So I made my Older Son cry. I really really really hate when I do that and I really really hate when it happens even if he needs to get a message that he doesn’t want to hear.
In the interest of keeping his privacy and not using events in his life to embarrass him on the internet for all the world to see, let’s suffice it to say that he did something naughty, and it was over the line. I am probably one of the most relaxed moms in the world when it comes to possessions and their destruction. I accept that with two wild boys of my own and seven children who belong to other people in my home, things will get broken and/or damaged. But when it’s done on purpose, that’s a different story.
So I got angry, and I didn’t yell, but I did that even meaner “I am going to remain very calm about this but make it very clear to you how very mad I am and how very DISAPPOINTED too because you know better.” Oh yeah – I pulled out the dreaded “disappointed.”
And he took it and said he was sorry and then quietly went to his bed and hid his head under the blanket and started to cry.
I hate that moment. I hate having to be hard on him, and feeling his pain when he is embarrassed and hurt. But it had to be done. And as I stood in the hallway outside his room, willing myself not to go in there, I told myself, sometimes you HAVE to be hard as a parent. And it does hurt me as much as him, or at least we’re hurting equally even though he thinks it’s much worse on his end.
The worst, hardest part is that I can’t cave. I have to stand back and let him cry a little, not swoop in and try to fix it. Sometimes our kids need to feel the pain, and that doesn’t mean we have to shame them, but we have to let them learn those lessons the hard way. It’s part of learning and growing into a responsible person. I hate to sound like crazy old Uncle Joe again, but we’re not doing our kids any favors by letting them get away with it.
BUT we always talk about it afterward and I never let him go to bed without that. We need to clear the air after we’ve fought, or I can’t sleep and he’ll have nightmares. I use one of my mother’s tricks – rub or scratch his back as he’s lying down in bed. She picked this up from one of her friends who used it on her sons to get them to talk about what they’re always hiding from us and not talking about in that boy-like way.
Isn’t it awesome how we moms can help each other out? More please. I need it.
So after a little while (of painful waiting) I climbed in bed with him and he let me. He told me he didn’t know how bad it was and I said it was a mistake and it’s OK because we all make mistakes, and hopefully next time he’ll know it would upset me. And that I always love him no matter what, and he knows that right?
Dave witnessed it all and was trying to make me feel better. He said there are some things Older should know already. He was trying to support me, knowing that what I really wanted to do was run to him and say “It’s OK honey!” and smoosh him with hugs and kisses as soon as the tears came. He knew I wasn’t going to cave but I still needed to hear that I’m not awful. And I’m still the enforcer of consequences. No playdates for at least a week.
Not terrible, but when we’re leaving school and they start begging me and I have to remind them they don’t get them this week, they’ll be embarrassed again. Their friends might ask why and they’ll have to explain it. And I have to let that be. No rescuing.
(And have Younger son negotiating that it wasn’t his idea or his fault so why can’t he have a playdate? Well, you just get the benefit of learning from your older brother, so watch those lessons closely because someday I’m sure you’ll be able to use them to outwit me.)
The funny thing is that these events coincide with a lot of parents telling me they feel guilty for yelling at their kids lately. (Except Michelle, who never feels guilty for it and always makes me feel better when I do. Thanks Mich!) We have somehow bought into the idea that we don’t ever have to be angry at our kids, and if we treat them nicely all the time they will never misbehave, and we’ll all be happy all the time la la la.
Who came up with that!?
It’s not reality and it’s not a standard that ANY of us can live up to. We are all under a lot of stress these days and we lose it (especially when you have little people in your house who are always demanding things and not listening!). And we may not like to see anger in our kids, but it’s there. We are all human, we all get mad, we’re all allowed to yell. We’re not allowed to hurt each other with words or in any other way. We have to deal with our anger in a healthy way, and teach our kids the same thing.
Every time I lose it I go back later and talk to the kids about it. “So. I got really mad before.” They’re dying to talk about it! They want to know why, and tell me why they think I got mad, and what I said, and how they felt, and what they did, and how mad they thought I was, and how scary/funny it was, and how “Mommy, I was just like this: (dumbstruck)” and on and on. Oh they love to break my mental state down. And that’s OK – if we’re talking about it, we can understand each other. If I throw a fit, storm off, and don’t speak to them for the rest of the day, what do they learn?
And finally, we always say we’re sorry and talk about how to make it better. Randy Pausch wrote it brilliantly in his book, “The Last Lecture.” He said, “Proper apologies have three parts.
1. What I did was wrong.
2. I feel badly that I hurt you.
3. How do I make this better?”
I’ve hung on to that last one for dear life. If anyone fights with someone in my house, they don’t have to apologize to me. They have to go make it better with that person.
So let’s review. I got mad and Older deserved it and I didn’t even yell and he got a natural consequence and we talked about it and after our hurt feelings felt better we were all happy la la la. And sometimes I yell without really being mad, and Older doesn’t deserve it (nah, he usually does), and we talk it out and it’s OH-KAY for us parents to yell sometimes. As long as you are loving those kids too, don’t beat yourself up. We have the rest of the world to do that for us. Just remember – this parenting is hard work!