Saturday, August 29, 2009

One Hundred Things My Mother Taught Me A Million Times - Chapter 12

#12 "You cannot reason with children."
Every time my mom taught me this one-of-one hundred things she taught me a million times, I got this irrationally creepy feeling in the pit of my stomach, because it felt like she was devaluing the intellect of children. Actually, it didn't mean Jill to me until I brought my own intellectually superior and flawless children into the world. Then it became a personal insult. I would roll my eyes and think, "What does she know. My kids are just a lot smarter than hers." Oh wait; I am one of her kids. Well, the point is that I was convinced that my generation would somehow magically just be able to raise kids better, i.e., how to reason with them.

As though it happened moments ago I recall the smell in the air. Melting pavement mixed with baby powder, and that fragrance that only a 100-degree summer day in West Texas can produce. I was in downtown Odessa, when there was a downtown Odessa, and I had with me, my oldest son Cuatro, then about 3-years old, and my daughter JoLene, who was still in an infant seat. Colt was riding comfortably and obliviously in my tummy, yet unaware of the crazy world into which I was bringing him. Click on Read More Below...

I got Cuatro out of the car, looked him in the eyes with the look of a mother who is primed to kill if disobeyed, and said, "Cuatro, I'm going to let go of your hand to get sister out of the car. I want you to stand right here. Do not move one inch. Do you hear me? Do not move!" Cuatro looked into my eyes, sweetness oozing, and said, "O-ta, mommy." Something unidentifiable flitted around in the back of my brain as I turned to grab JoLene, and in that instant, Cuatro broke for the street, straight into the oncoming traffic that was zooming by. With the super-human reflexes of a 25-year-old mother, I lurched after him just in time to save him from certain death. Crying and shaking I begged him, "Cuatro, why didn't you mind mommy! You could have been killed!"

Did I learn my lesson? Of course I didn’t.

A few years later, the kids and I were at the Zilker playscape. How I kept track of three of them by myself in that maze of kids is a mystery of motherhood, but I herded them together, and solemnly admonished that I was going to get water from the car, which was conveniently parked a mere 40 feet away, and I wanted Cuatro and JoLene to stay on the playscape, "Mommy will be right back. Do not move. If you move, mommy will spank you. Do you understand?" "Yes, mommy," was the reply delivered with the sincerity and sweetness that only your child possesses.

I walked backwards, carrying Colt, never taking my eyes off of Cuatro and JoLene. They were playing happily, minding mommy. I reached the car, took one last look to make sure Cuatro and JoLene were exactly where I told them to stay, reached in the car to get the water, and when I looked up, they were gone! I of course panicked, running, looking, running looking, Colt bouncing on my hip like an appendage. Oh my gawd, oh my gawd - Cuatro! Jolene! I screamed, blending in with the yelps of the other children on the playscape and the voices of other parents yelling at their kids. After a minute or two of frantically looking I saw a park ranger drive by and I flagged him down screaming incoherently. "My kids, they're gone, help me, my kids, help me find my kids!!!" Within minutes - the longest minutes of my life - they were located walking along Barton Springs Road. A kind grandmother saw them and knew they were too little to be alone (bless her).

So mom was right. You cannot reason with children. They are children, and we are flirting with disaster to expect them to have the judgment of a wise adult - which even we seldom are!



  1. Sue,
    I'm sorry to hear about Isabel. I remember the stories you and Deb told me about her and your adventures in Yelapa. I know she was the cornerstone of many happy memories....I'm really sorry for you loss.
    Debbie Lantz

  2. Life is so bittersweet - I had her in my life and that was so wonderful - but now she's gone - but I have those great memories - but I'll never see her again and they broke the mold when she was born - but she lives on through all the people she shone on....bittersweet. Thanks Debbie.

  3. Wow. Part of me feels like as the mother of twin toddlers I shoudl already know I cannot reason with children, but I guess I was hoping reason might be just a developmental hop skip and jump away. You are a wise sage Miss SueAnn! XOXO, Rachel

  4. Put a goat within a fence and the only thing they can think of is how to get out of it.

    Tell a child to do one specific thing and the only thing they want to do is NOT that.

    These are, for better or worse, some of nature's inescapable truisms.

  5. I remember Mommy saying to my parents one time about one of us that was going through a difficult time and acting out, "Oh Gloria, XXXX is just going through a phase." Kids are expected to act out, why was my mother getting so upset about it? I can only imagine how she felt about that, but it was true and if the reaction to the acting out had not been so strong, would the behavior stopped or deescalated?