October 24, 2013 9:55 pm The Totally Badgered Mother
Four year old Barney really knew how to wear his mother out. He never listened. At the park she frequently had to resort to bribes to lure Barney away from the riding toys or the sand box. Her promises of treats in the car nearly always worked but his demands kept escalating.
One day as she was buckling Barney into his car seat, Mary realized her last bag of gummy worms had been used to pry him from a friend’s house earlier in the day. She closed his car door, ran around to her side and got in, fearing the wrath of her little boy.
In seconds, Mary heard “Where’s my treat! Mommy, give it to me right now!”
“Barney, dear,” Mary began weakly, “I gave the last one to you this afternoon at the Haley’s, once you finally got into the car. I forgot that, but I will get some more soon.”
Barney kicked the seat and screamed, “Now! Get them now. You promised!” A few more of his kicks delivered them to a parking space just in front of the little variety shop.
Mary hurried to unbuckle Barney. He slid out of the car and raced to the door of the shop just as a car was backing out of a parking space beside them. The driver called out to Mary, “Your kid almost got hit. Get on the job!” Mary quickly apologized. “I’m sorry for frightening you.”
Barney was already in the shop, rifling through candies. Rob, the owner called out, “Barney, slow down a bit! I just straightened those shelves.”
Paying no attention, Barney brought what he had chosen to his mother: M&Ms, Snickers, Twizzlers and gummy worms filled his chubby arms. “You better get me a lot ‘cuz you forgot we didn’t have any. I want a lot.”
“Mary, thank you for your business. I appreciate it. If you want Barney to run the show all of the time, let him do that at home, but please don’t let him destroy my place.”
“Of course, Rob, I’m so sorry.” She straightened out the candies. Barney darted out to the car, chewing on something. “Wait, Barney,” she called, desperation in her voice.
He was trying to get into the car. “Come on Mommy, open up. Gimme that bag!” Mary handed him the Snickers bar but Barney wanted the whole bag.
“Barney, the bag will stay in the front with me.”
An elderly couple walked by and looked into their car. To prevent another outburst from Barney, Mary handed over the bag of candy. As Mary cautiously backed up, she saw Barney opening up the M&Ms. “Barney, sweetheart, those are for another time. You have had a lot of sweets.”
“You forgot to have something for me, so I get extra.”
Mary knew Barney was out of line but was too weary to say more.
Once in the house, Mary took the bag and put it away. Barney was devouring the M&Ms. She began to think about supper. The phone rang and it was Will, Mary’s husband.
“Oh hi, honey.”
“Hello, Mary. I guess Barney is bossing you around again. I’m sorry. You sound tired.”
“I do feel a bit worn out, Will. He has been relentless today.”
I’m almost home. Why don’t I pick up Chinese?” Will offered.
“That would be an absolute godsend. Thank you, Will. Please remember the General Tso’s Delight for Barney.”
“I would not forget that!” Will sounded cheerful and her spirits lifted.
Barney had climbed on a chair and was standing on the kitchen counter when Mary hung up the phone. He was surprised to see his mother so soon. “You hid my candy! Where is it?”
Mary almost began to cry. “You may not have any more candy tonight,” she said as firmly as she could.
“I will look everywhere and find it and then I will eat it all.”
Barney couldn’t find the candy so he went into his mother’s bag and took out her ipad. He came in and waved it in front of her. The family agreement was that every other day Barney could have a little time to play games on the ipad. Earlier in the day, to get Barney to stop misbehaving in the grocery store, Mary had promised some ipad time, even though that made two days in a row.
Just then Will opened the door. He gave his wife a hug. Barney ran over and got a big hug too. He began very loudly telling his father all about what he perceived as the injustices that his mother had dealt out. Mary speedily set the table.
Will washed his hands, got two glasses, opened a bottle of wine and patted Mary’s back.
“What a day, Barney. Let’s see if we can have a peaceful evening.”
“I don’t want dinner. I want my candy. I want it now!”
Will had been traveling a lot for the past few months. He found himself surprised by Barney’s endless and unreasonable demands. Will wondered how things had gotten so out of hand.
“You know what, Buddy? Mommy and I are going to have a nice dinner. You’re welcome to join us. We’d love that. We have General Tso’s for you. But there will be no more screaming.”
“You two are not the boss of me.”
Mary and Will began to eat. They had two minutes of peace. Then Barney showed his father the ipad. With the same sort of wave he did to Mary, he said, tauntingly, “I had my time yesterday, but I get more because you didn’t give me my candy. Ha, ha!”
Will got up from the table, took the ipad and sent Barney to his room. They heard him switch on the TV. Sighing, putting his napkin down, Will went upstairs, and turned off the television. He carried Barney to his room, put him in his pajamas and closed his door.
When he returned to the table, Mary put out her hand to Will. “Thank you for taking care of that. I just don’t know what to do about him anymore.”
“Mary, we have indulged Barney to the point where he is driving us both absolutely nuts. He is four. I feel so sorry for you. I will not take another trip until Barney is back on the map. I’ll tell them at work on Monday. We’ll be fine.”
Mary suddenly felt better, not only because Barney was in bed but because Will had helped her to find her place again as a mother. She thought back to the dozens of recent bribes she had offered. “How did I ever get so afraid of my own child?” she wondered. She understood why Barney was snowballing out of control and she began to feel equal, with Will’s help, to straightening him out.
“Will, I’ve let him boss me around lately. I’ve just been a wimp with him, I don’t know why. Thanks for your kind support.”
“We’ll do it, Mary. We have to be parents. Barney will be happier too.”
The next day was Saturday. Will and Mary needed to buy some things for the house, and a birthday present for one of Barney’s friends. When Barney demanded they buy him a present too, they ignored him. When he began to throw a fit, Will carried him out of the store, put him in his car seat and closed the car door. He stood outside and Barney quickly realized that kicking the seat in front was not getting him anywhere.
In the afternoon, they went to the park, where Barney played happily for an hour. When it was time to go home, he demanded a treat for getting in the car, but Mary calmly told him she didn’t have anything. “After you eat dinner, there might be dessert,” she told him. “But not now.” When Barney began to raise his voice, Will took him firmly by the shoulders, looked into his eyes and said, “Barney, stop!”
Things got better quickly for Mary and Will. Barney tried to direct and demand but it no longer worked. It took a week of parental commitment before Barney absorbed the message. They could see Barney liked being a happy little boy again, rather than a four year old tyrant. Listening to his parents became what Barney wanted to do. It was suddenly easy.
Will even went to Brazil a week ago. Mary and Barney were fine when he was away and when he returned. Mary is able to really enjoy her days with Barney. They all benefited by facing what they needed to do.
Written by: Anne Martine Cook, Managing Partner & Mom, with 35+ years experience teaching nursery school children.
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