04 Feb Parenting 101
Savannah Burke was cleaning up the oatmeal that her four-year-old son Jackson had spilled on the floor. Just then a feeling of something wet and cold made her touch the back of her white sweater. It was milk. She looked up and saw her son grinning as he put the glass on the table. As she reached for some more paper towels. Jackson said with a little laugh, “Too bad. More work for Mommy.”
Just then the front door opened and Jamie, Jackson’s father walked in smiling. He was carrying two cups of coffee and a bag with blueberry scones in it. “Hi Dude! How’s my buddy?”
Taking in the scene, Jamie helped to blot the milk on Savannah’s back. “Little accidents happen. Dude, look inside the bag. Something we all love.”
Jackson reached into the bag. The scones were warm and he took one out. Nibbling, he began to spit bits of crumbs all over the place.
“Hey Buddy, what’s happening? Don’t you like your scone?”
“I hate scones. They are the worst things in the whole wide world. You dumb Daddy.”
Jackson smirked at his puzzled mother and father. He got out of his chair and walked into the kitchen where his mother was having her first sip of coffee. A coffee cup lid was on the counter. Jackson flicked it onto the floor. Savannah quickly picked it up and cleaned up the little traces of coffee on the floor. Jamie automatically said, “You silly buddy.”
Savannah turned to look out of the kitchen window. The sun was shining on Jackson’s green slide. Birds were beginning to return after the cold winter and this scene offered a bit of peace and hope to Savannah that she was unable to let go of. Jamie patted her shoulder. Somehow Jamie’s tenderness made Savannah begin to cry. She really was sobbing as Jackson came in and saw his mother in his father’s arms.
“Hey Mommy’s a crybaby! Hey cool!” He left the kitchen laughing and waving his father’s wallet. Jackson began to pull out money, a license and credit cards.
“What’s going on Dude? That’s my wallet!”
Somehow Jamie was frozen. He didn’t like what was going on but had no idea what to do. He looked back into the kitchen. Savannah was still bent over in tears.
“Hey Buddy, let’s see if you can try and be my dude, okay? We can go to the park and then go to the toy shop. Come on over for a minute.”
Jackson walked over with a big smile stuffing his pockets with his father’s money. As he got close, he stomped on his father’s foot.
Savannah walked upstairs and closed her bedroom door.
Jamie snapped. “Jackson, this is it. Mommy and I are sick of you being rude, destructive, disrespectful and no fun. Go to your room and stay there until I say you may come out.”
“Oh boy! Big Daddy now. I’m so scared!”
“Goodbye Jackson! Go upstairs!”
Jamie was serious. Jackson sat on the floor and pretended to be asleep, eyes tightly shut. Jamie scooped him up and his tight hold kept Jackson there in spite of his squirming. Walking up to Jackson’s room, he tossed him onto the bed and walked out. Anticipating Jackson’s escape, Jamie waited outside the door. As Jackson raced out, his father caught him firmly.
“Get back into your room until I say you may come out.”
Jackson somehow knew this was different from his usual reprimands. He walked back into his room. Jamie went to be with Savannah who was lying on her side of their bed. He sat next to her and reached for her hand.
“Jamie, I really don’t know what we ever did to get this awful treatment. Jackson has gotten worse and worse.”
“Maybe it’s just a phase he’s going through.”
“Jamie, I’m worried. Jackson seems to like being awful. I used to think if we kept being good to him he’d eventually want to be nice to us.”
Just then a loud sound came from Jackson’s room.
“Please don’t run in Jamie. I don’t hear tears. Let’s wait it out.”
Another loud noise followed.
This time both of his parents walked into his room. Jackson was dumping his books off of the shelves. His father grabbed his arm and made him sit on the bed.
“Jackson, this is ridiculous. Mommy and I have had it with your outrageous spoiled little boy behavior. Stop it now and begin to clean up your room. We are going downstairs and don’t want to hear another peep. Got it?”
Somehow something registered.
As they got back to their cold coffee, Jamie wondered why they hadn’t done this earlier. He felt a new parental surge come over him. He took out his phone and called their former babysitter, Diana, who had become less available as Jackson had become more of a pain.
“Hey Diana, it’s Jamie Burke.”
“Oh hi, Mr. Burke. How are you?”
“Well, Diana, Savannah and I have had it with Jackson’s behavior. I can honestly say we are miserable. Would you consider babysitting for Jackson for the afternoon? You can bring Johnny if you want. We have to get out.”
“Mr. Burke, if Jackson is rude, may we tell him to cool it? He never listened because he knew you wouldn’t back me up. So he never paid any attention to me.”
“We’re beginning to see how foolish we’ve been. We want that to change. I mean desperately!”
With a little laugh, Diana said, “We’ll be there in a half an hour.”
Sheer relief filled them. Just then they realized there were no sounds coming from Jackson’s room. Peeking in they saw that some of the books were back on the shelves. Jackson was at his little desk. They both tiptoed away. Then a piece of paper slid under their door. Little feet ran away. They found a drawing of two stick figures with sad faces, and a smaller one frowning, next to a tiny red heart.
“Could a miracle be in the works, Jamie?”
“Maybe. Amazing if something is changing already.”
Savannah walked into Jackson’s room. He was still slowly putting books back on the shelf. Jamie quietly joined them.
They both started adding books to the bookcase. The job was done in no time. Jackson’s room looked nice again. They all sat on his bed in silence.
Jackson took his mother and father’s hands and held them to his face. They both leaned towards their four-year-old boy. Kissing his hair, Savannah said, “We feel so much better.”
“Me too,” Jackson smiled.
The doorbell rang. Diana and Johnny were so friendly and Jackson was fine with this new time.
“Have fun, Mr. and Mrs. Burke,” Diana said cheerfully. Her boyfriend, Johnny and Jackson were already headed towards the back yard for a catch.
“A pizza will be delivered soon. Thank you again, Diana.”
The Burkes knew they had a ton of work to do. They felt liberated as they walked away from their little boy, towards town. They agreed that they would work hard and together to help Jackson feel their love without allowing any rudeness or meanness. Savannah and Jamie would at last become parents. Dude and Buddy would be put aside for now. Their new-found strength would help create a connectedness that they could all believe in.
Holding hands, Savannah and Jamie felt equal to their monumental task. They were comforted by their own strong, happy bond. The smell of burgers lured them into the coziest spot in town.
Anne Martine Cook has 40 years experience teaching nursery school children.
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