Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Discipline—Part III

     There were a couple of fun kids camps approaching during a recent holiday weekend that Braden was excited about: An overnighter at our church and a two-nighter immediately following at Mokuleia. He's a calm sort that checks his emotions for the most part, but sometimes when he knows that he's got a fun, worthwhile (to us) event coming up that we're likewise looking forward to and that we'd be loathe to cancel, the sin that resides within him (and that resides in us all) tempts him beyond what he can bear and causes him to act rude, disrespectful, and aggressive toward his innocent, perfect family members excepting (for the most part) me. 
     To our pleasant surprise, then, Braden was a picture of kindness leading up to The Weekend, but just two days prior he sassed Deanne repeatedly as Deanne snapped back displeasure. 
     As mentioned in my prior Discipline essay, Deanne's not the most disciplined of disciplinarians so I told Braden, “Time out and you better quit now!” finger poised as if to pick my nose. He stomped away, foot falls slamming with such violence that had our football-sized cockroach co-tenants not stampeded clear, there'd be blood (or more accurately cockroach goo) splattered everywhere like Pulp Fiction. I might have let that pass, but then he muttered audible (but indecipherable—lucky for him) invective under his breath, kind of like Fred Flintstone after a dressing down from Mr. Slate, as if daring us (me) to do something about it. I said, “Okay you can't go Friday night.” I felt so relieved that that was settled that I might have smiled (not that I enjoy disciplining, I just hate anticipating further misbehavior.)  
     Braden walked away post-haste before he did something costlier, his breath labored as if he were doing a burst-the-water-bottle muscle man stunt. He hadn't a water bottle handy (or the muscles necessary to over-inflate it), however, so the only thing that appeared on the verve of bursting was his head, purple as a blood blister on a big toe caused by kicking a nearby ottoman after yet another stupid U.H. football play. Not that I watch or care about such games or take out my latent hostility or disappointment on inanimate objects. No, I take out my latent hurts and hostilities on animate objects such as football-sized cockroaches. Love killing them!
     On Friday afternoon, the three kids and I were outside exercising. Penelope, who would be going to the overnighter (but not the two-nighter 'cause she's too young) was riding a scooter around the driveway minding her business when Braden seeing her indifference to his plight took it as a personal affront, a teasing that she, but not he, could go. So he started taking up a lot of space as he bounced a tennis ball on my old Prince Graphite tennis racket and kicked Jaren's soccer ball through the stratosphere when it dared come too near him. 
     “Stop it!” I said, amazed that he'd act up with me sitting right there. “Okay Pene and Jaren you guys can go in.” 
     Pene put away the scooter and disappeared. “Can we play golf?” Jaren asked me.
     “Okay, I'll meet you out front,” I said.
     Jaren and I play putt-putt on our tiny, lumpy front lawn on occasion. While doing so on this occasion (to get away from Braden), I heard the sound of a skittering stone on concrete coming our way from the back of the house. I looked and there was a stone by the living room tottering on edge and up the drive by the garbage bin stood Braden displaying alpha male dominance gestures so I chuckled at his antics and let pass that the stone incident was caused by an “accidental slip” while playing Gorilla. 
     Back to the Masters Championship battle for the green jacket over which all rode on my final putt, I heard a larger, noisier stone come skipping down the drive toward us and this time it passed our level and stopped almost even with our mailbox a few feet away. I backed away from the ball to gather my thoughts to the astonished gasps of the crowd. Up the drive, Braden now stood flexing and heaving defiant like the Incredible Hulk. So I said, “Okay, you can't go to camp this weekend.” 
     Two nixes over three days is much for any teen to take and in his fury Braden whimpered super-nova hot tears, making “It's not fair!” type squeaks. 
     “Get your hat and walk up and down the street until dinner,” I told him, not wanting any broken windows (least not ours). 
     Deanne once asked are we (you) being fair sending him walking up and down the street? I said we (I) let him drink water and use the restroom. When he hikes with Boy Scouts, it's way tougher and longer and he considers that fun. I even told him he can invite Abe (a Boy Scout neighbor) along and they can both blow off steam together, might do them good. (But he has yet to avail himself of that opportunity). 
     He returned from his walk displaying much better submissiveness to the true alpha male in our household (my wife) and has been a fine young companion to me on Costco trips and other stressful outings ever since.
     Being human, though, he weeks later defied my direct order to Leave Penelope alone! (They were fighting over a book.) As he left her room he issued a final threat to her so he got grounded and had to miss working on a plutonium atom (model, not the radioactive isotope) with classmates. 
     Deanne said what's he to say (as a reason for not going)?
     I said the truth. I'm sure they'll understand—if they're lucky. They can brag who has the strictest Dad. 'You think that's bad?' I mocked, 'My dad once sent me to bed without dinner.' 'That's nothing, my dad whips me with his belt every night.' 'Boo hoo, all I got was stale bread and water for a month, just for not fixing my bed.' It's all blather. The silent one's the one that's got it bad. He's the one whose parents don't care, aren't around, allow him to do whatever he wants, and never disciplines him. I'd be very concerned about a boy like that. No, they'll understand Braden's time-out just fine.”
     More recently, during a time-out of Braden's when Deanne inadvertently (foolishly) “rewarded” him with a candy-bar, which I found out about only after he had devoured a few nibbles, I said, “He can't have that. Braden, throw it away in the trash outside,” (because we had already emptied the house rubbish for the day and didn't want basketball-sized cockroach co-tenants emerging after a night of over-indulgence—at least not in our unit), “and don't eat any more!” He left as instructed and on an impulse I stood in our darkened bedroom and supervised (spied on) him. There he was in the dimly lit carport by the garbage can. He looked at me! (I ducked away foolishly behind the curtain). He lifted a hand to his mouth, chewed in haste, not seeming to enjoy himself, then opened and closed the dumpster lid, and left the suspected crime scene.
     When he entered the house I asked, “Where's the candy?”
     “In the dumpster,” he said.
     “Go get it,” (I'd make a great attorney.) He made a motion to leave, so I figured he must have eaten only some of it—smart move. “What were you doing out there? I saw you bring something to your mouth.”
     “I ate some of the candy.”
     “Okay, you're in time-out another week.”
     Tough love? Perhaps. But having a child grow up bad is much tougher. At least in my opinion.

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