When B (my oldest) stole a candy bar from the grocery store, I made her return it to the store and confess it to the store manager. Among the hardest parenting moments ever.
When G was 4 he threw a rock and broke a neighbor’s rear windshield. The girls came in and told me about it mere minutes before the neighbor was knocking on my door about it, but long enough for me to ask G if he had done it and why. He admitted the rock throwing yet had no explanation for why he was throwing rocks, but knew he was doing wrong. Confined to his room except for meals for 2 weeks – agony for an active 4 year old whose sisters were going outside to play every day.
When C told me she had not received a note from her teacher and I found it in her backpack (after the teacher had called me about it), we sat down with her and had a conversation about what type of person lies to her family about forgetting something. It was an interesting discussion with a 6 year old – was it lying if she forgot getting the note? Yes, when I specifically asked if she checked her backpack and she said she had.
When I open-hand slapped my daughter across the face her expression both horrified and angered me further, so much so that I sent all three children to their room until I could regain my composure. What was I so angry about that I hit my child that way? She had broken a hand-painted mug her babysitter had made for Christmas. My level of self-loathing and failure as a parent peaked that day, and I swore to myself that any and all spanking, hitting, corporal punishment was off the table from that day forward. I broke down in tears apologizing to my daughter, and I have never raised my hand or disciplined in anger since.
We all make mistakes, poor choices, bad decisions. Details of my own could fill a library. But I have always been a believer in personal responsibility and accepting that my actions have consequences. This is one of the things I have strived to teach my children, as the above examples illustrate. They have both grown up in independent, responsible citizens.
C and I had an additional conversation last night, and it was another of our raw, honest talks about family relationships and dynamics. She accepts that A is the one who must establish and enforce boundaries with his family. She also understands that A loses a little more respect from her family every time his family pushes and he caves. Habits of a lifetime cannot be changed overnight, and time is truly on their side.
The big elephant in the room, though, is what happens if A is incapable of prioritizing C and their independent relationship over his family dynamics? When I voiced this concern to her last night, her reply made me proud: “Mom, I’ll cross that bridge when I jump off it, but I have plenty of time to explore all other options.”
I am very satisfied with that response.