Yes, Virginia, there are
I took my ex-boyfriend's 11 year old daughter ("Bugs") to the nail salon with me last night. I can take her with me everywhere, because she is the most perfectly behaved, ladylike young woman I've ever met in my life. I've helped to tweak it over the years (her mother is completely uninterested in her as a person so she never interracts with her much). But Bugs is largely responsible for this herself.
She's an incredible child who made up her mind at age 5 about what she wanted to be, and has never looked back. I'll write more about her at another time. By the way, she's very pretty and the nickname "Bugs" doesn't come from her having buck teeth. People are amazed wherever I take her, and I commonly hear that she looks and acts like a tiny adult. It's not contrived, she simply has a maturity beyond her years.
Anyway, Bugs and I were at the nail salon getting our nails done and visiting with the owner of the salon (let's call her Lori), who happens to be a friend.
An overweight, unkempt lady with stringy, greasy, badly bleached hair had just had her nails done, and was sitting over at the drying station. She was accompanied by a teenager, a kid who was about 4 years old, and a baby.
I've seen many badly behaved kids in my life, but her 4 year old took the cake (he was a blond, blue-eyed Damien
). He was running about in the salon, stopping only to grab anything to destroy it and get attention. Apparently Lori was good and sick of this already because she was past "polite" on the e-meter
and on to "f*ck it". Every couple of seconds she'd scream "Damien! No!"
and his mother would look up and say crossly "Now Damien! Stop it!"
Finally when Damien tried to topple a column, Lori had enough. "YOU! Get outside now!" she demanded. The mother looked confused for a moment. Lori stomped over to her. "Now!" she hollered, as nasty as Lindsey Lohan
. "I want him out now
"Uh, OK," said the mother, and instructed the teenager to take Damien outside.
Lori sat back down to doing my nails, muttering and twitching. "I can't believe
it! This kid is outta control!" she exclaimed. Bugs was wide-eyed.
"You did the right thing," I said. "If the kid had injured himself, you
would've been sued over it."
The mother finished drying her nails and came up to the front to pay. She looked about her hesitantly and her eyes latched onto me. Why, oh why am I always the person that people suddenly feel compelled to speak with? It's served me well when I was more actively counseling people, but it's also a darned nuisance. From the time I was little, my mother has called me "The Trouble Magnet", and with good cause.
"You know, I don't know what to do with him. I've tried everything," she whined.
"Really?" I said. "Like what?"
"She's a counselor," Lori chimed in helpfully. I shot her a look.
"Spanking, yelling, time outs don't work..." the mother trailed off.
"I see you have a pen. Good. Write down this book. It's called Dare to Discipline
, by James Dobson. I highly
recommend it," I said.*
"Really? Because I've tried everything else..." she said doubtfully as she dutifully wrote it down.
I paused for a moment. "Do you want a piece of free advice?" I asked.
"Sure," she replied.
," I said, "plain and simple. You tell Damien to stop, he ignores you. You yell at Damien to stop, he ignores you. When you finally scream
at Damien to stop, then
he stops. You know why?" She shook her head. "Because Damien has you figured out. He knows that you don't mean what you say. You have to retrain Damien. He has to learn that you can tell him no, once, and that means
no. When he disobeys, that's
when you punish him immediately. No screaming, no shouting, no extra energy. And you probably need energy for the baby."
"Yeah, the baby's sick. He gets seizures and has to be on medicine," she said. Until now, I hadn't really looked at the baby (I'm not a "baby person". I like them much better as they grow up and develop those interesting minds). He was there, snoozing, having been left exposed in the sunlight throughout her entire nail appointment, apparently.
"Do you realize you've left that baby in the sunlight the entire time?" I asked, incredulously. "That's not good for him!"
She hastily pulled the bonnet up over him but continued, unabashedly. "The doctors have him on klonopin (an anti-seizure medicine)
and..." she named something else. "He sleeps 20 hours each day, and we have to intubate him to feed him. He's on the waiting list for physical therapy so that he can learn to swallow and speak eventually."
"How old is he?" I asked. "Seven months," she replied.
"First of all, have you told your doctor that he's sleeping so much?" I asked. She hadn't. "Talk to your doctor. You need to ask him if there's an alternative." I added that although I have a doctorate, I'm not an M.D. so I can't discuss medications. I just felt she needed to do some research on her own and really get to know what she's giving to her baby. But, privately I thought that if klonopin is considered to be very
bad for fetuses (which it is), it can't be much better for babies.
"Well, the doctor did say there was an alternative, but he'd have to get approval for it," she admitted.
"Well then, take charge and tell him to get approval," I said. "You want as many options as possible. And this is an even stronger reason to get Damien under control. You need to give the baby more attention."
I went off to another part of the salon to get my pedicure (yeah, I was very self-indulgent yesterday).
When Lori came back a little later, she said the lady was gone.
"With any luck, she'll get that book," I said. "It would do her a world of good."
"I doubt she will," Lori said drily. "When she left, she told me that she hoped her pediatrician had made a mistake in the medicine he's prescribed for her baby. Then she could sue him for all he's worth, and get some extra spending cash."
: I normally don't recommend this book
, but desperate times call for desperate measures.