Two words that are easy for me to say but hard to do: follow through.
If parents got periodic report cards, I would have received an “F” in this area every time. Until yesterday morning.
I’ve aspired to practice “following through” on my (admittedly idle) threats for years. When Margaret was a toddler, I blew it regularly. She’d misbehave, I’d give her a few warnings, and then nothing would happen. No consequence. This generally happened for two reasons: 1) I was lazy and found following through with a punishment to be a lot of work (if you’d met my kid back then, you’d understand) and 2) I can be selfish and I didn’t want to also be punished. For example, taking away a play date was fine if I didn’t really know the parent well. But if it was with the kid of a parent I knew and liked (and let’s face it, when they’re young that’s usually the case because we’re cherry picking our kids’ “friends”), I was reluctant to cancel our – my – plans. Both reasons led to inconsistency, which gave Margaret the upper hand.
I received confirmation that Margaret consciously used my lack of consistency in disciplining her to her advantage several years ago, when she was staying at my mom’s house. Her nana inquired as to why she misbehaved regularly with me, to which she proudly responded, “Because I know that most of the time, I’ll get away with it.” At seven, she knew that there was a pretty decent chance she wouldn’t get in trouble. In essence, she became a gambler and I, the “house.” And because she’s scarily crafty, the odds were in her favor – we’re talking at least a 10% advantage over this “house.”
This went on for years.
Yesterday morning, I regained my edge over my adolescent gambler. Half way to her school, she says, “Oh no!” I took a deep breath, waiting for the big ask. Even the six-year old knew she forgot something. The last time this happened was last Fall, during the first month of attending her (then) new arts school. We’d been out late the night before for a commitment and she forgot her dance bag for musical theater dance class the next day. I took pity on her since she was still acclimating to the culture of the school, so I said, “Margaret, I will get your dance bag this time and bring it to school after I drop your sister off. But know this: I’m only doing this because you’re still adjusting to school. And because we had a late night. I will NOT do this again. It is your responsibility to remember your stuff for school, not mine.”
Those words were ringing in my ear yesterday morning as Margaret bitched and moaned about how her grade in MT dance would drop to a B and that they were rehearsing for the end-of-year showcase, hork hork hork. I admit to getting sucked in a bit – well, a lot. But I took a deep breath and said, “Margaret, you are a very resourceful person. You’ve made many friends at OCSA this year. Some of whom must also have MT dance. I don’t care if you beg, borrow, or steal, but you’ll figure it out, I am sure of it.” She replied, “Mom, nobody has my shoe size! What am I going to use? He won’t let me dance barefoot – I’ll have to sit out!” As a dancer, that rule makes no sense to me, but I said nothing because I had to let her figure it out for herself. And that’s when the magic happened. Margaret realized that she has a pair of character shoes in her locker. Suddenly, all her frustration dissipated and I think she even felt proud of her self.
All was right again in the universe – only this time, I stood my ground and didn’t cave to fix my kids problems for her. I just helped guide her.
Big ol’ “A” for this momma!