“You’re on restriction!” When our oldest son was 3 and intentionally dumped over his cereal bowl to grab our attention from his 1-year-old brother, my husband angrily announced to the bugger, “You’re on restriction!” What a hollow threat. The kid had gone off his feed 12 months prior and had been living on air and milk ever since. He didn’t give two flips if we confiscated the animal crackers.
The little guy was rather proud of the pronouncement, too. He went to preschool and told his teachers, “I’m on astriction.” They loosened his belt.
Even so, my husband’s words, spontaneously bellowed under pressure, soon infiltrated my own vocabulary. Now, either one of us in response to a child’s nefarious activities might insist, “You’re on restriction,” even though neither of us knows what that phrase means. We dismiss the convicted from the kitchen-table tribunal only to turn and ask each other, “What did we say he can’t do? For how long?”
“You’re on restriction,” loosely translates as, “We’re really stinking mad at you and it’s a long way to Disney from here, Buster, so buck up and fly right or we’re going to enact many yet to be determined strategies for making you very, very miserable, like requiring you to acknowledge us as your parents … in public.” All of that decodes to, “You’re on restriction and we’ll let you know what we have in mind later. Act really, really sorry so we don’t have to get creative.”
My personal parenting philosophy is “To whom much is given, much can be taken away.” My children’s rebuttal is “That’s OK, I’ll borrow my brother’s when you’re not looking.” Of course, when they get caught ducking the details, I fume, “You’re on double restriction!” We go around and around.
What my husband and I need is a conference with a coach. Not a parenting coach. We’re perfect parents with amazing children; see our Facebook status posts for proof.
We need to speak with anyone who answers to “Coach.” Preferably, we’d like to retain the one my 14-year-old son has nightmares about during witching hour thunderstorms. As the clouds churn, and spats of lightning tap at the windows, and lumps of thunder roll down the sides of the house, happy reveries of boyhood baseball games turn dark.
At breakfast the next morning, he works to pick certainty from the surreal. Shreds of actual and imagined events interlace wickedly, preventing him from sorting through the rubble of the night. “Mama,” he retells his dream, “he gave me the sign to bunt. I’m pretty sure he did.”
He doesn’t look sure.
“But then Coach was standing in my face yelling at me,” he says, throwing up his hands. “Then I woke up and it was thundering so loud and the wind was blowing so hard I couldn’t hear.” The child’s knees weeble from the strain of the corrective dress-down, which, I’m relatively sure, didn’t begin or end with, “You’re on restriction!”
Though I slyly press for insider information, he can’t remember what Coach said. Still, he sits up straight in his chair. He chews with his mouth closed. He holds his fork correctly, and he puts his napkin in his lap.
I’ve paid for two years of Social. I’ve harassed him about manners since his older brother was turning over cereal bowls for attention. If only I’d known how to cast spells like a coach.
So what I’m wondering is, if Coach isn’t shouting, “You’re on restriction!” at his players, what is he saying? Could he give me a crash course in words that wilt wild wanderlings? And could he please relay them to me using his inside voice?