L ast week, I put my son in time-out.

He deserved it. The guy was horseback riding on the baby’s back. There he was, having a grand old time, but heartless mother I am, I shooed him off. Once and again and again. Turns out, riding your baby brother’s back is even more fun when Mommy doesn’t let.

“If you go on the baby one more time,” I told him, very sternly, “you’re going to get time-out.”

Fine, so I broke a hundred of Sarah Chana Radcliffe’s rules at once. Lock me up.

Sure enough, he mounted his horse again. I’m sure even Sarah Chana would agree that empty threats are the worst, so I made good on my promise. I took his hand, made eye contact, and said, “You went on the baby again. When you go on the baby, he has a boo-boo. Now Mommy has to put you in time-out.”

I gripped his trembling fingers, led him into the bathroom and — I hope the ACS isn’t reading this — locked the door.

He burst into tears. Well.

This is a toddler who never mopes for long. I waited on the other side of the door for 60 seconds, expecting him to forget what happened right upon his release. But when I opened the door to let him out, the little tyke was pale and shaking.

“Mommy,” he sniffled, “right you do love me very much?”

Oh, shrewd man. I crushed him in a hug and pledged that I love him more than anything in the world.

Love notwithstanding, he can’t do this again. Fine, so time-out doesn’t work for me. (This was the second kid I’ve experimented with. When I locked up my previous toddler, she refused to come out when I opened the door.) How does the 80/20 rule go again?

I take parenting trends very seriously and research novel brands all the time. I believe every mother should figure out a system that works for her and stick with it. Children need the consistency; mothers need to feel like they know what they’re doing.

So which camp am I in?

Sometimes I’m in the “I need to give myself plenty of me-time in order to be the best mother I can be” camp. I like this camp. I visit it on average once in three years.

Sometimes I’m in the “GET OFF THE TABLE THIS SECOND OR I’M CALLING TATTY!” camp. I know the frequency average, but that’s classified information.

Sometimes I’m in the “What did you say, sweetheart? Sure, of course you can have ice cream with nut crunch and chocolate syrup for supper and then have a sleepover with five classmates, anything for you, darling” camp. Sometimes? All the time.

Sometimes I’m in the “My kids are on their best behavior when I leave them to their own devices” camp. This can go on for hours. As many hours as they sleep.

I’m a trouper. If Plan A fails, I move right along to Plan Three. One-Two-Three Magic exposes the truth that I’m a pathetic Squib. My kids don’t see the magic in the number Three and think the rate is up for negotiation.


Attachment parenting. This works wonders. I’m the prototype Mom, the kids are angels, harmony reigns.

Until I slink away to wash the dishes. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 578)