As a parent you should not be operating under the illusion that your children are perfect little angels who are whip smart and have nothing but respect for you.
‘Smarts’ and ‘respect’ are both learned intangibles. Your children are people. More importantly they are people that you brought into the world and whom you are solely responsible for. If they are lacking in anything, there is the slim chance that it is the result of a genetic deficiency. Short of that, who they are and how they behave are the direct result of your own interaction with them.
With that said, as a parent you should also be operating under the idea that some days are just going to go tits up.
It might happen at the end of the day. It might be a slow burn throughout the whole day that results in you reenacting the ‘bathtub scene’ from Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind. It might even happen before you get out of bed.
A week ago, I was coming home from dropping off the oldest child at her gymnastics class. As I was turning onto my street I received this Skype message from my son:
For the record, my son is 9 years old. His little sister is 6. In the event that someone somewhere reading this should get their panties in a bunch given their young age, here’s a few facts for you:
- We live on government property. What that means is that our neighborhood is beyond safe.
- My children are the epitome of responsibility within their respective age groups. While that may be a bit presumptious, it is a fact. I know it’s a fact because my wife and I have been imbuing them with responsibility since they could demonstrate critical thinking.
- Children are never ‘too young’ or ‘too old’ to learn the values of responsibility.
FYI the ‘red stretchy thing’ he was referring to was an exercise band that someone left out and did not put away. Also, the tv wasn’t an old ‘tube’ television with the rabbit ears wrapped in tin foil that only works if your little sister with the braces is in the room touching it. It was the family television, a 38″ Vizio.
Of course, I was a bit peeved. Firstly, I wasn’t gone that long. 25 minutes tops. Secondly, I’m a notorious tight wad. While my family is by no means ‘poor’ we certainly aren’t wiping our asses with dollar bills. Televisions aren’t cheap.
I get out of the car and enter my home not knowing how bad the damage was. My son immediately began to inform me about the message he sent me. I cut him off mid-sentence with “I ALL READY KNOW” and I survey the damage.
I’m not going to show you what it looks like turned on. It still works, the screen is just fucked and essentially beyond repair.
It was an accident. I knew that before I walked in the house. I knew that before I surveyed the damage. I tallied the collective ‘accident report’ of all 3 of my kids immediately after reading my son’s message. I could still count the previous accidents on one hand.
Sometimes, stupid things happen regardless of your age.
Them not being able to watch their favorite shows, or play Minecraft, would not have driven the lesson home. There’s a time and a place for horse-play. Specifically and preferrably when they are not latch-keyed.
After my blood pressure normalized, I made sure that they were fully aware of the ramifications of what they had done. They knew how much the television was, how long it took their mother to work for the money to buy the television, and how their little faux pas was disrespectful to their mother (e.g. If they consciously knew all of that before they picked up the exercise band, it wouldn’t have happened).
Accident or not, they still got grounded. As the saying goes, the punishment needed to fit the crime. I gave them reasonable parameters for the grounding and told them that they would get ungrounded if they stuck to the parameters and illustrated that they learned their lesson.
My son was ungrounded after 2 days. The youngest took a week (which is understandable because she’s only 6). Since then they have been on the straight and narrow.
Have a lesson-filled horror story? Sally forth in the comments, please!