a peek inside the fishbowl

10 Aug, 2005

Bad cop good cop

Posted by andrea in: Misc. life

I blew up at Emma the other night. After a nearly perfect afternoon my blissed-out state took a sharp 180 degree turn. I was tired, and hot, and while giving the girls a bath I found my patience wearing down to a wee worn thread. Their yelling, amplified 100-fold in our small and highly acoustic bathroom, combined with their total disregard for instruction (i.e. they weren’t listening to a word I said and I had to repeat everything I said about 20 times) all added up. What finally set me off was being squirted with a bathtub toy. I know, a harmless thing, it IS just water and ordinarily it would be no big deal, but it was truly the straw that broke the camel’s back. And this camel was weak, tired and bothered to begin with.

I grabbed it from Emma’s hands, inadvertently swatting her fingers in the process, and flung it into the sink. Honestly, I just couldn’t handle it anymore. Thankfully Mark came in to take over. Later on, Emma and I kissed and made up and I promised we’d bake something in her Easy Bake Oven. I vowed to make it up to her with some baked goods. I went to bed feeling like a total failure as a parent. Simply. Awful.

What on earth is my problem? When I’m feeling so crappy why can’t I just grin and get through it and let it all bounce off me? So what if I have to say things 50 times, they don’t deserve to be yelled at. They’re just little kids whose brains are wired differently. They live in their own little worlds. Perhaps they need the repetition and also, don’t actually like getting their hair rinsed in the tub.

Why is it so hard to accept this?

When the girls were small and I remember a stretch of time when I desperately tried to get them down for co-ordinated naps. I learned a valuable lesson. Those afternoons usually ended in tears (sometimes mine) because they wouldn’t nap. And sometimes I’d find myself yelling at them to JUST GO LIE DOWN FOR 10 MINUTES. No surprise, but yelling didn’t help at all. I finally realized that it was all a fruitless exercise. They weren’t going to nap. I was the one who was tired and needed the nap, and this was the root cause of my becoming upset. After that point I gave up trying to get them to go down, and tried not to get myself in a situation where I got so tired. Solution: to do something a little more active at that time of day, or even just have a cup of tea. Worst-case scenario I’d let them watch TV while I crashed on the couch.

SO –

Yesterday we pulled the EBO out of storage and got ready to whip something up. I wanted to bake something from scratch. As the oven preheated I looked up some recipes (pared down in size for the EBO) and found one for pink layer cake.

We all pitched in for the measuring and mixing. The girls greased the tiny cake pans. They love doing it, which is great because I have always hated greasing the pans. After all the ingredients were mixed I realized there wasn’t actually any sugar in this cake. Clearly something was wrong. So I added some. The mixture was also looking rather putty-like and thick so I added milk. Emma voiced some concern about the accuracy of the recipe.

“Does it SAY to add sugar mum?” She looked up at me trustingly.
“We have to improvise here,” I explained. “Sometimes baking is not what it appears to be.”

Use the force, Emma.

We gave it a final stir and put it in the EBO. After it cooled Sarah poked it and declared, and I quote, “that it looks like Plato.”

Play-DOH. And yes, it did look like Play-doh, BAKED Play-doh in fact. We covered it in frosting and sprinkles and they ate it anyway. I abstained. The thought of that raw, dense, slice of modeling clay sitting like a lump in my stomach made me feel queasy. But they wouldn’t be dissuaded.

Cake and all, it turned out to be a better day.

3 Responses to "Bad cop good cop"

1 | Stephanie

August 10th, 2005 at 9:10 pm


“Sometimes baking is not what it appears to be”… how true, eh? :)

2 | yrobinson

August 11th, 2005 at 8:31 am


I don’t know a single ‘perfect’ parent. All you can do is your best. Your girls will realize that you too are human. Hang in there.

3 | Kim

August 18th, 2005 at 11:35 pm


Hi, I wanted to take a minute to let you know that you are not alone…I am there right beside you. I have been asking myself some of the same questions: What is wrong with me? Why do I get to a point where all I can do is yell?
I have come to the conclusion that this is just part of parenting, none of us are perfect…
Today my 5 year old who can yet refuses to wipe her own bottom screamed for me from my bathroom to come assist her. I had just spoke with her and discussed how this is something she needs to do herself and how I wasn’t going to do it anymore. So being angered that she was screaming at the top of her lungs for me, I screamed back: “I am not coming back there to wipe your butt! You are a big girl, you do it!” and then I went about my business. About 10 -15 minutes went by and my usually busy little girl had not emerged from the back of the house so I began to wonder which item from my make-up bag was being ruined… I walked to the bathroom only to find my little one sitting on the toilet half asleep with her head in her lap. I curiously asked: “What are you doing honey?” And this sweet little voice replied: “Mommy I tried to scream for you because there is no toilet paper…”
Needless to say, I was devastated and like you went to bed that night feeling awful and like I had failed her.

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark. We have two daughters: Emma (19) and Sarah (17). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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