Folks, watch your words when you have children. Now, I'm not talking about swearing here... I'm talking about what you say to your children because, I'm warning you now, they are literal creatures. First, because that's all their little minds can grasp and then... oh boy and then, because they have figured out how to obey the letter of the law while ignoring the spirit of it. It's at this point that you realize they are working on outwitting you... and starting to practice law themselves.
Exhibit A: Two Hands
When you say this to a young toddler they will grasp their cup with two hands just as you are showing them and attempt to drink. Now... they may spill a little, but it's because they are learning. I no longer have obedient toddlers. I have a thinking scheming pre-schooler and a corresponding kindergartner. So NOW when I will look over to Dizzy and see her 10 little fingertips balancing the UNDER side of the cup and the cup wobbling precariously as it is raised to her mouth and say "TWO HANDS!" I am greeted with a look of obvious disdain and the reply "I AM using two hands." Jeez, really? Do I really have to say, "Two hands completely cupped on either side of your cup with palms and fingers touching?" I mean, can we not obey the spirit of the law rather than the letter?
Even better, when I say "Two hands!" to William and follow it up with "Think about what you are teaching your sister!" because I see him casually using one hand and the milk sploshing out before he's raised it an inch off the table, he replies, "I AM thinking about it. I'm thinking about how to teach her to drink with one hand!" Kill me now.
Exhibit B: Butts and Knees
This is a phrase we utter in our house whenever the children momentarily lose their mental faculties and attempt to stand on furniture that is designed for sitting. When they were darling, willing-to-please toddlers, this phrase would get them to automatically drop to theirs knees or bottoms and sit as instructed on a chair, couch, etc. I should have predicted this, too, would end. The other day Elizabeth wanted to play at the table with her little Disney castle and dolls the way she sees her big brother doing with his Star Wars guys. So I put together THREE (count 'em three) dining chairs in an effort to make a "bench" long enough for her to play on safely as she is not my most graceful child. Like her mother before her, she's often so engrossed in her little inner world that she falls, trips, bangs into things, etc. I set up her bench and proceed to cook. Not even 10 minutes into playing I look up juuuuuust in time to see her go end-over-end onto the floor. "Elizabeth!" I shout, "did you forget about butts & knees?" Dazed and looking up at me from the floor she says, "Uhhhhh no. My knee WAS on the chair." I think about it for a sec... "just ONE knee Elizabeth?" "Well, yeah," she replies, "I was reaching for my doll who fell!" I see that I must now explain that one knee will not prevent a fall when 90% of your body weight is dangling into open space. Sigh.
Exhibit C: Wipe a little, flush a little
So William has been learning to tidy himself after going #2 because we figure a school-age child should be able to manage all elements of personal bodily functions while away from home. William, being the fastidious little one that he is, immediately began clogging toilets as soon as we started him on this venture. So one day I tell him (again, not thinking), "okay William, do NOT use so much paper. You need to wipe a little, flush a little." and then in my usual yada-yada voice I end with "you know... wipe.flush.wipe.flush. and so on". I'm feeling very proud that this is working when one day I'm cooking and realize he's been in that damn bathroom for over a 1/2 hour and I think I might be hearing my 9th flush. So I peek in to see what horrible ailment has accosted my son's bowels and say, "are you okay?". And then, I see it. He is LITERALLY taking perhaps two squares of paper, wiping and then flushing, AFTER EVERY SINGLE WIPE. Now, while I'm happy the clog problem is solved, I don't want to have to explain to the community at large that the next Pacific Northwest water shortage is tied to my son's bowel habits. "William!" I stop him, "what are you doing?" He looks totally shocked. "You said - wipe, flush, wipe, flush!" Oh boy. "Hon, I said, wipe a little, flush a little, wipe, flush, wipe flush, etc. I meant that you should wipe a couple or few times and then flush to make sure you don't clog the toilet and then repeat that if you need to." He still looks confused. "Oh, okay. Well why didn't you say THAT then!?" Exactly.
Now, I know what you're thinking folks... Mariska, this is a teaching moment. Time to teach them how to obey the spirit of the law OR time to learn how use my obviously superior grasp of the English language to get the results I want. Don't get cocky folks. It won't matter. Because once they begin learning the "letter of the law" trick... their crafty little minds jump to even more complex reasoning. Their practicing law like a seasoned defense attorney and finding ways to use YOUR ideas to THEIR benefit.
For example... Dizzy and the potty. I have accepted that she will poop on the potty in her own time. This does not, however, prevent me from offering incentives or performing little "verbal trick" attempts to get her to at least try to overcome her fear and yet FEEL that it is HER choice not mine. It worked on her most recent success (3 days straight of #2 on the potty) when I made the potty "talk" and say "I want your poops!" She laughed hysterically and tried. For 3 days. So today I think it may have worked when she walks into the bathroom sits on the potty and says, "the potty wants my poops." Victory, I think. I've done it. She pees and asks for a diaper. I look at her surprised, but not refusing the diaper and innocently reply, "Oh! I thought the potty wanted your poops today!" She looks at me and the potty like we have a serious case of lack-of-gratitude, hands me the diaper and says, "Well! The potty can have my PEES". Checkmate.
William, too, has shown this advanced reasoning, when it comes to bedtime. He HATES sleeping alone. He's having lots of nightmares and monster fears, etc. so he's always asking if one of us will sleep with him, or he'll con Dizzy into it. However, he finally realized that sometimes Dizzy is not the best choice because this girl practices some sort of mixed martial arts in her sleep. If you sleep anywhere near her, be prepared for a combination of arms, hands, elbows, knees and feet to strike you throughout the night. So, the other night, he asks me if I'll lie down with him until he falls asleep. "No," I tell him, "I've got too much to do downstairs. I can come up later, but I'm sure you'll be asleep by then." A little voice floats out of Elizabeth's room, "I'll sleep with you Bubba!" I see him contemplating it. Sleep alone. Brave Elizabeth's own special brand of night-time self defense. "Mo-om... please." I'm thinking I've given him the perfect logic quandary. "William, you have a choice. Let Dizzy in here with you. Otherwise, fall asleep alone and maybe I'll sleep up here later, but by that time you'll be asleep anyway." He's staring at the space next to him for a long time. "OKAYYYY", he yells to Dizzy, "Diz, you can sleep in here!" I think I've won. I tuck Elizabeth in and then come around his side to tuck him in and as I'm hugging him he whispers, "So here's the plan, let her fall asleep in here and let me fall asleep and then when you're ready to go to bed, carry HER to her own bed and sleep with ME!" He's smiling at his brilliance. I'm thinking he has a future in law.