I will never forget the time when my parents made me walk across the street by myself and apologize to a neighbor for a wrong doing. I was probably 10 years old, or something like that. I had done something stupid (I don’t even remember what it was anymore) and the consequences of my actions was to go over and apologize.
I’d have rather DIED than to walk across that street. I’d have taken a spanking or a restriction any day, but instead my parents were determined that I own up to my wrongdoing and make that painful apology.
It took me what seems like hours, in retrospect, to work up the nerve. I finally crossed the street, and think I must have stood at their door for 5 minutes before I was able to bring myself to knock.
Finally I did it, and granted, I survived, but I have never forgotten it.
As a child it never occurred to me how hard it must have been for my parents to stick to their guns while I cried and begged and pleaded to be released from this gruesome responsibility. They seemed so confident and in charge, but perhaps they wondered in the midst of it if they were doing the right thing… if they were being too harsh… if they should back down… or at the very least accompany me on this dreaded errand (as I begged the to do.) As a child it didn’t occur to me to wonder those things, but looking back now, I wonder how often they second guessed.
Last week the memory of that dreadful incident so long ago came flooding back as I found myself in a very similar situation, but this time on the other side of the fence.
I won’t go into details in order to protect the innocent (or, you know, the guilty), but I had to look onto my child’s big watery brown eyes and make a decision. Would I practice tough love and force him to own up to his mistake, or would I cave to the emotion of the situation and let him out of it?
I had done the right thing by the parenting books — I wasn’t angry or spiteful; instead I was allowing the natural consequences to take their course. This allowed me to be the empathizer, not the enforcer. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Honestly, I think it might be easier to dole out an arbitrary punishment than to force a child to face the consequences of his actions. At one point, I almost backed down, but finally I decided to stand my ground. I didn’t lecture, I didn’t yell, and I didn’t use sarcasm.
What I WANTED to do was pull his head down to my chest and rub his back and tell him it’s okay, never mind, let’s just go home. But instead, I sat patiently and quietly while my child collected himself and prepared to do what he had to do.
I’m tellin’ you what. Give me the terrible twos any day. Parenting tweenagers is a whole different world. If there’s one thing I’m learning, it’s that nothing about parenting is cut and dried.
He did it, and I’m proud of him, but most of all, I’m proud of me. I don’t think either of us will forget it for a good long while — until some other horrifying experience trumps it, no doubt.
On the plus side, I think we both learned from the experience. Hopefully. Because I don’t want to learn that lesson again any time soon.
14 thoughts on “The Grass Isn’t Always Greener”
Ok that’s just weird cuz I had the same exact parenting experience last week as well. End of the year blues or something. I dunno, but I know I don’t want a repeat. My friends “who have gone before me” (have older kids) promise we will make it to the other side alive. I ride on their faith system a LOT these days.
ugh – strange waters navigating with the tweenager. . .I’m not sure I’m up to it. . .hopefully we can handle all the crises with such aplomb and dignity =) as opposed to the freak-out session I subjected mine to this morning!
I find myself doing things now and realizing that my mom had to go through all of this same stuff and wonder how she always did such a great job and will my daughter look back on me with that same awe…. Probably not, but I’m trying.
I totally understand and dread those moments, but they have to be done. I made my son apologize to the principal and his teacher in pre-school one day after he had a temper tantrum in carpool line kicking and screaming (and embarrassing me) the day before. It was extremely difficult for him, but he did it and he never had a meltdown like that again in public (not that he didn’t at home), but he learned his lesson about how to act in public!!!!
Oh, it is SO HARD to be a good parent, isn’t it? I’m proud of you for doing the right thing though.
Same 10-year old girl drama here too! I stole some berries from our elderly neighbors’ yard. They were SO sweet when I cried my apology. Parenting is so hard. You’re doing the right thing. You must work those kinks out of them when they’re 12 or 13. When they’re 18, and ought to apologize, you no longer really have the leverage to make them. You can only encourage them to.
I look at my older one sometimes and wonder how I’m going to do this for 8-10 more years.
The decisions get harder, the right thing seems grayer and grayer and I’m never quite sure I’m doing the right thing. At least when they were two, I felt like I knew what they needed and the problem with doing it was the DOING it, not the knowing if it was the thing to be doing in the first place. It makes me tired on a whole different level than she did when she was two.
Thank God for God. And prayer. And that He is faithful.
And proud of you momma!!
Oh hon, been there, done that.
I hate to break it to you, but my babes are 32 & 28, and it “ain’t” getting any easier! I wouldn’t trade it for the world though. But just today I was facing more of the tough stuff! mean, they are on their own, and doing a great job, but they still call me for advice, or at least a shoulder to cry on! I am thankful they count me as a mentor & friend. Life is hard, and I think it is harder and harder to be a person of quality & ethics in this world, but, oh.so.worth it. Love you girlfriend 😉
I came upon your blog today and realized perhaps it was divine intervention! ;o) I am going through a bumpy patch parenting my 10 year old son and have been struggling with letting him learn from the consequences of his actions versus stepping in, sheltering from consequences and taking the easy way out. I am so thankful that God led me to your blog and that I read your post…it’s nice to hear that I am not alone and also to get other parent’s perspective on parenting a “tweenager”. I had to laugh as I just said to my husband the other day that the toddler years seem like a piece of cake compared to what we are going through now! Blessings and best of luck. Erin
Toughest job in the world…..being a parent. Greatest rewards anywhere this side of heaven…..being a parent. You will never regret taking the difficult path (that one less traveled) and doing it right. You see, when you do it right, there is less of a chance that you will have to experience it again. Well done, my child!
GOOD one, grrrrl. Great title, great article. Just the right length and tone.
This part of parenting is so incredibly hard. We want to teach them life lessons when the consequences are small, however, they are our babies and we want to shield their little hearts from this kind of thing. Kudos to you for doing what you needed to do.
Every season of parenting has its ups and downs, doesn’t it? It’s never easy, that’s for sure.