One consequence for bad behavior I have been known to use is "car time out." If someone does something worthy of timeout just before leaving or en route, I leave her in car for a few minutes upon arriving at our destination. I keep the windows down and the car within my line of vision--don't worry, no need to call Child Protection Services--and you would be amazed at how effective it is. Just threatening this consequence usually straightens the offender right up. It also gives me a chance to continue on with whatever we are doing without having to drag a crying child into the park/playdate/store. Very effective--even just one minute behind left behind while I pull out the other girls, stroller, whatever, and move a couple of feet away to the entrance of our destination.
Of course I do not have this luxury here in Amman. Before leaving the hotel this morning Mayumi hit Emi, and not for the first time. Instead of the usually timeout in the bedroom, I declared she would spend five minutes outside the Mecca Mall playarea to which we were headed to meet a friend. I realize now that it was a hopelessly ineffective consequence in that it stood to hurt me more than it would her. And it did. She screamed and cried, embarrassing me and nearly causing me to end our playdate before it had even begun with an early return to the hotel. If we had returned I would have made her spend the rest of the morning in the bedroom in consequence; Emi and Aya, however, would have been forced to leave an activity they were obviously enjoying. My friend talked me out of leaving by pointing out how unfair it would be to yumi's sisters if we left early. I burned with shame as she continued to whine as moan and complain for nearly 20 minutes into her time in the playarea. I even hauled her off to a corner of the mall to threaten an early return home. She made like a rag doll so I had to drag her, eliciting a cry "for shame!" by a nearby older woman. I curtly told her to mind her own business; I was in no mood to be chastised.
Sigh. A very discouraging experience. Luckily, she did calm down and decide to enjoy herself, leaving me a chance to have an interesting and lengthy conversation about many topics with my friend Christine. We met Christine and her daughter Grace at the Hakawati bookstore story time. This was our second social meetup and it was, aside from the wretchedness of yumi's fit, very enjoyable. We spoke of religion and educational systems and parenting techniques. Challenging--in Arabic--but satisfying.
Later, I thought how much I miss not having a car in which to leave tantruming children who misbehave en route or while at an activity. I have also taken children out to the car and left them there for a short time out. Since my girls absolutely never sit quietly in timeout, this was always a good way to maintain consistent discipline even while in someone else's home. I'd just take them out to car to scream it off for a little bit.
But then I am asking myself now, even as I write this: would entrapping an enraged Mayumi in the car only make her more crazy? There is a new and dangerous quality to her tantrums--the ones that started several weeks before we came. She screams that she is going to die or wants to live with strangers. She also rejects all offers of reconciliation. They only make her angrier. Would strapping her into a car seat for a few minutes only cause more damage?
But surely I cannot be expected to either suffer the embarrassment of one of these tantrums within the home of one of my friends, right? I would have to either ignore it--and make everyone miserable while she screams--or embarrass myself further by being repeatedly rejected when offering conciliation. Either situation would make me crazy and likely to snap. No, I cannot allow repeated embarrassment and manipulation or I, too, will begin to behave badly.
So my choices for response to a public tantrum are: isolate her (car), do not isolate her but totally ignore it, or do not ignore it and use some calming tactics that may or may not work. None of these options are extremely appealing and all have their drawbacks. Oh, do I wish we had a little professional help here. Mayumi has been doing a lot better however. Today's tantrum was the first of its magnitude in a long time.
This afternoon: Great conversation with Nisreen. She mentioned that she has learned a lot of her English from American television programs like "Friends." She answered in the affirmative when I asked her if she truly understood the "adult" topics/situations on the show. She seemed surprised by my surprise that she watches it; I, for one, find the show offensive. I asked her if she would still watch it if it were dubbed in Arabic. Yes, she would. I should have asked her if she would watch it if it involved the same situations but about a group of young Arab friends.
Erapie did great with all three girls--all wide awake when I came back upstairs. I spent the next hour trying to get the girls out the door and an hour after that with them visiting our usual friends on Bayrouni Street. One hour later we returned with fruit, colored paper, a paint set, and takeout dinner. The reason for the length of our stay is that we had to wait for the cook at Salsabiil to make our meal from scratch; it turns out that they will make a meals from a limited Ramadan menu for takeout but they do not keep anything ready in their buffet/chafing pans.
Dinner, smoothies, bed. Emi has cried for a good solid twenty or thirty minutes at bedtime for the last few nights. Aya also has been unsettled this evening since bedtime. Did I mention she woke at 5:30am again today? Not upset in the least but too loud to ignore. She woke us all up.
Finally--it would seem the Dead Sea has done something strange to my feet. My sandals--which I wore into the Sea--are now chaffing my feet in entirely new places. My poor feet are covered in blisters--this, after wearing these sandals nonstop without problem for two months! It is possible the salt did something to the sandals and, thereby, my feet. Whatever the reason, I am in a quandary. The only shoes I brought are hurting my feet dreadfully. I could buy some new shoes but what kind? I cannot traipse around Amman pushing/carrying three girls with flimsy sandals from souq; besides, I do not want straps of any kind to touching my tender skin. But athletic shoes and socks? Obviously the most comfortable and practical choice but oh, so hot! Such a weird conundrum so far into this experience.