Lion thinks I should punish him if he annoys me even if it’s irrational. Did he eat the last cookie and I wanted it? Swats! Did he know I wanted it? Should he be a mind reader? If it was just sitting on a plate in the kitchen, up for grabs, and I was just thinking about taking it for myself, he got there first. Part of being an adult is managing disappointment. You can’t throw a tantrum because you don’t get your way. Life isn’t fair. Or maybe it is. Just because you didn’t get your way doesn’t mean life isn’t fair.
When I was younger, my mother always tried to spend the same amount of money on my sister and I for Christmas. This seems fair. But what if I wanted something expensive and my sister didn’t? She could get four presents and I’d only get one. Is that fair? Monetarily, yes. Thrill of opening presents, no. Still, I tried to do the money thing for my kids too. It didn’t always work and I have no idea how they felt about getting two presents versus six. I guess it just made me feel like I was being fair.
The problem with being fair in punishing Lion is that it’s so subjective. This is true of the amount of and harshness of swats, but also in deciding what to punish him for. Some days, I walk in the door after a bad day and I don’t mind if he asks what’s for dinner. Other days, I’m annoyed. How can he tell which day it is? I don’t even know. Last night, it wasn’t a particularly bad day except that the air conditioning wasn’t working in the office. Wearing a mask, and clothes for that matter, in an office with no air conditioning is hot and humid and uncomfortable. When I got home I didn’t want to do anything. Lion didn’t ask about dinner. I finally asked him what I could make without any effort. It turned out, his stomach was bothering him. Egg noodles and peas is our go-to meal for that. Perfect! Almost no effort required.
Today is one of my work-from-home days. I’ve already done a few loads of laundry. I changed the bed. I try to do little chores in between work tasks. I figure it’s the equivalent of chatting with coworkers or running up and down stairs to put mail in the bin or answer a question. However, I also had to track down an $89 error that was eluding me for over an hour. I hate that! Where are you, you stupid error? Now what if Lion asks me about lunch when I’m frustrated about looking for a needle in a haystack? It’s not his fault he wants to eat lunch with me. He has no way of knowing that I’ve been staring at the same numbers for over an hour. The fairness in me says I shouldn’t punish him. Lion appears to disagree. He says if I’m annoyed, I should whomp him.
As a compromise, which is really no compromise if you ask me, I’ve agreed to punish him if he annoys me. Period. Ironically, I’ll probably be the one saying it isn’t fair as I swat his buns.
[Lion — Mrs. Lion is correct that if she was frustrated by a work problem, my asking an innocent question might annoy her because it piled on top of other frustrations I had no way of knowing about punishing me might be unfair. My point is that for the purpose of teaching her to freely spank me for doing things that bother her, it might be a good idea not to worry about being fair. The other side of the coin is that she tends to over-rationalize the causes of annoyance and as a result, I am never punished even when I deserve it. In my post this morning, “Please Don’t Be Fair“, I suggested that we may need “training wheel” punishments to help Mrs. Lion get past her current block. Punishing me for being annoying when I am only a small contributor isn’t more unfair than a harsh spanking for spilling food. It’s just a way to build better disciplinary habits.