Friday, August 15, 2008

Calvin Speaks the Truth

We are back from the beach, doing laundry, and recovering from the break in routine. I am absorbed in Olympics watching. Maybe you'll here from me when the Olympics are over...

In the meantime, here's a conversation with Calvin at Trader Joe's today. I don't know what it is about that place, but my kids are always terrible there. Maybe it is the freedom of having their own little carts. Maybe it is the small size of the place that makes them feel safe to roam around without me. Whatever it is, I feel like we always make a scene there. Today, I asked Calvin about it.

Me: "Why are you two always so bad in Trader Joe's? Can't you try to be good when we are here?"

Calvin: "Well, Mom, no one can be perfect all the time."

How true.


tipper said...

How true-and how sweet!

'Becca said...

True, indeed!

If you want deeper insight into the situation, I'd try addressing it a different way. Pardon my picking apart what you said--I hope it doesn't hurt your feelings--sometimes even mamas make mistakes, and I certainly don't avoid all of these "mistakes" in communication all of the time!!

"Why are you two always so bad in Trader Joe's? Can't you try to be good when we are here?"

Asking two questions in a row without pausing for response tends to distract the listener from fully considering the first question; the second one kind of piles on it and may change its meaning.

"Always" is a strong word. I know it seems like they always do it, and maybe it's literally true that it's happened every single time for months now, but saying "always" can put a person on the defensive and send him scrambling to think of the one exception, instead of focusing on the behavior you want to address.

The "bad" and "good" labeling is not as useful as describing what it is they do that you don't like and what it is you want them to do. I'm sure Calvin has some idea, but he may not understand it as clearly as you think. Based on your post, *I* don't know what you mean by "terrible" and "make a scene".

"Can't you try" strongly implies you believe that they are not trying--that what you see is behavior they are not even attempting to control, rather than the best behavior they can muster given the temptations of the situation. Phrasing this as a question seems to offer him the option of responding, "No, I can't even try; I'm determined to be bad."

Okay, so how would I say it--on a good day?
"I am very angry about what you did in Trader Joe's. You ran all around the store where I couldn't see you. You took things off the shelf and made a mess. Why did you do that?"
and I would explain that if they can't behave responsibly with their own little carts, next time they will have to sit in the big cart or won't get to go at all.

My 3-year-old loves Trader Joe's, too. I think it's the free samples! But he behaves pretty well there; the only scene he's caused was by sternly telling some adult strangers that the free samples are "one to a customer." :-)