The Return of the Spank

The Return of the Spank April 6, 2011

My children are lucky to be alive today.

Don’t let those innocent faces fool you.

 Seriously. I am shocked that the Ogre didn’t construct iron rails across their bedroom door last night in his fury. And if he had, they totally would have deserved it.

I think I’ve mentioned before that the Ogre really possesses the cool head in our family. His reactions to our children’s mischief are calm, measured, thoughtful and, like the proverbial oak tree, unyielding. Mine tend to be slightly hysterical, hasty, and high-pitched.

But last night, our children finally managed to chop down the oak tree.

First, a little background. I long operated under the “spare the rod, spoil the child” philosophy, but one day, when I raised my hand to give Sienna something, she flinched. I realized that my child was afraid of me, but even worse, that I had been spanking her in anger, and so I resolved to spank no more. I began to explore “gentle parenting” and tried my hand with a variety of different techniques.

For the curious, my daughter is no longer afraid of me. She also no longer obeys me, and neither does her two-year-old sister. But the colossal failure of my experiments in discipline was never more apparent than last night.

I’ve been staying up late the last few nights. Between hanging out with my sister and dealing with totally wonky sleep schedules after our week of battling the plague, my usual 11 o’clock bedtime has looked a lot more like 2 o’clock. Unfortunately, the children’s blasted little internal clocks still have them smiling infuriatingly at me at 7 am, so sleep has been sparse. Last night, I was determined to get in bed on time, and so was the Ogre. We are craving normality and a return to a more structured life, so at precisely 10:45 I put away the ring I was making, turned off Chuck (after blowing a kiss to Zachary Levi, which the Ogre graciously pretended not to notice), washed my face and literally hopped in bed, so giddy was I about the prospect of a full night’s sleep.

I fell asleep mid-“Our Father” and slept deeply and peacefully until 1:40, when I woke up and shifted over so the Ogre could climb in bed beside me. It was so nice, lying in bed with my arms around my little boy and my husband’s arms around us both. So peaceful.

Until about four minutes later. Just as we were both drifting off, we heard a loud, hysterical sobbing “Daddddddyyyyyyy (hiccup, hiccup) yyyyyyyyyyyy” emanating from my husband’s tow-headed, miniscule female clone in the other room. The Ogre, ever patient, sighed only briefly before throwing the covers off and going to soothe our youngest daughter back into sleep.

This next part is a blur, because I was mostly either asleep or sleep-walking through it, but here’s what I remember, preceeded by the numbers that I noticed on the clock.

2:15: The Ogre comes back to bed, snuggles up against me again. Liam wakes up, begins to kick and squirm.

2:20: “Daddddyyyyy (hiccup) yyyyyyy!”

2:21: I whisper, “I got this” to the Ogre, remembering my Lenten promise to myself to be more helpful with the kids at night, and go deal with Charlotte, but not before nearly falling on Liam while groggily clambering over the Ogre. Liam’s eyes open, and I try not to think about what this will mean in the immediate future.

2:23: I lay down between Charlotte and Sienna, soothing Charlotte and whispering a little lullaby to get her back to sleep. Sienna remains in a near-comatose state, thank goodness.

2:45: My eyes snap open and I realize that full-fledged wails are floating down the hallway. Hastily climb out of bed to go take care of Liam, but not before noticing that Charlotte’s eyes are wide open and following me.

2:55: Realize, after nursing Liam, that he considers being awake at 3 am a rare treat and is determined to make the most of it. The Ogre and I stare at each other, panic-stricken, as Liam begins to babble happily and grab our noses.

2:56: “Daddddyyyyyyyy!”

2:57: I volunteer to take Liam in the other room and bounce him, but the Ogre, ever gallant, insists on doing it instead. I glance at the clock. He glances at the clock. I remind him that he has to teach in several hours. He nods and picks up the baby. I relent, because I love sleeping, and go soothe Charlotte, then return to the glorious bed.

3:25: The Ogre returns Liam to bed and climbs in himself. Liam seems moderately more tired, but my mommy senses tell me that this kid won’t be sleeping for at least another hour. I say nothing, but determine to wait until the Ogre is settled before taking Liam out.

3:26: “Dadd (hiccup) ddyyyyyyyyyyyy!”

3:27: The Ogre sighs, heavily and audibly, and goes to deal with Charlotte. I beg Liam, in whispers, to please be a good baby and go to sleep. He babbles, giggles, flips onto his tummy and lets out a high-pitched, gleeful squeal.

3:35: The Ogre returns, climbs in bed, and flips over, angrily facing away from me.

3:45: “Dadddddyyyyyyyyyy!”

3:46: I hastily intervene, leaving Liam where he is with a toy, and go to deal with Charlotte. I tell her, in no uncertain terms, that she better go to sleep right this second or she’ll get a spanking. I notice that blessed Sienna is still sleeping soundly. Charlotte looks frightened, so I give her a kiss and then reiterate that she is not to call out again. She nods and turns over.

3:50: I meet the Ogre at the doorway to our room. He is holding Liam, who’s trying to grab his nose, and is visibly furious. “Is she asleep?” he asks. “No,” I report, taking Liam, “but she’s not going to call out again. Come on, let’s go to bed.”

4:01: We are all three settled in bed. Liam is nursing happily and rubbing his eyes. I breathe a little sigh of relief, thinking that I’d let the Ogre sleep in a bit in the morning, and no one would be too much the worse for wear.

4:02: Bang. The door to the girls’ bedroom slams open, and the Ogre and I roll over to see poor Sienna standing in the middle of the hall, blurry-eyed and disoriented. “I have to use the bathroom,” she says.

4:03: “Mommmmmmyyyyyyyyyyyyyy (hiccup, hiccup)!”

4:04: “That’s it!” the Ogre thunders. “Everyone, back to bed!” Liam jerks awake and begins crying in earnest. As the Ogre herds the girls back to their room, I get up, put on slippers, and prepare to put Liam back to sleep in the other room so my poor husband can at least get a few hours of sleep. He doesn’t even argue with me, he’s so exhausted.

After a solid hour of rocking Liam, he finally drifts off against my shoulder. I prepare to stand and go climb in bed, when a small voice at my elbow says, “Mommy? I don’t feel good.”

There’s Sienna, looking for all the world like she’s going to puke. I ask her if she’s going to throw up and when she says no, I take her temperature, give her some water, and send her back to bed.

Of course, this exchange wakes Liam up. I finally manage to get him back to sleep around 5:30, and curl up in bed myself.

Only to be awoken a half-hour later by Charlotte, who’s cheerily sitting on top of me, saying, “Morya (morning), Mama!”

Oh yeah. That happened. It was awful, and I announced to the Ogre this morning that these kids are going to get the spankings of their lives if they even think about calling out or getting out of bed tonight. He agreed.

And so, even though I’ve been trying not to spank my children, even though I’ve been trying my hand at “gentle parenting”, even though I’ve been (unsuccessfully, I might add) using diversions, time-outs, and loss of privileges as punishments, it comes down to this. Loss of sleep in absurd proportions is our limit, it seems.

And so, around 8 pm Pacific time tonight, Those kids will keep their little behinds in that bed, and their precious little mouths firmly closed, or it’s going to be like WWE in our house. I am not afraid to put a two-year-old in a headlock.

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