Sometimes for less whiny conditions to prevail in a house with kids, we result to random threats and outrageous statements:
Nic: "I’m going to call the street sweeper!"
Billy Dee: “I’m going to put you in a box.”
WMD: “Every time you cry, a puppy dies.”
Around Christmas, however, we have an advantage. We can threaten that Santa is watching their every move and taking copious notes on their errant behavior. Still, they see Santa everywhere and take this notion of constant surveillance with a grain of salt. This year, we’ve taken it up a few notches with more specificity. Caroline: Every time you kick your brother, I'm calling Santa and asking him to subtract a present from your list. Kick. I guess you can kiss that Princess art easel goodbye. Kicking ceases. Paulie: Whiny voices attract the Abominable Snow Monster. Remember the oinking outside the cave? He can hear you when you talk in that voice. (For whatever reason, Paulie thinks the Snow Monster’s cave is at the Airport T station, so his arrival on the South Shore via intermodal transportation wouldn’t be entirely unheard of in his world). No more whiny voice.
Thus far, these tactics have been successful, but we're continually upping the ante.
For awhile, Paulie would only wear plaid shorts and his Tom Brady shirt. You could dress him in weather-appropriate clothing but inevitably, he’d sneak off upstairs and change back into this ensemble. We finally packed all of his shorts up and put them in the attic. He squawked like an irate bird for an hour. But then he adapted, digging out some Lightning McQueen summer pajamas and insisting on wearing only those. We put all of the summer PJs up in the attic. Another bird tantrum. But then he adusted again, deciding to just run around buck nucked. You'd get him dressed and then he’d strip down naked almost immediately. Any shot at discipline unraveled as we laughed and became increasingly inconsistent. Laughing, then yelling, then laughing again. In short, the worst kind of parents.
So we decided to take a more subtle approach and tap into his psyche.
James called Pete and asked him to call the house, pretending to be Herme, the wannabe elf dentist from Rudolph.
Paulie was worried yet exhilarated to be receiving a personal call from an elf. He listened intently as "Herme" informed him that he needs to keep his clothes on because Santa's getting angry. Paulie promised and then asked Herme if the Snow Monster was "still nice." Herme told him he was only nice to people who wear long pants and that he snacks on bare knees.
Needless to say, Paulie's kept his clothes on and has become obsessed with his fleece-lined jeans.
Since then, Herme has become the great equalizer, a true purveyor of peace in Jacksonland. Every time it’s getting loud in here, I dial the house phone from my cell. "I bet that's Herme." Oh no. They completely chill out, looking up and around like they live in a giant glass house. That's right. Herme can see everything. He's watching when Santa can't.