The Hard Way: East & West Parenting Manual (#265)

When Baby D was an infant, my husband thought he was the easiest baby. Baby D was content to nap on Andy’s chest while Andy lay on the couch and watched TV. Entire seasons were binge watched during his family leave.

Once Baby D figured out how to move, it was a different ballgame. Baby D learned to crawl–solely for the purpose of cat-chasing.

Baby D learned to walk at 10 months. For five seconds. After his first three steps, he ran.

This was a rough learning curve for Andy. His once-lazy weekends were now about chasing his son, usually with food or band-aids. When Baby D wasn’t running, he was probably arguing.

Baby D was a classic Ashbough: hostile when thwarted. No matter how many times we warned him that our departure was eminent, Baby D threw tantrums when we had to leave parks. He threw tantrums leaving playdates. Hell, he threw tantrums when he had to leave the living room, struggling when we finally picked him up and carried him. More than once he angrily flung himself backwards in our arms, cracking his head on doorways. Only to scream some more.

Potentially fractured skulls were preferable to submission.

I had a ton of baby siblings and was no stranger to tantrums. If I had to hold a door shut while Baby D pounded on it and screamed in rage during a time out in his room, I did. Many times.

My Chinese-American husband, on the other hand…

“I don’t understand it,” Andy said. “Why doesn’t he just do what we tell him without throwing a fit? He never gets his way and it’s embarrassing when we’re in public.”

“Baby D’s a strong-willed, would-be dictator. We’re gonna be fighting this battle for the next 18 years. Get used to it.”

Andy looked appalled. “I never acted like this.”

“Because your father smacked you in the head, remember?”

“It was more like knuckled us in the head.”

“Either way, that’s lazy-assed, problematic parenting.”

“It worked!”

“In the short term, maybe. In the long term, hitting your kid does permanent damage. It taught you to obey unthinkingly. Hitting teaches other kids it’s okay to lash out physically,” I reminded him. “I got spanked, smacked, and even beaten with a hairbrush until I bled as a kid. How’d that work out for me?”

“You broke a window that one time. You threatened my father with a screwdriver, which actually was totally awesome, hahahaha. And oh. Yeah, you tried to half-ass strangle me.”

“Which was not awesome. We’re trying to be better, more conscious, more  thoughtful parents than our parents. The kid will argue and tantrum. And we’re going to let him have his feelings and his fits, but he’s not gonna get his way.”

Andy winced. “It’s so painful. I hate taking him anywhere.”

“Yes, it’s painful now, but there are good things about having a stubborn kid.”

“Like what?!”

“When he’s a teenager, do you think anyone is going to be able to pressure him to do anything he doesn’t want to do? Like drugs? Smoking? Skipping class?”

“Huh.”

“Exactly.”

Andy took Baby D to a local McDonald’s Play Place not long after that. By himself.

When Andy told Baby D it was time to go, Baby D disagreed.

“Listen up, buddy,” Andy told him. “I gave you a warning and we’re leaving now. We can do this the easy way or the hard way. It’s up to you.”

Baby D stuck out a belligerent chin and said, “The hard way.”

Andy scooped up Baby D, tucked him under his arm, and marched out of McDonald’s. He ignored the laughing parents and the staring old people in the parking lot. Andy ignored Baby D’s wails all the way to the car: “No, Daddy, no! The easy way! The easy way!”

Too late, little dude. The hard way it is.

 

FYI, Baby D has yet to pick the easy way.

 

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

30 thoughts on “The Hard Way: East & West Parenting Manual (#265)”

  1. This is why I often worry about spending time with other people’s kids, because as far as I’m concerned, if I have a good relationship with the parents, I’m in loco parentis with the kid. Like the time my then four year old nephew (cousin’s son) ran away from a group of us. I was the only one to see him go, so I chased him into a furniture store, and when I cornered him, I stuck our my hand and said, “Come with me. Let’s go back to your parents.”

    He, of course, said, “no.”

    So I picked him up, put him under my arm, walked out the store, while telling him, “Suck it up, kid. I’m saving you an asskicking.”

    1. A good uncle. When there’s a large group of adults, often each one will assume another parent is watching the kid. Andy and I developed The Star Trek/ Endeavour Bridge System: “You have the baby?!” “I have the baby!”

  2. Is yours also a monkey? Mine is definitely stubborn, strong willed and manipulative…very very manipulative. He only gets bad when he is hungry, which he takes after me and my father and my sister. ( my sister’s husband often asks her if she ate whenever she is cranky…) oh how I dream of his father dealing with him for a day without me there…

    We went to a children museum last month, and because he was picky with food, he didn’t eat well and became hungry and when he is hungry, he is aggressive and tempermental. He didn’t appreciate me carrying him out of there after I told him to stop throwing toys or hitting other kids. All his father did was stand there and not have an inkling of how to help, or even ask how to help.

    1. I do have a monkey! And yes, he gets increasingly unreasonable when hungry. This is why I chase him with food. :). But even when fed, if he doesn’t want to leave, there’s going to be some argument.

      People without experience in childcare–like my husband–really get thrown for a loop with tantrums.

  3. I’m not looking forward to Baby A. reaching tantrum age, hehe. I have zero experience with children. But I guess I will manage.

    My mum swears I was an angel baby who ate everything, fell asleep alone, slept the whole night and always did as told. I think she just has selective memory.

      1. Well for the moment he doesn’t fall asleep on his own, still wakes 2-3 times per night, and only eats what he wants to eat. He either is like his dad, or my mum’s memory really is failing!

  4. Yeah, I dealt with temper tantrums by ignoring their screams. Beatings never worked. Child social workers are actively snatching away kids from parents due to low birth rate caused by pollution and infertility. Be careful!

    Both my brothers were decently well-behaved when they were little. However, they were spoiled by my parents who failed to instill discipline when they transitioned into teenagers. They never had to lift a finger doing house chores plus no one cared to show them real work ethics etc…

    Recently, I finally learnt the effective method a wealthy man dealt with his gambling addict son. The wealthy man had enough and will only agree to pay off the son’s debt one last time if only he would severed one of his fingers. After the son hesitantly severed one of his fingers, he was miraculously cured from his gambling addiction. However, it was too late for us. Sometimes, being heartless is necessary.

      1. Nah, the moral of the story is if sending them to rehabilitation doesn’t work, extreme measure might be needed else they’ll end up dead like late brother where his death whether a suicide or homicide is unresolved. It took me a long time to get over his death because he did not leave a suicide note and he still wore his shoes after falling off a building. He could have been thrown off the building by mafia. Of course, different addiction require different approach. There are gambling addiction, sex addiction, drug addiction, shopping addiction and etc. For sex addiction, sometimes the woman or the man might get chopped up into pieces and stuffed into a bag by vengeful ex-lovers. This is common in my country. Cutting of the penis of a man during his sleep is also common in my country. During my first year of college, a woman was chopped up and the case is still ongoing because the suspect has a rich father.

        1. I am sorry for the loss of your brother and all the unresolved issues and might-have-beens. Even with some kind of closure, coping with death is difficult and takes years.

          I think the fastest-growing addiction now is probably gaming. Especially among young males.

  5. It looks like you have your hands full with Baby D. But then, you know how to handle him, and it sounds like Andy is receptive to your advice. All of my 3 girls were stubborn in their own way, but, all in all, fairly easy to handle. I used to say about the oldest that she was like the girl with a curl in the middle of her forehead: When she was good she was very very good. When she was bad she was horrid. Luckily, she was mostly good. She insisted on walking when she was 8 months old. My grandma told me I shouldn’t allow her to walk until she was older. But what can you do? In a few more months, the doctor prescribed nighttime braces to straighten out her legs. It worked.

    For the first 7 years of his life, my husband was the treasured first son of his mom and grandma. Then, when his dad came home from a brutal war, probably with PTSD and with a Chinese officer’s idea of discipline, things changed drastically. I don’t know the details, but I think his punishment was over the top. Luckily, none of that carried over to the way he treated our daughters. He was a great caretaker and a fun dad.

    1. Glad your husband was able to hang onto his first seven years, rather than the parenting methods that followed.

      Kids develop at their own pace. Mental development is enhanced by lots of talking/ singing/ interaction, but I don’t know if it speeds up the time of baby’s first words.

      Maybe Baby D wouldn’t have fallen so much if he’d walked later, but there was no stopping him. Even though he put his feet together and pronated after birth (likely due to being large, late, and out of space I utero!), his feet straightened out as he ran.

  6. Hahaha! No kids here but it does seem, as you suggest, that putting in the time upfront when a kid acts out/up saves bigger horrors down the road and increases the chance of raising a decent, well-rounded human being.

    1. It does, although there are so many variables it’s hard to know what pushes a kid over the edge into an addiction, or oppositional defiance, depression, etc. And if a parent is too controlling, it can be a problem as well.

      Parenting is hard!

      1. 100%. Although I can’t really claim to have handed him back because to be honest he would barely talk to me. (He’s quite disdainful of pretty much all adults except mom and dad.) I did manage to procure a few conversations and an awkward side-hug in the airport

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