The Biggest Problem With Threatening My Kids​

The expression on my son’s face as I put the ball away in a cupboard was one of pure misery. I had taken away his ball. His glorious, amazing, forged-by-glowing-elven-creatures-in-a-dark-and-secret-forest (nah, made in China) ball. That’s the thing that sucks about ultimatums: ultimately, someone has to make good on that threat she yelled at top volume 20 seconds ago.


You know what I’m talking about, right? When you tell your kid, “If you do that one more time ...” and then you invent a horrible threat that you INSTANTLY wish you could take back, because goddammit, now you’re going to have to follow through?

The thing with my son’s ball — and keep in mind he’ll be 7 this week, so I’m not talking about a toddler here — is that he leaves it on the ground. No big deal, you’re thinking. It’s a ball. Get over it. Well, it’s a small foam type ball which he uses to make his super rad Michael Jordan dunks on the toy net fastened to the back of a door in our rec room, and the problem with this type of ball is it’s enormously compelling to our Labrador, who is a biological anomaly on account of the fact that she has five or six circus peanuts inside of her skull instead of brains.

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Whenever my son abandons his ball for any length of time, the dog sneaks downstairs and eats it. The first ball died a horrible death, gnawed away into a sort of Foam Death Star before the dog began producing small festive piles of Foam Barf around the house (always on the carpet. Half this house is wood floors and it’s always on the carpet). The second ball, slightly more rugged, got chewed into a hard little wad, sort of like those fossilized piles of gum you find underneath desks in a middle school. The third ball has become the Ultimatum Ball: as in, IF YOU DON’T PUT THAT BALL AWAY WHEN YOU’RE DONE PLAYING WITH IT I’M TAKING IT AWAY FROM YOU.

Get a different ball, you’re saying. WHY DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS? Because you don’t. Listen, it has to be foam or the house takes a beating, and yes we could get rid of the basketball thing altogether, but I live in Oregon and it’s February and we haven’t seen the sun for many many weeks and he can really stay occupied for surprising stretches of time doing his Air Jordan thing so SHUT UP.

Anyway. God, I seem to be kind of focused on this ball, when my point is the ultimatum. It’s possible I’m running low on vitamin D. The ultimatum! So I tell him blah blah blah here’s why you have to put it away it’s super easy there’s the toy storage drawer it’s literally two feet from you right now it’s so so SO easy and here are the reasons why you can’t leave it out including a diagram of the various areas of our carpet that are still discolored from the last Foam Barfening and here’s a lecture on the costs of intestinal blockage surgery for Labrador Retrievers and my child nods solemnly like he is absorbing the word of GOD, like he is reading the stone tablets mentioned in Exodus or Deuteronomy or whatever part of the Bible had Moses chiseling shit into GRANITE, and then two seconds later the ball drops carelessly from his hands as he runs to see what his brother’s doing.

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And I’m like SOMEBODY CALL GUINNESS. My dog AND my son are both medical miracles! For they have not one working neuron between the two of them!

So now I’ve got to follow through. And now he looks at me like it’s the first time I’ve even MENTIONED that there are rules about the ball. If only you had warned me, his soulful eyes plead. If only there had been some way for me to have predicted that this would happen. What sort of cruel mother just springs a dire consequence upon a young child with literally no warning whatsoever?

And on it goes. The next ultimatum will involve my older son and his habit of leaving laundry strewn around the house. Or my younger son and the way he eats a crumbly piece of bread miles away from his plate, while a shower of crumbs fall upon the just-sweeped floor. Or my older son who tracks in clumps of mud instead of taking his shoes off at the door. Or my younger son who leaves the car door wide open as he exits, because apparently there’s an invisible fairy inside who’ll take care of shutting it for him. Or my husband who merrily dumps the dirty dishes in the sink while the dishwasher is EMPTY and WAITING and just FIVE INCHES FROM HIS —

The most annoying part? They’re always so UPSET when I deliver on my threat. I’ve said it a million billion trillion jillion times, and yet when I finally have to put the hammer down, they’re totally like:

Who else feels my pain? C'mon, tell me I'm not the only one.

Image via clairity/Flickr

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