Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Naked justice

Zeke is going through a bit of a law and order phase.

I don't mean that he is spending his time watching hours of NBC's long running but recently cancelled police procedural drama.  Though if he were, he'd be coming by it honestly -- I was addicted to that show in the later stages of pregnancy with him and during maternity leave.

Rather, he appears to have internalized, with a vengeance, the lessons he has learned from being instructed/disciplined by Jason and me, and by his teachers at school -- no hitting, no pushing, etc., -- and from time-outs consist of sitting in a segregated place, being told why you're there, and being required to apologize afterwards.

I noticed it last week one night when he was sitting in the bathtub with his toys.  Apparently, the toy fish was acting up, because Zeke would take it and emphatically place it on the side of the tub.

"Fish, you're in time out.  Stay right there!"  His voice was stern and serious.

"There's no hitting your friends.  That's not nice.  Stay right there!"

It was like looking at myself in a carnival fun-house mirror.

"Now say you're sorry!"

Eventually, he decided the fish had been punished long enough, so he picked it up to put it back in the water.

And promptly whacked the fish against the snake.  Causing the fish to "earn" another time out.

This scenario repeated itself a number of times.  And has played out in every bath time since.

Then this past weekend, I took Zeke to the Ghetto McDonald's a couple of miles from our house to play at their Playland.  He happily munched his McNuggets and french fries, asked to be excused (!), and then trotted off to play.  I took advantage of the opportunity to read a Michael Connelly novel on my new Kindle, looking up every few minutes to make sure Zeke was OK.

He came over to me a bit later, a look of concern on his little face.

"What's up, honey?"

"Mama, that girl hit me."  He pointed to a little girl who looked to be about a year old.

"Well, sweetie, you're going to have to deal with it.  All you can do is tell her not to hit you and then try to stay away from her."

So he went over to her and said sternly, "Don't hit me!  No hitting!"

She didn't so much as glance in his direction, but he was satisfied.  He looked over at me expectantly.

"That's good, Zeke.  You handled that well.  Now go and have fun and play."

No one is exempt from these dictates.  Last night I was scolded for "pulling at him" when I put my banjo away and told him we weren't going to play with it any more.  He was furious and went over to the closet and tried to open the doors.

"Zeke, the banjo is put away for the night.  We're not playing with it any more tonight.  Get away from the closet."

When he didn't listen, I went over and put my hands under his armpits and gently pulled him away from the closet door.  This prompted more tears, followed by a lecture from him in which I had to gnaw off the insides of my cheeks to keep from laughing while he glared at me, his thin chest heaving with fury, tears on his face, and told me not to pull at him.  I explained that I pulled him away from the closet because he didn't listen to me when I told him that we weren't going to play the banjo anymore, but he wasn't placated.

"You shouldn't pull me, Mama."

"OK, Zeke,"  I sighed.  "You're right.  It obviously hurt your feelings when I pulled you away from the closet, and I'm sorry.  I won't do that again.  You need to listen to me, though, when I tell you to do something."

"You need to say you're sorry."

I already did, you little turkey.  "I'm sorry, Zeke."  I bit my lips to keep from giggling.

But at least he was dressed.  The other night Jason, having just come back from Vail, was tired and frustrated trying to wrangle Zeke into his pajamas after a bath.  Zeke was running around being silly, but Jason just didn't have any patience for it.  Zeke tried to climb on him, but Jason shrugged him off.  Zeke was horribly offended and burst into tears.  He came running over to me where I was sitting on the couch.

"Mama, Daddy pushed me!  Daddy pushed me!"

I hugged him and stroked his hair.

"Mama, it's not nice!  It's not okay!" he sobbed.  "No pushing!"

"Zekey, you're going to have to talk to Daddy about it.  You need to tell him what you're telling me."

Jason was downstairs at the time, but was on his way back up when he was confronted by a little naked 2-year-old standing at the top of the stairs with his hands on his hips.

"Daddy, you shouldn't push me.  It's not nice.  It's not OK!"

I had walked over and was standing behind Zeke, and could see Jason's face start to twitch.  He was having a hard time not busting out laughing.  I gave him a look and mouthed "you can't laugh at him."  He nodded, took a breath to compose himself, and looked back towards Zeke.

Zeke repeated his admonitions.  "No pushing, Daddy."

"You're right, Zeke, I shouldn't have pushed you."  He blinked and pressed his lips together, doing his damndest to keep from guffawing.

"You need to say you're sorry, Daddy."

"I'm sorry, Zeke."

And they hugged it out.

I'm so glad Zeke is learning about following the rules, and is apparently very serious about the mores that govern the social compact.  But good gracious, it's hard to keep a straight face when you're being stared down by a naked pint-sized sheriff.


  1. I just guffawed for the both of you - this is so hilarious, and just what i needed on a rainy Tuesday :)

  2. It's pretty funny, and I usually grab a good giggle when I'm out of his earshot. But when it's happening, I feel like I need to at least pretend like I'm taking it seriously.