Poll most any parent, and I think you’d hear similar conclusion: being a mother or father is the hardest job they’ve ever attempted.
It’s not really a "job", though, is it? It’s a daunting 18-year relationship with children under your roof that continues for the rest of your life even once they leave home. There is no other career that demands greater responsibility, ingenuity, tenacity, creativity, flexibility, adaptability…or forgiveness or grace or love.
We get one chance to get it right, and if we allow ourselves to dwell on that thought very long, we might just curl up in the fetal position, sucking our collective thumbs, questioning every decision we make while praying for the best.
I was challenged as a parent this weekend, at times feeling like a failure, but then ending on a note of hope.
I don’t expect perfection from our children, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have high standards for their behavior; at 10, 13 and 15, they know right from wrong. When there is blatant transgression, consequences are imposed.
Over the weekend, my son lied to me…looking me squarely in the eye, HE LIED TO ME…REPEATEDLY.
It was such a foolish action; so obvious was the lie, yet so emphatic his denial. I couldn’t believe it really, he was "caught" without me even trying to catch him! And, on top of it, it was over something ridiculous–I had asked him to help his brother fold a small load of laundry that finished drying just as I was walking out the door. When I returned home, his brother’s laundry was gone; remaining were a few items of his, folded the way his brother folds (yes, a mom knows the difference). Some things were still in a pile. I questioned him, and his "thou doth protest too much" response was telling: "OH YES I DID HELP FOLD IT!!!!!!"
Well, I was SO ANGRY, I had to walk away. I wanted to hurt him, seriously hurt him. He’s long past the age of spankings, so that was never a consideration. All I could think was if he’s lying about this, what else is he lying about?
I talked to my husband about what consequence to mete out; he wasn’t as upset as me, but he supported my concern. Our "go-to" punishment is to restrict electronics. At his age, that hurts worse than any spanking could, anyway. For some reason, that didn’t sit well with me…I suppose I wanted him to feel my full wrath and fury, and the "same ol’, same ol’" just didn’t fit.
So…I thought about it. Then thought some more. I didn’t pray for wisdom, but it found its way to me through the voice of a child.
My daughter…oooooh, how wise she can be at 15!
I told her about the exchange between me and her brother. She knows me well enough to know just how angry and disheartened I was, and in the way only siblings can thrill to the other getting busted for what they KNOW they do often but rarely get caught, she was a bit too eager to help me figure out punishment. For her, the suggestions came in rapid fire succession–"don’t take away X-Box, that’s what he’d expect, he always loses the phone or computer when he’s in trouble, MAKE THE PUNISHMENT FIT THE CRIME…", and with that, she came up with a BRILLIANT idea:
Make him fold laundry for a week.
She’s a teen, she KNOWS what "hurts" her kind, and she was showing NO mercy for her brother. In spite of sensing her maniacal glee and smug satisfaction, I glimpsed a stroke of genius in her rationale.
Now, with temper cooled and appropriate consequence in mind, I had "the talk" with Thomas. The encouraging thing about him, is he is a remorseful kid; he swims in guilt when he knows he’s disappointed us, and he when he saw both rage and pain-from-betrayal in my eyes, it pierced his conscience. When I asked him why in the world he’d lie about something so easy to detect, he agreed how thick-headed he had been…and he apologized to me–sincerely–and didn’t bat an eye when I told him how he’d be spending time over the next week.
There are five people in our family; between school uniforms, sports uniforms, and whatever we’re wearing for the day, there’s a lot of laundry to wash. Oh, how I usually bemoan that fact; oh, how maniacally gleeful I was this week for that same fact.
The beautiful moment in all this? He wanted to comply, suffer his consequences. It was his way of fully restoring our relationship, the broken trust. Although he knew he was forgiven, that the anger had passed, he was eager to "prove" something (to me? himself??). Monday morning, I had loads running in both the washer and the dryer; when I came downstairs to remind him that folding was his job, he had already finished the first load.
That’s when I realized it’s just fine to be a mean old mother…after all, sometimes that’s what a "M.O.M." has to be.