“Shut up! And sit still!” I shouted at the bickering kids sitting at the back.
I just couldn’t understand why my six-year-old boy likes to annoy his elder sister to no end. He’ll stop when you ask him to. But he did so only to figure out some other way to do it again, right before the echo of your request has died down.
“Ok, we’re not getting your ice cream,” I said.
“No fair!” he protested.
“I’ve already told you. One more time, and we’re not getting yours,” I said.
We’d promised to get the kids’ desserts on the way to the supermarket that night, each with his/her own favourite flavour.
I don’t usually use threats as parenting tools. Because when I do, I would have to make sure my words do not lose their weight by carrying them out. Those words usually build up to what I would not do for the kids, rather than what I would do to them. That’s why I only use it on minor things like not getting them candy, not going to the playground, no TV, and in this case, not getting my little boy his dessert. At their ages, denying them these minor things is as catastrophic as taking away iPods or handphone from teenagers, or cutting off internet access to us.
While doing our round in the supermarket, my little boy was surprisingly subdued, none of his non-stop whining about the unfairness like I expected. But he did put on a wooden face and protective arms across his chest to guard against the world (that would be us, the parents) that he felt was against him, whenever the world cast an eye on him.
Yet, he didn’t make a sound when we put his sister’s ice cream into the cart. And he did chat with his sister on other subjects, without making a fuss about the unfairness, along the way.
His quietness and willingness to accept his punishment without grumbling about it was starting to make my heart mellow. Perhaps my point had driven across. However, I quickly and painfully halt the mellowing process to make sure I wasn’t going to get what he wanted, that night.
I had decided to get it for him on my way home from work the day after.
After we came out from the supermarket, at the car park, as he and his mom and sister got into the car, I stopped him. I told my wife and little girl to wait in the car, and walked towards the supermarket with him.
“For this time, I’ll get your ice cream. But remember what I said about teasing your sister, Ok?” I said.
“Ok, “ he nodded happily, smiling broadly. I believed him, like I believe pigs would fly.
I held his hand walking back towards the supermarket. I was smiling too, my heart totally softened, the wall around it crumbled under his once-again glowing innocent face.
Perhaps, I had spoilt him for turning back on my words; perhaps, by turning back on my words, my words would have less authority the next time round; perhaps, by having less authoritative words, I would have a harder time in parenting; perhaps, I had made a wrong decision.
But my thought at that moment was this: perhaps the unpredictability of life would see that I wouldn’t wake up, for good, the next morning, and then not getting his ice cream would be the last deed he remembered me by for the rest of his life. At my little boy’s tender age, I decided not to take the risk.
That night, I was sure he went to sleep feeling happy, as a child would be, knowing his favourite dessert would be in the fridge waiting for him after dinner the day after.
I wasn’t sure I did the right thing that night, but I didn’t regret doing it then.
But when I opened my eyes the morning after, I was awoken wondering whether I did over-indulge him the night before, or maybe I over-indulged my heart.Of course, my little girl was crying when I reached home after work the day after, complaining about her annoying little brother. And pigs still have not taken off.