My husband, Erick, has very few vices; it’s almost annoying how disciplined he is. (And he’s so humble that if you compliment his discipline, he’ll say, “No, actually I’m the most undisciplined person ever; that’s why I have to be so disciplined.”) He’s installed internet-blocking software on all of his electronic devices. He does the stretches that his chiropractor assigned him every single day. And if he’s going to drive within a three-hour period after drinking, he’ll order nonalcoholic beer.
But I know the real Erick, so I’m here to tell you that he does have ONE vice: sports talk radio.
For those lucky few who’ve never experienced it, sports talk radio refers to any of the hundreds of national radio stations that feature discussions about sports — all sports — all day long. Typically these sports programs are hosted by a male; sometimes there are two or more hosts, but they all sound the same: like cocky college freshmen who’ve drunk too much Red Bull and are talking through a tin can. They speak quickly, and loudly, and confidently. Often, they’ll take calls from listeners, but the content is all the same: dissecting yesterday’s game, giving the play-by-play for the game happening now, or forecasting the next game or draft.
I can’t stand to listen to sports talk radio. Not only do I have no idea what the hosts are discussing, but it all sounds so much the same that it becomes a nonsensical buzz in my ears (no doubt similar to what Erick hears when I tell him about my day): blah blah blah blah. And yet, whenever possible, Erick will turn on sports talk radio. I’ll leave him washing dishes in the kitchen listening to our local NPR affiliate, and when I return: sports talk radio. If he takes the girls out in the car, he’ll veto whatever Disney soundtrack in the CD player; the girls will return home complaining, “Daddy made us listen to sports talk radio!”
Little did I expect that sports talk radio would become my biggest ally in the getting-ready battles.
If you’ve had any experience with children, you’re probably familiar with the getting-ready battles. These are the standoffs that happen whenever a transition in activities requires a child or children to get ready. Prime times for getting-ready battles include, but are not limited to: getting dressed and washed up in the morning, getting out the door for school or activities, getting ready for bed at night, and getting to the table for any meal.
The funny thing about getting-ready battles is that they recur at predictable moments every day. That’s what makes them SO frustrating; every day I find myself repeating the same things, with escalating volume and threats: wash your hands, get on your boots, time to get dressed, brush your teeth. And every day my children stare at me blankly, as if thinking, “Hang on a minute, it’s morning and you expect me to get dressed? And eat breakfast??? When did THIS start happening?!?”
One day, my two-year-old said to me, “Mommy, I can’t hear you because you’re always talking.”
The toddler wisdom of that statement was undeniable. And as I pondered the problem, I wondered, What if it’s not ME talking?
One night at bedtime, it all came together. I was doing my usual routine, repeating, “Put on your pajamas….Put on your pajamas….Put on your pajamas!” Then I paused and said, “Hey, girls, want to do sports talk radio bedtime?” They nodded, intrigued.
So, I put on my best sports talk show host voice (as I’ve said, they all sound the same) and announced, “LIIIIIIIVE from the Pajamadome, it’s the Gong Girls’ Bedtime! It’s the first round, putting on pajamas! Whooooo will have their pajamas on first? Fiona’s looking focused, Georgia’s a close second, but Campbell’s the dark horse!”
As they raced down the hall to brush their teeth, I got more sophisticated. “Aaaand now, for a toothbrushing play-by-play, let’s hear from Frank on the field.” “Yeah Ted,” I continued, deepening my voice, “Toothbrushing raises the game to a whole new level. To be a star toothbrusher you have to get the toothpaste on the brush, and then clean the fronts and backs of both the top and bottom teeth! And then there’s the flossing…..”
It worked like a charm. The girls loved it; I’d never seen them move so quickly. It turns out that when Daddy’s background noise applies to them, it’s a major motivator.
Sports talk radio hasn’t been a total victory in the getting-ready battles. I can’t do it all the time, because then they’ll start tuning me out just like when I use my normal voice. And occasionally it backfires if somebody thinks I’ve unfairly declared a “winner,” and tantrums ensue. I’ve tried taking more of a “Team Gong” approach, but then they miss the individual accolades, so I can’t win.
In any event, it’s a tool. It’s worked for us, and it’s a lot more fun than yelling.
Now I’m trying to take a more creative approach to our child-management issues. I’ve even rewritten the words of our daughters’ current favorite song, “Let it Go” from the movie Frozen, in order to suit my needs (Let’s go/Let’s go/Can‘t wait for you anymore/Let’s go/Let’s go/Get in the van and close the door/I don’t care/If you want to play/Get your coat and shoes ON/Tantrums never bothered me anyway!).
Next on the list: Dinnertime conversation, which currently consists of three girls shouting over each other. One night, Erick came down to dinner holding a large speciman from our shell collection. “So, girls,” he began, “there’s this book called Lord of the Flies where they use a ‘Talking Shell….'”
That one ended about as well as it did in the book.