Or why I found myself in Mommy time-out (yes, again)
I am standing on top of a five-foot pile of laundry (we consider it sculptural at this point) and asking the question, “Am I a good Mother?”
As a parent (not to mention so-called chronological adult), each day comes with its own set of challenges and triumphs. At the end of each and every day, I take time to reflect on which battle would have been the better one to pick, how better to fight those battles, and celebrate in solitude the little triumphs that each day has brought. Every now and then I have a day like today. My girls were both dressed and ready, including socks and shoes before breakfast. And I did not even have to ask. Both said "yes mam" when I gently reminded them to brush their respective teeth after breakfast. And before I even began to ask them to turn out the lights before leaving for school, my elder child said, "Mom, here are your keys and your coffee. Oh, and by the way, I already turned off the lights in my room. And yes Mom, I do have my backpack and my lunch!" Was I dreaming? After all, this was the first time in months that youngest went to sleep without her two "one minutes" of cuddling AND stayed in her own bed until morning, a fact that is truly nothing short of miraculous.
After such a glorious morning, I struggle to recall what exactly caused the chain of events which forced me into mommy time-out last evening. Oh yes, me and the younger child were watching "Dancing with the Stars" while the elder was finishing her 5 hours worth of insane 3rd grade homework. During the course of these 5 hours or so, she came into watch the show, claiming to be done with said homework. Well of course I asked to see her homework. I always ask for her homework log so that while I am signing it it will not seem as though I doubt her word, then look over her work. The kid was nowhere near done. Not even close. I could always watch TV or listen to music (or both) whild doing homework, write innumerable papers in college, write senseless blogs, you get the idea. Not my daughter. She needs to be in her room without a single distraction. And anything and everything seems to be a distraction. Banished to her room once again, tired and weary she had simply had enough. I got it, but then again….She argued that she could do her homework and still sit with us. When I retorted that she could easily spend 10 minutes finishing her work then have TV time (forgetting for a moment that BIG LIE about being done with her work just for a moment) she became so enraged like something from the Exorcist, throwing things, spewing 8-year-old brand of ugliness… And she is bright enought to know that a spanking will only hurt for a moment and that I cannot forcibly make her stay in her room, especially if she keeps running around the house. Chasing her only brings about delight from my youngest so… what is a Mom to do?
As I have reflected many times recently, she is so very much like me in so many ways, study habits aside. Always the very qualities I love the most can be the most exacerbating at times. What would I have done when I was 8-years-old? What would have worked with me? All I ever wanted was to make my parents happy ultimately and to know that they loved me. I never really wanted to hurt my mother intentionally. Yet, in the present I was fuming. I WANTED to spank the kid, trust me. Spanking was not the right thing to do at the time even in the face of such utter disrespect and sheer willfullness. What I needed was to be put in Mommy time-out to allow myself to calm down and make calm rational parental choices. Or at the very least, just the calm down part. The children, witnessing my steely silence looked for direction. I quietly said, "Please, go to your rooms and get into bed. I will talk with you both in a few minutes. Mommy really needs a time-out." Huh?
As a Mother you constantly question whether or not you are doing your job right. Countless books exist on the subject and during my self-imposed time-out, for all of those ten-minutes I consulted a few favorites in my mental catalog. Let's see, Sears would say I should just dole out some hugs and lollipos and have the kids sleep in my bed until graduating from high school at a minimum. Dobbs would suggest I belt the eldest to maintain a total dictatorship, while those good ole' Love & Logic guys, Cline and Fay would say I need to give my daughter an opportunity to take responsibility and understand her actions, to make discipline into a learning experience not about corporal punishment. So I decided to borrow a lesson out of their book. (And I won't even mention what my Ex would say about the whole debacle becuase HE is perfect, obviously).
Climbing down from the heap of unfolded laundry, not ready to admit defeat, I knew I had already delivered part one of the elder's lesson. The purpose of discipline should be to leach children the way to live and behave, not to simply punish over undesirable behavior. And for me, I want my daughters' to go a step further; to learn to make good choices because it is the right thing to to, not simply to avoid punishment. I want them to actually THINK about what happened, to THINK about alternative choices and outcomes, to THINK period. Take discipline as a learning experience not as a punishment for us all. I don't want to simply hear "Sorry" I want to see sorry in action. In other words, prove sorry by your action and try not to do it again. As I entered her room, she was quietly writing in her journal, duly contrite and waiting to see what fate had in store for her.
To her shock and awe my answer was this; "Sophia, I want you to know that I love you no matter what. When you did X, Y and Z, it made me very sad. I know that you know that your choices were not only disrespectful but also do not show your sister a very good example. Being the big sister is hard sometimes, I understand that. As for what to do now, I know that you are sorry, but the truth is I have not decided what to do about this yet. I am going to sleep on it. Don't worry about it, I'll get back to you tomorrow. For now, just know that I love you much. Now, may I have a kiss and hug please?" And a very stunned daughter wiped away a few tears, gave me a big hug and kiss and promptly went to sleep.
I may never win Mother of the Year, I do not make the best choices myself. I may fail at many things; failing at Motherhood is not an option. So was yesterday a triumph? While I was Queen of the Heap, sitting in self-imposed mommy time-out it certainly did not seem that way. Today I would say success has been achieved….. Oh, and did I mention the girlies even helped me fold some laundry too? And made coffee? I believe I did mention that one, yes triumphant are we three.
-Charmed, I am Sure