I’m a softie when it comes to my kids. Not because I’m nice, mind you...but only because the thought of them crying breaks my heart.
Yes, I’m a huge pushover and they know it.
However, as they’re becoming older and more challenging in their own right, I’m quickly realizing that it’s time for this Mama to take all the control back. Before I know it, they’re going to be teenagers running around here, telling me how it is and putting me in my place.
I told my husband, Tim, “You know, we’ve got to get things under control around here. I think the kids are under the assumption that WE work for THEM. It’s time to rein it in, baby”.
The other night, I made a delicious dinner of grilled chicken, green beans and fresh fruit. What’s not to like, right?
But Landon, the littlest child, took one look at his plate and freaked out. And I’m not talking a little bit of whining here and there . . . no, we’re talking full on temper tantrum, chock full of snot, tears and “I’m not eating THAT!”
He Demanded that we make him a hotdog instead. Yes, folks, Demanded, with a capital D.
Attempting to sound like an experienced parent, I replied, “You’re going to eat what everyone else is eating or you can go to bed hungry.”
With his arms crossed tightly in front of his little chest, he puffed his bottom lip out and screamed, “No, I won’t eat it! Make me a hotdog NOW!”
I told myself, “Count to ten . . . breathe in, breathe out . . . heck, count to fifty before you rip his darn head off his ever-lovin’ neck!”
Trying to compromise with him, I explained, “You eat the dinner I served you and I will gladly make you a hotdog . . . your choice. But you’ll also have to apologize, change your attitude and use some manners.”
Still, he carried on . . . as if this was his last meal and I had just served him cold dog poop with a side of cat puke and some mouse piss to wash it all down with.
The crying and pouting was getting to me, don’t get me wrong. But something inside me wouldn’t allow myself to give in this time. It wasn’t just the fact that he wanted something different than what I had made, it was the manner in which he had dealt with the situation . . . rudely, disrespectfully and without any concern for the other members of this family.
But Tim couldn’t take it anymore and got up from the table and said, “Okay, enough . . . I’ll make you a hotdog!”
A smile crept across Landon’s face and I said, “No, we have to stick to what we said. I’m tired of us being bullied around all the time.”
Knowing I was right, Tim shrugged his shoulders and told his whiny son, “Mommy’s right. You have to eat your dinner first before you have a hotdog. That’s the deal.”
It wasn’t a deal Landon wanted to make, though, as he sat there with a bitter scowl on his face, staring daggers at anyone who dared to look his way.
The rest of us continued on with our business...eating dinner, sharing conversation, pretending that there wasn’t an unruly, angry child within our midst.
When everyone was done with dinner . . . well, except Landon . . . I began washing the dishes. I spotted him watching me and knew he was expecting me to give in. The thought of any child going to bed hungry, even though I understand sometimes it’s a necessary evil to drive a point home, has never sat well with me so this felt very uncomfortable.
“I’m going to need your plate in a few minutes,” I reminded him.
By the time I loaded the last dish into the washer, he came up behind me and handed me his plate, which was now empty. I took it, being sure to thank him for bringing it over to be washed. As angry as I was, I knew I had to leave it at that, nothing more than a pleasant exchange of words.
This was purely a battle of the wills and we both knew it.
I felt a gentle tug on my shirt and turned around to see him still standing there.
“Mommy, I’m sorry for yelling at you. I ate my dinner so can I please have a hotdog now?” he said, using the quietest of voices.
I answered, “Apology accepted and, yes, you may have a hotdog now. I appreciate you using your manners,” as I bent down to give him a hug.
And even though it was a simple hug, it expressed so much more than just love...it expressed my desire to be a better parent, one who stands strong even when it hurts. A parent who knows how to choose her battles and realizes the difference between a battle worth fighting and not fighting.
With 4 young children to care for, this was a battle I had to fight...and win. I can’t be a short-order cook and I can no longer allow them to bully me around as if I’m their personal servant. It was getting out of hand and I finally had to take a stance, as tough as it was.
Let me just say, it’s a work in progress. The very next day, Landon was back to demanding I do things his way or the highway. Reminding myself that things won’t change overnight because he is, after all, an extremely strong-willed child, it’s going to take time to set things straight again.
This is the part of parenting where I realize I’ll always be walking a thin line. I want to encourage individuality without crushing his lively spirit. I’d like him to be a responsible person who passionately shares his beliefs and opinions while keeping in mind his empathy and respect for others.
Most importantly, I have to teach him to look at others with a “what can I do for them” mentality, rather than a “what can they do for me” attitude. He can still be a leader, he can still run in front of the pack . . . he just has to learn how to live peacefully among others and to treat them how he would want to be treated.
So I need to stay firm and be consistent now to ensure that he turns into the type of person I hope he’ll be someday.
Oh, and I also need to do a whole lot of praying to keep my sanity intact.
No one ever said parenting was easy. Sigh . . .