I got here first!!!
No, I was first!!!
This is the new anyfamily refrain. We’ve found our competitive edge and it is supremely annoying.
In the beginning, I utilized their new found need to turn everything into a race – from sitting down at the dinner table to getting their pajamas on – to my advantage. First one to get your PJs on gets to brush teeth first! First one dressed and downstairs can get in their chair first!
That quickly backfired, becoming dangerous, what with the pushing on the stairs, and the screaming tantrums thrown by whichever two children failed, for whatever reason, to complete the assigned task first. Also, their anxiety over setbacks made me a little nervous. An inside out pajama shirt practically gave Gee a seizure. I don’t need five-year-olds with high blood pressure and migraines.
I tried everything I could think of to do away with the annoying racing behavior. I ignored it. I made whichever child finished whatever it was “first!” go last. I yelled. I took away treats for mentions of “first!” I gave time-outs for mentions of “first!”
When all else failed, I consulted some parenting books. Desperate times, people.
I resorted to sarcasm. Who wants to be first to be spanked? Who wants to be first to be murdered for yelling first!?
Finally, I looked it up on the internet and I got this gem of a suggestion:
Tell the “losing” children that they are “first” to be “second” and “first” to be “third.” Et cetera. Et cetera. I didn’t buy it, but rather than drown all three of my oldest children in the bathroom in a fit of rage as one of them danced and sang “I’m first, I’m first, I’m first to brush my teeth,” to the joyous notes of na-nanny-boo-boo and the other two writhed and popped and flopped about on the floor screaming, I decided to try it.
I mean, first!, I used all my tried and true parenting techniques. I punished the annoying singer by making her get off the stool and go last. I took everyone’s treats away for the next however long I felt like pretending I was actually going to provide treats. This had absolutely no effect, except that I felt better. I promised myself ice cream after bedtime and a chai latte in the morning. Again, I felt better.
Then, I took a deep breath and said calmly and maturely, “Gee, you may be first! to go first. Cue, you may be first! to go second. And Ess,” I made my voice bright and cheery and enthusiastic, sort of, (okay, it was semi-less sarcastic than normal), “you may be first! to go third.”
They looked at me in dumbfounded silence for about fifteen seconds, during which I felt a little disappointed in them. I mean, really? Please do not tell me that my children are going to fall for this drivel? I thought I was raising them to be far more cynical and far less stupid than that.
Suddenly, the triple tantrum exploded my eardrums.
Gee: NO! I want to be first, only me first, no second first!
Ess: NO, FIRST TO GO THIRD!!!!
Cue: General screaming and crying. As usual, he had no idea what he was screaming about and I pulled his nap, so he’s so tired by 6:30 he can’t see straight, he just knows that something involving him not going first happened and there’s a scream-fest going on. No one likes to miss a good scream fest.
I felt proud of them, before I put the kibosh on teeth brushing, books, songs and any and all other pleasant before bedtime activities, put them in bed, turned out the lights and left. My babies. They aren’t going to fall for any namby pamby internet reverse psychology. They want to be FIRST! DAMMIT! None of this first to be second crap.
They turned from screaming and wailing about losing their before bed routine to – wait for it – I kid you not – screaming and wailing about who got into bed (as punishment) FIRST!.
I don’t believe in original sin. I don’t think man and woman kind as a whole has fallen from grace in any ascertainable way besides the obvious, which, come on, any creator worth his/her/its salt MUST have known how annoying we were when he/she/it came up with the idea of us.
Then again, I had NO idea how annoying kids were before I had a few and yet I keep having them like there’s no way to stop them, so maybe he/she/it just isn’t good with creation control. My point is – oh yes, I have a point – that I don’t think we have the whole Adam & Eve in the garden story quite right.
If you view it as a parable about children, then you know exactly how it went down.
Adam: Race you to the big forbidden tree.
Eve: Go! No cheating! He’s pushing. WAAAAHHHHH, ADAM’S PUSHING ME!!
Adam: AM NOT. FIRST!
Adam: I’m first!
Eve: No, I am!
Yahweh: Shut up down there, I’m trying to invent the internet and give you idiots something quiet to do.
Yahweh: Why so quiet? Shit.
Swirling vortex of sand in which Yahweh customarily appears.
Yahweh: What exactly are you two doing down here?
Eve: (swallows) Nothing.
Yahweh: Did you eat that apple? The apple I specifically told you, not two years or so ago, not to eat?
Eve: Adam gave it to me.
Adam: Did not! Eve picked it.
Eve: Yeah, cause I got here FIRST!! HA!!
Adam: DIDN’T! I GOT HERE FIRST!!
Adam: YES! GOD, TELL HER I GOT HERE FIRST!
Eve: NO, GOD, TELL HIM I GOT HERE FIRST!
Yahweh: (fuming in his column of swirling dirt) I’m going to punish whomever got here first.
Eve: were not!
Yahweh: ENOUGH! (thunder clap) I CAN’T STAND IT. GET THE HELL OUT OF MY GARDEN. GO AND FIND SOMETHING TO DO IN THE DESERT. AND DON’T COME BACK UNTIL YOU ARE SORRY YOU ATE MY APPLE AND YOU ARE READY TO PLAY NICELY WITHOUT BICKERING.
Adam and Eve trail, hanging their heads, away from the Lord of the Universe, but half way to the gate, Adam tells Eve he can beat her to the first barren rock formation and the race is on.
Yahweh: Dammit. I wanted that apple.
And that, friends, is why we are all still wandering around in the desert.