Sometimes I worry that I'm raising Rollie to be a brat.
I mean, every kid is bratty sometimes, right? At one point in their little lives, kids talk back to their parents, have temper tantrums, hit their baby sisters with foam baseball bats and spit masticated microwave sausages onto the floor, right?
I guess I don't have a huge mode of comparison. I know I wasn't really a brat when I was a kid. I mean, I got in my fair share of trouble, and got spanked a few times (though probably not nearly enough). I can still feel the hard pinch from my mother's angry fingers as she sat beside me in church and hissed at me to sing along in the hymnal. And her favorite thing to accuse me of was being fresh. But this is all I remember. To me these things don't include me in the brat category.
So what does categorize a kid as being a brat? Or do kids just behave like brats every once in a while, just to remind you that you really aren't the one in charge, that you really don't have control over them in any way, shape or form? That once you can no longer manhandle them into their carseat as they kick and scream, you're pretty much screwed? Is there some magic number of times a kid pulls a bratty stunt, say, refusing to come when you shout down the cereal aisle at Publix at him, or sticking his feet in his baby sister's face and then screaming when she bites him on the heel, before you can safely label that child a huge, gigantic BRAT?
I'm only asking because the other day as I fed Rollie and Elsa dinner and Jeff unloaded the dishwasher, the following exchange took place:
Rollie: Momma, I think my tummy is full.
Me (after examining his plate to discover he's already learned the ol' Push-The-Food-Around-The-Plate trick): Rollie you need to eat some more.
Rollie: Um, no thanks. I think I'm good.
Me: Rollie, you hardly ate anything. You need to eat more spaghetti.
Rollie (already starting to climb down from his chair): No, I want some ice cream.
Me: No way. No ice cream until you eat more dinner.
Rollie: No, I want ice cream.
Me: Are you kidding me? Get back in your seat and eat a few more bites.
Rollie (now running toward the couch in the adjoining room): Noooooooooo!
Me (still trying to feed Elsa her dinner, which she's suddenly decided she hates and is letting me know by screaming and smearing it around on her high chair tray): Rollie, sit down Right Now and Eat.
Rollie: Nooooo! I DON'T. WANT. TO.
Jeff: Rollie, you are a brat. Go sit and eat.
I don't remember how the rest of the conversation went, except that eventually Jeff got Rollie to sit in his chair and eat almost half his dinner. Pretty impressive.
The reason I don't remember is after Jeff called Rollie a brat, I sort of retreated into a self-berating shame spiral. Jeff was right. Rollie was being a brat. And it was my fault. I was letting him get away with speaking to me like a pre-school Veruca Salt about to go down the Bad Egg chute. There's no telling how long it's been going on, either. Since he could talk? Even longer? Sheesh.
Before we had kids I remember making a pact with Jeff that we wouldn't have bratty kids. We would teach them manners. They would always say 'please' and 'thank-you'. They would never have a meltdown in a grocery store. They wouldn't hit, bite, kick or pull hair. And they sure wouldn't talk back to us. God, what were we thinking?
I mean, Rollie's not always a brat. He has his charming moments. He's really only a brat when he thinks he can get away with it. Like when I'm holding Elsa and she's pooped through her clothes and I have to perform an Emergency Tub Dunking and I need Rollie to bring me a towel from the closet and not only does he not bring me a towel but he turns off the bathroom light and shuts the door on me, leaving me to feel my way to the switch with a squirming, stinky baby in my arms. That, I believe, qualifies him as a brat.
And when I yell at him for being naughty and closing the door on me, he returns all innocent-eyed and says, "It was an accident, Momma."
That, I believe, qualifies him as a manipulative little shit.