Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Stop the Complaining!

Over the past few weeks, my fun-loving, active, comic son has morphed into a buzzkill. Actually, that's not a strong enough statement. It's more like Jacob is the (not so) mild mannered alter ego of Captain Buzzkill. His secret power is the amazing ability to find the negative in any situation, then point it out in the most noxious manner attainable by humankind. If I make macaroni and cheese and peas for dinner, he complains that I didn't put enough on his plate. If we go for a walk together, he complains that I'm walking too fast/too slow/in the wrong direction. If I pick out a book to read, he complains that it's boring. If I ask him to pick out a book to read, he complains that he can't find the book he wants to read. If we go hiking and happen to see an ultra-cool frog pond with a never-before-seen frog ruckus (after some discussion, I am uncertain whether it was a fight or some low-down dirty froggy type sex), Jake will complain that we didn't see enough frogs, that we are leaving too soon, and that he just wants to be home anyway because this whole frog hiking excursion was a waste of his precious time. If I throw up my hands and say, "I give up! Tell me what you want to do!" he will complain that I always force him to make all the decisions which isn't fair because he's just a little kid. First, we tried making gentle fun of him. Surprisingly, that's not a very effective technique for improving Jacob's behavior. Unsurprisingly, it is a very effective technique for reducing my stress level. Next, we tried pointing out that everything isn't rosy all the time. Stating the obvious had no effect. Which, upon further consideration, ought to have been obvious. Now, I'm trying to point out all the times that I am unhappy but not complaining about my unhappiness. This feels ridiculous and wrong. "Oh, look! We're having corn for dinner. I don't like corn, but I'm not going to make a big dramatic announcement about that. I'm not going to whine and sigh about having corn on my plate. I'm just going to politely taste the corn and keep my thoughts to myself." Oh, hmmmm. It appears that was a rather dramatic announcement. I didn't exactly keep my thoughts to myself. Instead, I painted myself as a martyr while simultaneously causing shock to ripple around the table. "How can you not like corn, Mom? Corn is good. Everyone likes corn. I like corn. Except I don't like corn on the cob and that's what you made and WHYOHWHYOHWHY did you put this nasty corn on the cob on my plaaaaaate? I'm not eating it. It's GROSS. And you know that it's gross because YOU DON'T LIKE IT EITHER!" And that, my friends, is the point where I pour myself another glass of wine and start daydreaming about throwing corn cobs at my beloved first born child.


Laura said...

I'm cracking up - you are too funny. Jake is a character and a half. :)

Katie Alender said...

Stories like this (about children) always make me wonder what little corner of his brain just fired up. What new synapse is working that he's suddenly in critique mode? And what triggered it?