On Teaching Children to Sit up and Beg

Dec 9 2011

The pasta was boiling over. The dog was barking. Two kids needed help with homework. Another kid needed his butt wiped because “I fink I’m making a big mess, Mom!” The oven was beeping. Something – or someone - went *ker-lunk* and then *CRASH* in the other room. And fourteen of my children were crying.

Yeah, yeah; so I technically only have five children. But you know those moments when it feels like you have 47? It was that moment, just before dinner, when everyone had low blood sugar and Mt. Everest irritability. That crash from the other room? It was my family falling apart. I needed some lightening fast solutions.

“Hey, Ian!” I snapped at my 12-year-old. “I need some big kid help. STAT!”

Ian’s a go-to kid when it comes to helping out a frazzled mama. I mean, don’t ask him to unload the dishwasher just to help out; that’s a crap job, and he knows it. (I make him do it anyway because I enjoy the torturing of children. BWAHahahaha!) But my Ian Boy is always willing to roll up his shirt-sleeves when someone really needs him, and he knew immediately it that kind of night.

“OK, Mom,” Ian said, nodding seriously. “I’ll help. What do you need, Mom?”

Except, of course, Ian’s not so much into articulation or, you know, speech, as he is into rapid-fire disaster response, so it came out more like, “OK, ma’am. I hape. Wut you need, ma’am?” I love it when Ian’s “mom” sounds like “ma’am.” It’s like he’s a police negotiator trying to talk me down off a ledge. But I’ve been listening to this kid try make word-sounds for a long time, so I knew exactly what he meant, and it sounded to me just like angels singing.

“Protein, Ian,” I answered. “That’s what this family needs. Do you think you can get your brothers some lunch meat so they don’t start chewing on the dog?”

“Ma’am?”

“Yes, Ian?”

“Don’t eat the dog, ma’am. That’s gross.”

“OK, Ian. No one will eat the dog.”

Ian nodded again with furrowed brow. “Thanks, ma’am.” And he set to work.

As Ian went to the fridge to get the lunch meat, I headed off to rescue the pasta and to pretend I know enough about 4th and 8th grade schoolwork to help my girls.

And the next time I turned around, Ian was doing exactly what I asked.

He was feeding the little ones lunch meat.

Like they were dogs.

“Sit,” Ian commanded. Their hineys hit the ground.

“Beg,” Ian ordered. They scrambled to their knees, hands held limply at their chests, and they begged.

“Good puppies!” Ian praised enthusiastically as he tossed bits of meat upon our filthy floor where they leaped upon it and lapped it up, using only their mouths. I threw up a little bit in mine.

Ian turned to me with a twinkle in his eyes.

“They good puppies, ma’am!”

The children turned to me gleefully, meat dangling from their happy lips, awaiting my praise and their next instruction.

Now, when I asked my 12-year-old son to help a mama out by giving his preschool brothers a quick protein hit, I envisioned plates, a table, and a couple of napkins. I’m not sure which part of “12-year-old boy-child” I didn’t understand, but never let it be said that I don’t know when to just let it go.

“Nice work, boys… I mean, puppies. Carry on, dudes. Carry on.”

To review, when I call my preschoolers to sit politely and quietly at the dinner table, they look at me like this:

And then, instead of eating, they do this:

Whereas, when Ian feeds his preschool brothers, they look at him like this:

And then they do this:

Re-evaluating my parenting methods again,

Beth