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My Mother’s Voice Flew Out My Mouth

I swore for.many years I would never be like my Ma. Well, let me qualify that. There are loads of things my ma did right but there are plenty of things my Ma did wrong. Those are the things I swore I would never do.

Well, I did.

My daughter and I often end up in a tug of war. Battle of the wills.

Will she keep rolling her eyes and will I eventually roll them in her head for her?

Will she keep sticking her tongue out and will I grab it and pinch it to get her to stop?

Will I continue having to argue the merits of underwear, bathing and toothbrushes or will she one day wake up and randomly dress herself?

Ok. You get the point.

One thing my Ma specialized in was embarrassment as punishmsnt. Humiliation had its merit. That being said, I have desperately attempted to stay away from humiliation as a discipline tactic. Way too traumatizing. Usually talking it out works.


On this particular day, I was already stretched thin, emotionally, so talking was not on my list of things I wanted to do. I had already spent most of the day endlessly repeating myself and correcting mouths and attitudes.

Her cousin had just gotten a brand new bed and had her room painted. (I knew this already because I had helped put the thing together just the day before.) She called and invited the kids to come uptown to see her “new” room.

In order to go, the kids simply needed to bathe, dress and brush their hair. We should have been out the door within the hour. Instead, an hour later, I am still yelling at Jo to get in the tub.

I told her “Jo. Get in the tub! If you have a problem doing as you are told you will not go to S’s house. And as a matter of fact, you will call her and tell her yourself!” Oh crap. I inwardly cringed as I momentarily flashed back to one of the times Ma had me call to tell my girlfriend I wouldn’t be coming because I had snapped my mouth. The humiliation washed over me all over again. I partly wished I hadn’t said it and was tempted to just let it go. Don’t tell her I said that…

She got in the tub with her brother. Not five minutes later, did her brother come out screaming the Jo had kicked him and he hit his head in the tub. (I will pause here momentarily to say I generally don’t let the kids bathe together anympre unless we are trying to move things along or if it is really late and I don’t have patience for Chris’ bathing rituals.)

That was it! I lost it.

I yelled to Jo that they would not be seeing their cousin and that as soon as she was done she was calling her.

The drama and tears that ensued were quite impressive. Half an hour later, she was handed a pre-dialed phone to tell her cousin she was not coming.

Normally, trauma would be the end of the punishment. Wait! You mean you punished her MORE!? Yep. Taking a page from my son’s therapist, I told Jo to pull out her diary and write down what she did wrong, why she got punished and how she could do different next time.

An hour later, she brings her diary to me talking about kicking her brother.

I threw my hands up. I can’t get through to this kid! It is the damn ATITUDE!

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