Stay with me here. I promise this is going somewhere.
In a former life I was a therapist.
Before that I was a "behavior modification interventionist" (and yes, I just made up that title. Because I can suckas). I utilized conditioning principles to shape the behavior of at-risk teens in residential programs.
And before that I was a debaucherous college student studying psychology and Skinner (who you may recall had the famous Skinner boxes- rat pulls lever, food pellet emerges).
I have to say my experience gave me a boost of confidence in this whole parenting gig. I know how to make people behave "appropriately" after years of fucked upedness, I know how to make a mammal with a pea-sized brain pull a lever, so bring on the human blank slate! I will mold you into homosapien epitomes of well-behavedness! (That's right- Not only do I make up job titles, I also make up words like a wizard!)
And then the babies were born and I learned they weren't going to play by the rules. Either that or my college GPA should have been MUCH lower because man, I didn't understand this whole behavior-shaping thing so well after all. Hmmm....
Last night I realized that one of the following was taking place:
a. I don't get behavior reinforcement principles (and I should never go back to being a therapist.)
b. The babies keep changing the rules on me, in which case- SHENANIGANS!
c. I have inadvertently created screaming, asshole babies
This last one got me thinking about those ole Skinner boxes and my college friend and fellow psychology major, Kim. Kim actually took an Animal Behavior course and used a Skinner Box with a rat. I visited her once while she was in Lab for this course. (Does anyone remember those days of yore when you would go to "Lab?" Man, I'm getting all nostalgic here. Where is my Southpaw beer?)
Anyhoo, I'm sitting there with Kim and her rat is NOT following the program. Instead of pulling the lever to get a food pellet, he keeps sidling up backwards to the pellet dish and sticking his hairy bottom into it. So, he's sitting with his giant rat's ass in a food bowl waiting for a food pellet to show up in it. I'm not sure if he thought he was pooping it out or if this was how it would magically appear. Kim was going bonkers saying, "I don't know how he started doing this!!!" She had unwittingly trained her rat to do this crazy behavior instead of the kosher lever-pulling mandated by the Psychology Gods.
So sometimes what you THINK you're doing is not what you're actually doing in the world of parenting. Sometimes you think that by giving your screaming child candy to stop the tantrum you were the one in control, when in fact- your kid was shaping YOUR behavior and you just whoopsed yourself into another tantrum on your next grocery run. And maybe that's what is happening here. Of course I recognize that there are confounding variables in this whole scenario- development, temperment, genetic code....And I hang onto the idea that all of this is normal and what's "supposed" to happen. Because frankly, I can't deal with the notion that my babes may have a case of the hairy bottom pellets. Damn.