Today has been a full day. It started off with taking Manchild to his first day of Pre-K. Walking up to church I stopped him, pulled him over, and said “Come here, I want to tell you something. I love you.”
He looked up at me and replied “Yeah. And don’t run with scissors”!
I promised not to.
Dropping him of was easy-peasy lemon squeezie. He nearly brought his own backpack full of toys, afraid that there wouldn’t be enough in his classroom (guess he was paying attention when Girlchild lamented the decrease in classroom toys upon entering 1st grade from Kindergarten). But I talked him into leaving them in the car. He was delighted at the selection he encountered!
After a happy departure, I moseyed on upstairs to W.O.W (Women on Wednesdays) and reunited with ladies I had not seen all summer. As mentioned in one of my very first posts, I was wearing once again my gray wrap shirt. Last time I wore it to WOW, I reached between the folds and pulled out a very random clean sock. Today it was a smashed raisin. The only issue with this is that my kids haven’t eaten raisins since they discovered pistachios. Only the Lord knows how long I’ve been keeping that snack under wraps.
After WOW we head on to Aldi’s, the un-trendy but secret goldmine grocery store. This is where Manchild loses his mind and goes rogue upon every visit. Today was no exception. Near the end of our trip, I notice we forgot bananas. I send Manchild to the banana section, and continued shopping in dairy. Moments later, he reappears with a bag of apples in one hand, and a bag of cheese balls in the other. Word on the street was that Aldi’s was out of bananas, and in his 4 year old mind, this was a close second. Somehow…
At checkout Manchild sneakily walks behind me in the aisle, grabs a package of candy, places it in front of the checker, and rejoices when she scans it and places it in the cart. Luckily Manchild is still in the “secret spiller” stage of life, and immediately comes clean and proudly admits to me that he just bought candy with my money. We have a quick “side meeting” and the candy gets returned. I could not believe him!
Next it was off to the pharmacy to pick up my prescription. Mr. Bradley was behind the counter, and recognized us instantly. Now, Mr. Bradley is one of those men of few but wise words. He is slightly gruff, neatly put together, and polite but not chatty. I may have seen him smile once. The type you want to like you because you get the impression that it would be a smaller than normal inner circle.
Anyway, while we talk, Manchild is greedily fingering a cat Pez dispenser and begging. I tell him he can hold it, but I will not buy it. One minute later, I repeat myself. Still more begging, and then I turn to catch him tearing open the package right there in the store! He just opened the Pez bag right on up, and I was standing there stunned. What do I do? It’s damaged now, so the store can’t sell it. I don’t want to buy it, because that rewards the boy. I tell him what a naughty thing he’s done, but that isn’t nearly enough. Honestly in that moment, with so many variables, options, and outcomes, I didn’t have a clue what the right parenting move was.
So I turned to Mr. Bradley. I explain the situation, and he agrees to take the toy behind the counter. I ask if I needed to pay for it, and he said technically I did, but he wasn’t going to make me. I don’t want the toy, but I don’t want to punish the store either. I’m still bewildered as to what to do to prevent this from ever happening again, so once again I turn to my pharmacist for advice.
“Do you have kids, Mr. Bradley? What would you do in this situation? Tell me!” I beg. He informs me that he has successfully launched 3 sons, was a firm believer in placing one thumb on the muscle on the back of the child’s neck, wrapping fingers around to the other muscle running down the opposing side of the back of the neck, applying firm pressure, and bringing your face in close to the child’s. It was there that he would make clear his expectations and wanted behaviors.
He informed me this brought good results in his experience, and was very useful for keeping kids in line. He also was not against disciplining or spanking in a public place, if that’s where it was needed. It was a parent’s job to discipline, so ignore any outside opinions (I once spanked Manchild in the ladies room of an Amish Market, and a woman tsk tsk’d me before glaring and walking out), he informed me.
I hate making a scene in public, I’m easily embarrassed. But this clearly explains why Manchild looses his mind in stores. Mr. Bradley stated that he was challenged by raising 3 black sons, keeping them out of jail, and away from trouble. But he disciplined them firmly right on up through high school (not the spankings of course, but kept them reigned in), explaining it was either him, or the cops, who would have to do it. No one likes to watch people discipline their kids, but no one wants to be around an unruly child either, he pointed out.
Then we came up with a plan. Since I wanted to be responsible to the store, but also not reward Manchild with a toy by attempted theft, Manchild would work off the money I spent paying for the Pez dispenser (his piggybank was a bit low). A LOT more chores than it was worth. Starting with cleaning the bunny cages. We explained this to Manchild, and Mr. Bradley gave him a talk about going to jail. Manchild was uncertain, he’d never had a stranger be disappointed with him before. He sucked in a smirk while staring with wide, frightened blue eyes. Mr. Bradley walked him through the whole process from going away from home to jail, what prison was like, and ending with calmly offering to call the police right now if that’s Manchild wanted (Manchild kept nodding his head “yes” each time the answer should have been “no”). There was no emotion in Mr. Bradley’s voice. Just the even tone of a wise, slightly intimidating man, who wasn’t pulling any punches. There was no maternal comforting side to this man, and I respected him for that. As did Manchild.
Mr. Bradley ended by advising Manchild to be nice to his momma, since he only gets one. Mr. Bradley recalled to Manchild the time I brought him up to the pharmacy window for a second opinion on a head wound (Manchild versus a glass topped table), and how I took care of him by purchasing steri-strips. I’m telling you now, there is nothing like being a striving, yet occasionally bewildered, Momma and having a firm, authoritative man validate you by telling someone else he approves of the job you are doing. Doesn’t matter who it is, it’s always so welcome. Especially coming from a person who doesn’t throw around smiles and compliments as easily as we women do.
At this point a customer began to approach the pharmacy counter. We prepared for our departure, and I threw ” You are so much more than a pharmacist” over my shoulder as we headed out of the store. I knew once again my plan, my goal, and my techniques. The fuzziness was gone, and I was grateful!
We hit the bunny hutches as soon as we got home, and Manchild was quickly growing lazy before the job was done. After scolding him for playing with multiple animals instead of cleaning, he stuck his tongue out at me. I placed my hand on the back of his neck, pulled him in close to my face as I bent down, and made my instructions clear. It worked like a charm! He put away his and Girlchild’s laundry and cleaned both sides of their shared room with no attitude in sight. It was nice to witness.
After chores, we got Girlchild off the bus, scrubbed the bunny poop scent off Manchild (I’d showered while he cleaned his room), and had dinner. Midway through the meal, Manchild declared that he has grown a 3rd nipple that day. He proudly lifted his shirt to impress Girlchild, who declared it a bug bite, and stated that you get the number of nipples that you have at birth, and that’s it for life. Such knowledge in her little 6yr old head.
As for now, I am sitting here full of gratitude to a man who spent an extra 10 minutes parenting another’s child, and pouring advice into needy ears. A man who helped to straighten out a wild boy, and restocked my tool kit when I had dropped some of my gear along life’s path. God knew I needed just a bit more than my prescription refilled today, and had just the pharmacist in mind for the job. I am truly thankful.