"Smart, audacious and often hilarious. Takes everything you thought you knew about parenting and turns it on its ear." - Jennifer Jason Leigh

A STICKY SITUATION

I fucked up!

My 5 year old daughter Jules screamed. I popped in my contact and ran downstairs to see what was going on.

“He wants to touch me!” she exclaimed pointing to her younger brother Hudson.

I could immediately see why she was so afraid. He’d just finished eating his pancakes and it looked as if he’d been using the syrup as hand lotion.

“Did you tell him that?” I asked calmly.

Apparently she hadn’t because she then said, “Hudson I don’t want you to touch me with your sticky hands!” And off she went into the playroom.

Fine, so I won’t touch you, his shrug seemed to say.

I didn’t want him to touch me either! Or anything else in our house for that matter so I asked, “Can I wash your hands Hudson?”

“No.”

“I don’t want you getting sticky syrup all over the house,” I explained.

“No,” he said again.

I had an idea!

“Remember when Curious George gets covered in syrup?” I started, refencing one of his favorite books, Curious George Makes Pancakes. Hudson nodded his head. He loves himself some Curioius George. As I recounted the story, I quietly reached for a wet towel on the counter.

He was right there with me at the hospital fundraiser when Curious George helps make the pancakes just before the chef realizes it’s a monkey who’s doing the helping.

“Then do you remember how he tries to wipe off all of the syrup with paper napkins….” I continued as I started to wiped his sticky hands.

By the time I finished recounting the story, his hands were clean.

Mission accomplished.

Not.

Just as I stood up, he realized he’s been duped. His sneaky Mom had been seducing him into submission with a story while washing his hands. Well, he wasn’t going to take the disrespect lying down. In fact, being the two-year-old that he was, he freaked  the fuck out. And I mean freaked the fuck out.

He screamed and cried. He lashed out at me. Through his tears and hyperventilating he managed to eek out,  “Go away Mommy. You’re yucky!”

I instantly realized what I’d done. You can’t get a hand washing by this kid. And thank god. I want him in charge of his body. I don’t want him to be manipulated by the likes of me.

“You’re  mad I washed your hands without asking,” I said to show him I totally got where he was coming from. “I’m sorry I did that.”

It didn’t matter how many times I told him that I understood and that I was sorry. He was really upset. He felt violated. I knew I had to let him cry. To get his feelings out.

But then it dawned on me, I could really show him how much I understood.

I grabbed his plate. I put another pancake on it and I poured syrup all over it. Generously.

Immediately he sat down at his table and padded his hands in the syrup. He got them good and sticky! Then he ate a couple of more bites and he was done.

Meanwhile, I got the step stool and placed it in front of the sink. I  climbed up and started to wash my hands.

“Hudson, I’m using the foam soap,” I said, showing him the bubbles on my hands.

He shook his head. He was feeling better but he wasn’t ready to just come over and wash his hands.

So I washed my hands.

“I also have the blue dishwashing soap up here too,” I said holding it up.

That intrigued him. He walked over. He climbed up the steps and put his hands out for me to pour the blue soap on them. He turned on the water. Himself. And washed his hands. Himself. And he dried his hands. Himself.

He felt understood. He felt respected. And he felt clean.

What more could I ask for?

Lesson learned. I hope!

8 Responses to “A STICKY SITUATION”

  1. kathy patterson says:

    I know after what seemed like an eternity in therapy and 18 years of teaching that I should begin with a compliment. But I just want to say, ok genius, how do you go about teeth brushing?

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi Kathy,

      I’m so glad you asked about teeth brushing.
      This has been my inspiration!

      Watch mother of three and RIE master Erica Orosco!

      • Molly says:

        I’ve found that explaining why you have to brush your teeth helps. Germs, also known as “sugar bugs” can make little holes in your teeth if you don’t brush them, and this can be very unpleasant.

  2. Becky says:

    I wish could really learn this lesson once and for all! I remember reading in Connections Parenting by Pam Leo that if we choose the respectful approach when dealing with our children it might seem to us that it will take longer than just manhandling them ourselves, but either way we spend the time so why not just choose the more respectful way because either way it takes time. I tend to try to hurry my oldest instead of just respecting his way of doing things and your post was a reminder to be respectful of his way.

  3. Pamela says:

    I can see how easy it was to ‘trick’ him into cleaning his hands. I know I’ll be tempted to do that with Lala, especially because the thought of syrupy hands touching anything in the house, even me, makes me start to hyperventilate!

  4. Laura says:

    Another way to deal with that would have been logical consequeces. Fine, you don’t have to wash your hands, but you have to go outside (or any other suitable place for stickiness) and play until you are ready to be un-sticky because I can’t ahve sticky hands all over the walls, carpets, dogs, etc. Kids choice, kids control, mom happy.

    • Laura, I totally agree with you that this is the way to go. And I usually go this route. But in this case we were leaving for school within the next five minutes and I was trying to get out the door. But as I’ve learned many times, what I often think of as a quicker route just backfires and it’s better to slow down and let things play out. Being late for preschool isn’t the worst thing in the world. Particularly if you want your children to feel good when they get there. Thank you for mentioning this solution!

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