Guy was standing around barefoot with two more pills to swallow, I had to do something.

I didn’t do much. I sat down in an easy chair, trying to look relaxed. “I’m not going to say another word. It’s up to you to get ready. If you’re late, we’ll go to the principal’s office and explain why.”

“No, no, NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!

Despite his anguish, or maybe because of it, he still didn’t step it up. He got to school after the first bell.

Friday morning, I parked in the easy chair five minutes before the bus was due and gave a similar speech. “You were almost late yesterday. I know you can do better today.”

“No, no, NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!

Every pore in my body pleaded with me to nag. He’s only 5. How can you put him through this? He’s beside himself with misery. For God’s sake, woman, do something!

I knew that if I did, I’d be doing it for the rest of my life.

He got to school as the second bell sounded, after a walk filled with hysterical wailing. I’m sure the neighborhood thought I was a baby torturer, and I’m not sure I disagreed.

Saturday we turned the corner, but Saturday barely counts because the only thing he loves more than school is soccer and there’s no way he was going to be late for a game.

A strange thing happened Sunday, though. Just before bedtime, he looked up at me sincerely. “I’m not going to be late for school. I’m going to hurry like I’m furry getting dress, and I’m going to take my medicine and get my back pack and get going,” he said, walking through the house and pantomiming each action .

You know what? He did.

He got it. My sweet little bonehead grasped what years of harping had failed to embed in his brain.

All it took was for me to do nothing. I’ll have to try this again sometime.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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