Don’t Worry, Get Angry
I woke up late this morning and when I reached the kitchen I found that the boys had gotten in so much trouble that their momma had banned them from the couch.
I’d never heard of a couch banning before, but it didn’t look like a good time to question my wife’s parental discipline. As soon as she left for work, the two immediately launched into a description of what had happened, shouting over each other.
“Stop,” I shouted. “I don’t want to hear it.”
Actually, I did, but my wife and I have learned that lesson. Once one parent has ruled, we have to stop talking about the problem. Otherwise, the stories go on endlessly as each boy strives try to convince us that he was right and his brother should get in trouble.
My youngest was trying to hold back his tears, but not successfully. He’s only six, and tends to cry when he gets upset. I gave him a reassuring smile and left.
Thirty seconds later, they were shouting again. I went back to their room.
The little guy was in full cry mode. “He kept getting in my way,” he wailed. “I was just trying to get dressed!”
His older brother was doing his best to look innocent. I glared at him and shook my head, then spoke to the little guy. “Try not to cry,” I said. “If you’re really upset, step back and take a few breaths. Crying won’t help. Try to laugh instead.”
He gulped and nodded.
“If that doesn’t work, get angry. If that doesn’t work, find something else. Crying never helps. You can always cry later, after everything’s over.”
He swiped at his eyes and nodded again.
“And you,” I pointed at my oldest. “You better stop bullying your brother.”
There really wasn’t any bullying going on, but that’s the big bad word these days. The kids know bullying is bad, so if there’s a behavior you want the kids to stop, you just call it bullying. Hey, whatever works, right?
I went to my room to get ready, but when I got there I heard whistling over the monitor, and then my oldest’s voice singing “Don’t worry, be happy.”
My youngest started shouting at his brother. They were raw-throated, angry shouts, the kind of rage that comes from deep in your gut. I ran back to the room, thinking maybe the whole “get angry not sad” message might have been a mistake.
“What?” my oldest said as soon as he saw me. “I was just singing.”
“Get out,” I said. He sighed and walked out of the room. I nodded to my youngest and closed the door.
“I was just singing,” my odlest said.
“Singing Don’t Worry, Be Happy to someone who is mad at you? That’s your defense?”
“I wasn’t singing to him,” he said. “I was just singing. And he happened to be in the room. I can’t help where he happens to be.”
I picked up a random book and handed it to him. “Sit,” I said. “Read. I’ll be back to make breakfast in a few minutes.”
He took his book and sat on the couch.
“Nope,” I said. “Not on the couch. Remember? You’ve been banned from the couch.”
“Why not try the floor?” I asked, pulling him up off the couch. “I hear it’s wonderful this time of year.”
As he slouched away from the couch, I smiled at him and whistled the beginning of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”
He rolled his eyes at me and opened his book.
Tomorrow, I’m waking up earlier.