Saturday, April 27, 2013

Breaking the Parental Rulebook

When it comes to parenting, everyone has a different opinion on how it should be done. In fact, most people have very strong, differing opinions. The more kids I have, the more I know parenting is the one job out there whose job description keeps changing, and is never the same for two different children. Books have been written, claiming to have the ultimate parenting formula, and other books have been written claiming that the formula is wrong and they have the right one. So we parents have to take bits and pieces out of all the books and apply them in a way that works for our specific child and our lifestyle.

Having said that, some parenting rules are universal, like the law of gravity, or the laws of physics. One of those rules is: Never promise a consequence that you are not prepared to deliver on. Sure. Makes sense, because if you don't do what you have threatened to do, they will never take you seriously and you can forget about any kind of submission or compliance on their part. But some rules are meant to be broken. Just like humans have been determined to break the law of gravity since the beginning of time, and fly like birds, we parents sometimes like to throw away the rulebook. Have you ever gleefully made a really juicy threat just to light a fire under your children's rear ends? I have. Oh yes. Here's one I have used often: "Whatever toys are left on the floor will be sucked up into the vacuum, because I am vacuuming in exactly three minutes. The timer is going, and when it beeps, LOOK OUT!!!" This is followed by a delightful display of panic wherein the boys fling toys of every shape, size and colour into their bins and pull off the fastest cleanup job in the history of cleanup jobs. I'm not gonna lie to you. It's pretty satisfying. Even better, turn on the vacuum and push it slowly toward the heap of toys, shouting, "UH-OH!!!" as they scramble to rescue them from certain doom. This works particularly well with Lego. 

Sadly, the older your kids get, the smarter they get, and they learn that their Hotwheels cars are indeed too big for the vacuum, just like almost all their other toys. They might even start to notice that you never actually do vacuum anything up. (Okay, I did once, but it was an accident. Plus it was a Lego piece, and really, who would ever miss one tiny piece of Lego?) Sigh. Yes, I miss the old vacuum threat. 

But the other day, my Dynamic Duo did something really, really bad. They stole a very, very important letter that I have to send in for my work. Then, they tore the stamp off and ripped the envelope open and took the letter out. When I discovered this crime, I was livid. And a little panicked too. This is not the place to get into detail, but let me just say there is an awful lot riding on this letter. So I freaked out a little and demanded they bring me the letter from their lair. Yes, they have a lair. It is beyond words. Sorry. I got my letter back, but it was smeared with Cheez Whiz. Seriously. This has my signature on it. I guess now it has theirs too. I put them both in time out. There was yelling. My throat was sore for a while afterwards. 

Then, I pulled a mom-threat of great magnitude. With my most serious and angry face, I told them what they did was against the law. That's right, they broke the law. I said it slowly, and emphatically. I asked them whether I should call the police. Micah's eyes were very wide. Jamie's...not so much. I could see the gears turning in his little mind. He was weighing the threat, deciding whether to believe me or not. It was not a good threat. Let's face it, nobody calls the police when their kids are acting up. But I have a tiny advantage here. My sister is a cop. So I decided to go with it. I told them in no uncertain terms that if this ever happened again, I was calling their Auntie, and she IS the police. I told them to repeat after me: "I will never, ever do it again." They both said it, Micah still wide-eyed and Jamie clearly still trying to figure out a way he could do it again without getting caught. I pointed at Micah and said, "I believe you." I pointed at Jamie and said, "I do NOT believe you." I reiterated my threat and they finished their time-outs. So far, they have not opened any other mail. 

So there it is. My confession. I issued a threat I have no intention of following through, purely for the benefit of the moment. I don't even regret it. Frankly, it felt really good. I would even do it again, if the situation warranted. See how I did that? Warrant is a cop word. 

And now, I must face the remainder of my day. Saturday. A day of four children, all day, and in this case, no husband to share the load. He is gone for the whole day, probably until my bed time. And though I hate to end on this note, I must also update that Bandit (see the last two posts) was found on Monday night and he was not alive. I have been extremely devastated about this development, and I will not be posting the details. Suffice it to say, I feel indescribably horrible, sick even, about what happened. But I thank God that at least we found him and know what happened. Not knowing would have been worse. Maybe. It's hard to say. Anyway, thanks for praying, for those of you who did. He was a beautiful, healthy young dog and he will be missed. Here are a few more photos of Bandit, from puppy-hood to last week, two years old. Rest in peace, Bandit. I'm so sorry.

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