The Different Faces of Mischief

The children all seem to pass through some mischief phase or another. With all our children, one right after the other, I would have thought that Wife and I would be able to correct any misbehavior almost before it happens. Well, it so happens that while all the children fall into the same patterns, they, very cleverly, find very different way to execute them.

One little face.

One little face.

Wife, now seven and a half months pregnant, waddled out to the porch like a penguin in high-gear. The screams that modulated between annoyance and terror, all stemming from the miniature lungs or #8, were the cause for Wife’s swift pace. And when she burst through the screen door, she was met with a sight that sent her temper up to match her quickening stride. The fourteen month-old, #8, was pinned down by his two year-old brother, #7, who was attempting to run over #8 with a big-wheel.

Another little face

Another little face

Like an avenging angel, Wife swooped in and with a blur of motion had #7 by the scruff of his shirt. He looked up with an expression of horrified amazement, as if to say, “Where on earth did you come from?” But after that he had no time for conscious thought, for he was caught in the whirlwind of his mother’s wrath; and before he knew what happened, he was whisked away in a tornado of arms and legs and left nearly spinning on his bed with the strict command to, “THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU DID!”

GET OUT OF THE WAY!

GET OUT OF THE WAY!

Wife then lifted up and comforted #8, and as he laid his head on her shoulder she turned and notice #5 and #6 for the first time. #5 piped up, “We saw him runnin’ over the baby, we saw him!” And next to his brother, #6 was nodding his head. It would have been better if he had said nothing.

Wife’s motherly instincts became indignant, and her flash-powder-temper had already been ignited. “Then why didn’t you stop HIM!”

At that point, the National Weather Service satellites recorded a second tornado blowing through my house which has taken hold of two little boys.

Here I must stop my wit for a brief moment and declare a wisdom that I had previously overlooked. The children’s bedrooms consist of bunk beds, sheets, and pillows. No toys. No books. No stuffed animals. All Wife’s design. Which means, when children are sent to bed, they have nothing to do but sit in bed… and start the crying that always accompanies discipline.

When I got home at the end of the day, all three boys were still in their beds, fast asleep, some four hours later. And bed-time-out worked. I know now #7 learned that #8 is not a speed-bump, for he has not tried to ride over him again. On the other hand, #8 keeps his distance when #7 in on his big-wheel. And #5 and #6 have learned that they are their “brothers’ keepers,” or at least they plead ignorance after the fact…

The Justice of #4

The ability to recognize that it is not a good practice to tattle on someone when you are the entire cause of the problem is not known to children naturally. They have to learn it. And we parents are to be the unwitting teachers in that endeavor. Sooner or later, the kids pick it up. However I would have thought that #4 would already be familiar with that truth. I have written about it before in the past post Discipline and Observation.

When #4 walked in hauling #5 by the arm, he looked as guilty as if he had been caught stealing cookies. #4 presented her captive to Wife as to an executioner. She announced, “He stepped on #6’s head!”

You've just been told on.

You’ve just been told on.

Wife turned to the four year-old. “Why did you step on your brother’s head?”

#5 stammered, “I… well… I didn’t… well she pushed me!” He pointed an accusing finger at #4.

She seemed to shrink into herself like a turtle as Wife rounded on her. Before Wife could unleash her reserves of discipline upon the little girl, #4 blurted out her defense as only a five year-old could. “I didn’t know! I didn’t know that if I pushed #5 he would step on #6’s head! I didn’t know!”

Needless to say, her excuse was not enough to save her from the trouble she was in.

Of course it must be mentioned that #4 is more intelligent than I would like. A stupid child might take some time to learn what is unacceptable, however once learned they simply stop. But a smart child takes longer, especially if they are obstinate like #4, for once it got through her thick head picking on her younger siblings by tattling would only get her in trouble, she quickly began to explore other avenues. So now we have to watch out for her more subtle manipulations. Let me illustrate.

#4 had been waiting for her turn with the toy that #6 had. #6 decided that he had not had enough time. #4 took matters into her own hands. “Ok,” she said, “if you don’t give it to me I’m gonna to count to ten. I’m going to count to ten and if you don’t give it to me I’m gonna tell you that your drawing, the one you drew for mommy, I gonna tell you that it is ugly. Ok. One… two… three… four… five… six… seven… eight… nine… ten! Ok! Your drawing is ugly!”

The shock of all was it worked! The three year-old burst into uncontrollable weeping until his sister took the toy and then assured him that his drawing was not ugly.

Discipline and Observation

I never found scolding a child enjoyable; but discipline is as much a necessity as bathing. If Wife and I ever fell behind, we would have a huge mess on our hands.

And so, Wife found herself scolding #1 because she had let #7 (the baby for now) get too close to the stairs. After the rebuking, #1 felt properly chastened and Wife was properly satisfied with the results.A favorite pastime

Then, the wide, gleeful eyes of #4 poked around the doorjamb. She slid into the room bobbing like a vulture and grinning like the Cheshire Cat. Her hazel eyes looked between her sister and mother attempting to uncover the recent happenings in the same way an archeologist reasons out a past civilization. “What’d she do mom?” was her jovial inquiry.

Wife, who was not enjoying her motherly duties as disciplinarian, found the joy that #4 got out of the misconduct of #1, absolutely irritating. She stood up quickly, which brought on a wave of contractions, and told #4 that it was none of her business, while clutching at her pregnant abdomen.

#4 did not dally after she had been reproached, nor was she gone long. Since one of her favorite pastimes seems to the observations of her siblings’ reprimands, another one must be informing on their ill behavior, whether real or imagined.

When she came back to her mother, it was to inform her that #5 was hitting #6.

“Did you see him hit your brother?” Wife asked with exasperation.

“Um, no, but he is crying… so he got hit,” was her explanation.Bumping the Table

“If you didn’t see it how do you know? Go, show me!” And Wife waddled after #4 to a false alarm. #6 had walked into the table; #1 and #2 were comforting him. When Wife rounded into #4 she cringed as she blurted out the term of general defense, “I didn’t know!”