I’m not sure it’s appropriate to write about the woes of discipline after empathetically writing about how hard it must be for my toddler to live his life always hearing “no” but things change quickly around here. The real name of the game is ‘parenting’ – always is.

The nice weather has really been bringing out a new side of Matty – a defiant, straight-up-bossy, demanding and I-can-do-what-I-want side. I have a feeling this is normal for a two-, almost-three year old and while I don’t hate it, I definitely don’t love it. I like that he has preferences – I’d rather that than a child who is apathetic to everything. But maybe it’s actually a curse and I just have yet to realize. I like that he’s not too shy or too intimidated to be defiant – though I wish he wasn’t so overwhelmingly defiant when the mood struck. I like that he’s a little sassy and finds it humorous – I just wish he didn’t laugh in my face every time I tried to reprimand him. I like that he’s strong-willed and knows what he wants – but he could definitely want less.

Last Friday, on our way home from the grocery store, we swung by the park to let the boys enjoy the extra daylight. As we loaded the car when we were getting ready to head home, Matty took off running down the street toward one of the busiest streets in Omaha. Seth, who was buckling Abbott into the car, hollered after him. I, loading our bags, also hollered at him. Matty, that little nugget of joy, only looked back to flash us a side smile. Seth took off after him and was fortunate enough to tackle him just before he ran into the intersection – during. rush. hour. Needless to say, that was not a fun Friday evening for anyone in our house – no pizza, no movies, no treats, no television, no nothing. Matty knew what he did wrong but he didn’t understand the magnitude of his actions. He also didn’t seem at all remorseful. We tried to explain to him that he could have gotten hurt so badly that he’d never see us again and, at one point out of frustration I said, “You could have died!” but those concepts are beyond him. He doesn’t understand death or the idea of “never again”. I mean, jesus, the kid peed on the couch two nights ago and acted like it was his biggest accomplishment of the day – we’re obviously light years away from understanding the basics of life at this point.

After school on Monday, to celebrate the first day of Spring, I took the boys to a playground we’d never been to. It was set back into a large park and was, by far, the best we’ve seen – except it was sand. Sand playgrounds aren’t terrible but they’re messy and, in all seriousness, giving toddlers free reign of sand is dangerous. When Matty is feeling tame, he’ll bake a cake in the sand; when he’s feeling wild, he’ll throw it at anyone in his vicinity and laugh like a rabid hyena. The three of us were having a great time until Matty decided to get wild and started slinging sand everywhere. I asked him to stop two times and he did, until Abbott sat a couple feet in front of him and start flicking the sand – as babies will do. Matty, thinking it was okay, began to throw the sand again only this time in Abbott’s direction. I asked him to stop twice more and he didn’t. 

“Matty, if you throw that sand again, we are going home.”

He smirked and let it fly. And just like that, Abbott was covered in sand.

THAT’S IT! We are going home.”

And with that I picked Abbott up and started down the trail.

“Come on, Matheson. I told you if you did it again we were leaving.”

Matty, wearing his clunkiest pair of snow boots (another new “phase” we’re in), followed 20 ft behind me wailing and yelling inaudible things while dragging his feet along the concrete. Joggers and walkers weaved around us. Many of them gave half hearted smiles as they passed. Abbott, very independant in his own ways, began throwing himself about wildly and yelling at me, wanting to be put down to walk on his own. Every time I let him down, he’d wander back towards the playground and I’d have to scoop him up, get slapped in the face multiple times and keep an eye on his brother. Bless the day that child becomes a 2-year old.

“MAAAAAAMAAAAAAAA. I DON’T WANNNNNNNT TO GOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Matty screamed every time he made eye contact with anyone.

“Matheson. I warned you and you did it anyways. We are going.”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO! MOM! NO! AHHHHHHHHH!”

“Come on, Matheson.”

At one point I had Abbott over my knee, who was also crying, while I frantically rubbed sand off of him and repeatedly reiterated that we were in fact going home to Matheson. In that same moment a nice older couple walked by. She chuckled at Matty, waved to Abbott and then looked me in the eye and said, “Good luck” pairing it with a sweet smile and a wink. Older women like that are a blessing to us all.

Matty sobbed the whole way home and when asked later why we had to leave the park he said, “Because I didn’t want to leave. Mom made me.” And that was the only answer he gave for the rest of the night. That was his story and he was stickin’ to it.

We don’t spank in our home but that’s not to say it wasn’t a conversation and an agreement we both had to make but I can suddenly see why some parents do. Disciplining a child strictly through time outs, communication, tone and maybe a good stern “parent look” is tough, especially when your kid laughs in your face or smirks like a little shit head every time he’s getting in trouble. I could talk to him until I’m blue in the face about how he’ll have no friends if he’s not nice; I could yell at him in my loudest, most serious voice; I could sit him in his room to think over what happened and still he’d emerge with a grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye asking for candy or a movie or an apple like nothing ever happened. It’s….just….there are not enough words in my vocabulary to describe for how infuriating it really is.

Today, the name of the game in our house is discipline and Matheson Walter might be winning right now but let’s all pray Seth and I come out on top.

WHATEVER.