Monday, January 6, 2014

I am the Best of Moms; I am the Worst of Moms

Tonight, I made my son cry. No, not cry, sob. No, not sob, HOWL. Seriously, I think our neighbors down the street were wondering why the coyotes were out in January. But it wasn’t really my fault. I gave him multiple warnings. He knew exactly what I expected him to do and he knew exactly what the consequences were if he didn’t do it. And yet, he didn’t do it. And then he seemed completely astonished when I enforced the consequences.

Let me pause for a moment here and assure my readers that I am not a pushover. I am, admittedly, more lenient than Daddy. But when I say, “You will do [X], or [Y] will happen,” if [X] doesn’t happen then [Y] does. I tell him the consequences, I give him one warning, and then BOOM. Consequences. After all, I was the Sunday school teacher/babysitter who was often told by parents, “Why does s/he always do what you say but never what I say?” It was because I told the children the consequences of their behavior, and then I enforced them. Just like I do with my own children.

The difference is that with my own children I feel horribly guilty when they cry and protest. I don’t relent, mind you, but I do feel horribly guilty. Which I why I felt so vindicated when, after having a discussion with my son tonight about how sometimes you make decisions with your words and sometimes you make them with your actions, and then telling him that he’d have a chance to make a different decision tomorrow and that I loved him even when he made decisions that neither one of us was happy with, he quietly told me, “Thanks, Mama. That got all my cries out.”

Well. If that doesn’t just break a mother’s heart and then put it right back together again.

Disciplining my children is by far the hardest part of parenting for me. I know I have to do it; I know they NEED it. But finding the right balance of being harsh enough that they’ll think twice before disobeying again and being gentle enough to not break their spirits is not an easy thing, especially since I am a very meek-spirited mother of two very strong-willed (but sensitive) children. It constantly surprises me how much I think back to my own childhood and my own parents’ consequences and discipline each time I discipline my children. I am all too keenly aware of the things that my parents said to me that cut me to the quick, and also of the things that made me laugh rebelliously to myself. And, like my parents did, I try to walk that tightrope.

And most of the time, I fall off. As do all parents.

Not once, in my son’s 4 years on this planet or my daughter’s 2, have I not had a second thought about a punishment or consequence that I imposed. And yet, my children still come running to me in the morning, begging for hugs and kisses. They want me to play with them all day long; they snuggle close to me every chance they get; they long to show me new skills they’ve learned; they run to me with tears running down their faces, craving a kiss to mend a real or imagined boo-boo. Obviously, any mistakes I’ve made have not scarred them psychologically or made them afraid or me or doubtful of my love for them. They are as completely secure in my love and protection as any human being can be of any other.

Maybe I make less than perfect parenting decisions sometimes, but all it takes is a hug or a “thanks” or “I love you, Mama” from my children to know that somehow, I’m still a pretty good mom.

And in the end, as long as they’re happy, I’m happy. Because after all, what more could a mom want for her children than for them to be happy for the right reasons? Knowing that my children are happy is what gets all MY cries out.

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