"How To Control Your Children."

I recently received an e-mail from a reputable, online mom network with the title: “How To Control Your Children.” and I thought, GREAT, they are finally working on those Hello Kitty handcuffs I’ve been asking about. I know better than to take the well articulated bait, but, I just had to read what were sure to be magical techniques.  Who are these parents and how did they discover the key to control?  The intangible, mystical control that has so successfully eluded me since I first became a parent. Control, a skill which, even now, with years of parenting under my belt, I have still miserably failed at mastering. Scratch that, I have not even skimmed the surface. When I opened the e-mail, doves did not fly out of my computer screen and a man with a cape and black top-hat did not ask me to pick a card. ANY card. It was then that I realized that this whole e-mail and idea were a sham. As ridiculous as the Prince who needed access to my accounts in order to transfer his father’s millions to America. I thought what we had was special, sir! The e-mail was filled with tips from experts and parents about how to avoid meltdowns in grocery stores, at restaurants, at parties, movies, public restrooms, etc. Basically, how to avoid any child-like behavior in any setting. Ever. Helpful tips like: Consider packing an entire suitcase full of fantastic diversions! It may be easier if the suitcase has wheels or a separate case attendant. It’s especially helpful if the case can be a complete surprise! Consider having hired case attendant wheel the bag through the grocery store at safe, unnoticeable distance and then, jump out of case holding a puppy at the moment precisely before meltdown. Consider learning a few, new jokes to share during your shopping trip. Incorporate props, juggling and a tightrope! Bears are always a plus.

Who are these people and how can I be sure I never run into them as my 2 and 4 year old push each other into the yogurt case?  How can I put this tactfully. Let’s see…this idea of control through constant entertainment is as ridiculous a concept as that of total, stable control.

As soon as you become a parent, you lose control of your life, your body, your wallet, your bowels. You lose control of your emotions as equal parts love and fear take over every firing synapse in your being. You lose your ability to exist in the same way you walked the earth just moments before your child was born, and you lose control of time – your understanding of time, your ability to fill space and time the same way and, with the same productivity. Subsequently, you spend your days trying to cram the chaos, fear, joy, pain, love and sheer clustery-fuckery of parenthood into the 24 hours you are given. Oh, and maybe to sleep. Maybe. To dream the impossible dream.

Control amidst the perfect chaos of parenthood is a myth. The unicorn flying over the double rainbow with a four-leaf clover in its teeth.

I’m tired of receiving e-mails that say, “How to Avoid Meltdowns.”, “How To Control Your Children.”, “Do Your Children Love You? 10 Signs You Are Not Connecting Enough.” and, the ever vigilant “How to Drop Those Last 15 Pregnancy Pounds!”. The e-mails that are really saying, “You’re failing! Let us illustrate how much and how deeply!” *DING* (AOL VOICE) “You’ve Got FAIL!”

When I am at the store, I guess I could entertain my children by dressing as a clown, hitting myself in the face with a “Bakery FRESH!” pie followed by wildly shaking and then spraying flavored seltzer in my face, OR, I could grab my items as quickly as possible knowing that even with the free cookie from the Bakery (P.S. I love you, Bakery!), I have a firm 15 minutes before it gets real up in here. I could constantly entertain them with high kicks, origami, funny faces and political satire, OR, I could just talk with them as we run through the aisles. I acknowledge and let them know I understand that this is something that they don’t want to do, but, I am firm that it is something we need to do for our family.

It’s not about control. It’s about balance. Sometimes life is exciting. It’s parks, beaches, friends and s’mores. Sometimes life is real. It’s bathroom breaks, grocery stores and trips to the dentist. You will not always be entertained. Sometimes, you have to buy bread with a mom who is tired and doesn’t know any jokes. Such is life, kids. Sometimes, kids throw a fit because they are tired of you, the grocery store, the fake steering wheel on the cart that doesn’t honk or the laces on their shoes. Such is life, adults.

The only thing we can control is our reaction to a situation. Good, bad or indifferent. Control? Unless you are referring to the 1986 song by Janet Jackson, I’m sticking with chaos. Noisy, messy, lovely chaos.

Knock, Knock!
Who’s There?
Control Who?


  1. PERFECT! I have read those more out of curiosity than the need for their answers and it does seem like a butt-load of bribery is what children “NEED” now. I say screw that! I hate walking into a store with a screaming child inside and hearing “If you stop crying you can pick out a toy!” NO! NO! NO! NO! I would be saying “If you don’t get yourself under control we are going home and giving all of your toys to needy and homeless children who aren’t screaming in Wal-mart!” END OF STORY I noticed they do not beg to go with me as often….hmmmm…. I never wondered why until now 😉

  2. Beautiful.

  3. So So So awesome!! I don’t know why we get so hung up on control…I love this!

  4. Perfect. You nailed it.

  5. “they are finally working on those Hello Kitty handcuffs”

    There is something about Hello Kitty that makes me confused.. handcuffs for kids are bad, but not if they have hello kitty handcuffs xD that goes for leashes for kids. I’ve seen cheese etc etc etc… you can control a kid by making him do/eat something he doesn’t like by putting that kitty face xD Now I know why the cat as no mouth is a represantation of the kids will xD

  6. Hilarious yet so true. I’m still trying to figure out how to get through one single grocery store trip without chaos breaking out. It must be those grocery cart steering wheels.

    • I have yet to have a chaos free grocery trip and, I feel like embracing the chaos is OK. They are kids and, let’s face it, I don’t even want to go grocery shopping. 🙂 Thank you for reading. You know I love me some Four Plus An Angel.

  7. Pretty damn perfectly accurate post!! Although I do want to see you with the Bakery Fresh! Pie in your face 😉

    Thanks for this!

  8. Hear! Hear! I decided long ago that all those “How To” parenting articles were about as helpful as all those “How To Drive Your Man Crazy In Bed” articles brought to us by those perky gals over at Cosmo. Favorite line: ” Who are these people and how can I be sure I never run into them as my 2 and 4 year old push each other into the yogurt case? “

  9. (…or is it Here! Here!? I supposed I should find out such things before posting bad grammar publicly.)

  10. Fantastic!! In case you haven’t heard it yet today, you are GREAT!!! So accurate and funny! I’m stealing the knock knock joke! Love your writing!! Get that book started! Real Moms who don’t pretend will LOVE it!!! 


  11. YES to all of this! Yet another example of why you’ve been cursed with my undying, stalkery love. I love it, and it’s so true – I’m just glad I’m not on whatever effed up email mailing list you’re on – I have enough trouble with Groupon making me feel like my life sucks.

    Oh, and “Sometimes, you have to buy bread with a mom who is tired and doesn’t know any jokes” is getting painted in a scripty font across the wall in each of my kids’ rooms. 🙂

  12. “Bakery FRESH!” LMAO….thank you

    I can’t stand those emails, except for the blog fodder they lovingly provide.

  13. I hear ya. Great post!


  14. I hear ya. Great post!


  15. Damn, lady, you’re good!!!!

  16. You should create an app that will say You’ve Got FAIL! in the AOL voice then anytime someone around the office or somewhere makes a mistake you can play it. It would be awesome! At least for the first few times you did it then it would probably get really annoying. But still totally worth it!

    • It would also be my husband’s very valid reason for murdering me in my sleep after I insisted on playing it incessantly. No one really has the stamina to truly beat this into the ground quite like I do. See you at the funeral!

  17. Yes, dammit! Just tell those little crotch spawn to sit the fuck down and be quiet for two minutes!!! I never had coloring books in a restaurant, I didn’t have car carts with steering wheels at the grocery store, but somehow, I survived AND behaved!
    Okay, I’ll calm down now. Great post.

    • My parents made me eat McDonalds on the hood of our Jeep on the edge of a CLIFF. Yes, I actually have a picture of this. Kids today have no idea how scary growing up used to be. Yummmm, anyone get a hankering for cliff burgers?

  18. Loathe those e-mails. And always seem to get about 5,000 of them every day. Unrelated, but if I get one more “Top Ten Creative Halloween Costumes for Your Kids” list e-mailed to me, I think I’m going to snap–and it’s not even October yet. Amen to working on balance vs. control–wonderful post.

    • Me too, Meredith. I must have signed up for them when I was a new mom and then, like parenting in general, FAILED at unsubscribing. OH, and the Halloween costume e-mails. Don’t they know that I plan on buying the last costume on the rack 3 hours before we go trick-or-treating?

  19. Best part: “You’ve got FAIL!” Love it!

  20. THAT is what I am saying: Kids don’t always need to be entertained, dagnabbit. Also, I love the bakery, too. For real.

  21. Now I’m going to have that song stuck in my head all night!

  22. The BEST knock knock joke EVER!!!

  23. Yes. Yes. And more Yes. Kids need to realize that the world does not exist for the sole purpose of entertaining them. Like you say, sometimes they need to just suck it up and go to the boring old grocery store. Even if you DID put on a three ring circus for your kids every day, they would quickly get bored of that and demand bigger and better three ring circuses. And they would still get “out of control” sometimes.

  24. You said it! Why should we be expected to “entertain” our children instead of teaching them the responsibility and moral expectations of family and adulthood?!

    Also….I LOVE the knock knock joke!!! 🙂

  25. I actually clicked on this from FB hoping doves would fly out of my computer screen. It’s been a tough few days (aw, who am I kidding, it’s been a tough 4 1/2 YEARS!)(obviously, my oldest is 4 1/2) but about the only place my kids DO behave is at the grocery store. Why? BECAUSE THEY HAVE DAY CARE! I am so willing to drive across town, past 3 discount grocery stores, to the zsa zsa fancy pants more expensive grocery store because they will take my older child and, even better, in a few more months (when he is 3) they will take my younger child as well. They also have a nice cafe with REAL food. I’ll be there every freakin DAY! So, for now, the younger goes in a sling on my back, older goes to the day care and I can shop in peace. I’m broke, but I can shop in peace.

  26. As a mother with my own Brady Bunch, i avoid taking my brood to the stores AT ALL COSTS! I normally wait for my sister to come by or my mom to visit for a little while. Then I only take 1or 2 and warn them before we get there, no begging, no nagging, no toys and no fast food. I think those are my biggest no’s. Love your rants

  27. OMG, I luv this!!! — Rikki

  28. Trying to control your kids is even worse than trying to “control” that sulky, artistic boyfriend you had back in college. The difference is, once you figured out the boyfriend was just an asshole, you could dump him. My husband tends to frown upon me breaking up with the kids.

  29. And sometimes when you let them bring in the half empty bucket of popcorn from the cheap theater they WILL SPILL IT. And they will want to get in and out of the cart with the steering wheel about 15 billion times, BY THEMSELVES. Everytime time I go to the store with one of my kids I mumble to myself “why can’t i remember that last time really sucked and not to do this ever again”. I have tried A LOT of those stupid things and they only work for about 3 minutes. Mommy needs a loaf of bread, a bag of sugar, FINE get the twinkies, and beer…yes…beer.

  30. Love it! Well said. Miss you. xoxo

  31. Hilarious! So, so true! Love the knock knock joke at the end. 🙂

  32. The last time I took my 3 to the grocery store it did not end well. It was 10yrs ago too!
    Honestly you can NOT control little kids.
    It does not work.
    Now when little bobby is throwing french fries at my head while I try to enjoy date night at an “adult-ish” restaurant (meaning not kid friendly) and I say “Can you please control your child” what I really mean is ‘TAKE that little nutball OUTSIDE so we can enjoy our overpriced steak’. But alot of this stuff is contolled by US controlling their environment and knowing what works for them. I know Little CANNOT eat past 7pm without having a decent snack or the world will fall apart because he becomes a bratty 11 yo. Do I cook at 7. uh no. I make sure he has a snack. It works.
    PS: LOVE LOVE LOVE this post!!! Great writing!

  33. Perfection!Speaking of cuffs, I’m pulling for some sort of watch that you can make buzz or get tighter when your kids are acting like…you know. not to hurt them but sometimes they are caught up in their dramatic reenactment of their restroom habits to notice the look.

  34. Awesome post. And so nicely said!

  35. You got an actual audible giggle from me. I always said parenting would be easier if I had a bellhop. Masterful job lampooning our “entertain them so they’re never displeased” culture. Ellen

  36. LOVE THIS. Could not agree more. You cannot control your kids 100% of the time in 100% of scenarios or environments. Get the fuck over it. Articles and Top 10s promising some semblance of control are preying on tired parents’ desperation for clicks. Lame, lame, lame. I hope you post a link to this post in the comments section of all of those control posts for the rest of time. Thank you, BPM.

Speak Your Mind