Friday, 17 February 2012
The Parent Trap
I remember holding my oldest newborn son in my arms. I was high on love, and maybe youthful stupidity. I looked at him and thought about the type of parent I would be. I had this T.V. sitcom ideal in my head, I'd be cool, and fair, but tough. The fact is that nothing really prepares you for parenthood. It's like this nonstop final exam that you have to take for 20 years, and you don't get the results for 30 years! Many a time my husband, Christopher and I have lay in our beds after the kids are asleep and looked at each other with those stupid doe eyes and congratulated each other on the terrific job we were doing. "You know, we are good parents.... (insert the example here)". Take notice of the timing of these dreamy wistful conversations, "when the kids are in bed and asleep". We don't congratulate each other on our numerous screw ups. We try not to talk about those, maybe if we pretend that they did not happen they will magically go away.
Why am I going on about parenting? I had one of those moments tonight. Both of the oldest girls did really well at their public speaking competitions (Riley won first place for her division, and Grace is an alternate in hers). We decided that we should take the kids out for dinner to celebrate. At this point we are congratulating ourselves for our awesome parenting. I wonder out loud to Christopher if we should take the kids to Chapters and let them use their gift cards that they won at school, since we were going to be at the mall.
Our school recognizes one student from each class for being a "Smart Reader". This reader has either been a consistently good reader, or has jumped up in levels. Grace and Rowan were both awarded certificates and Chapters gift cards for being a "Smart Reader". We were really proud of them. They have been bugging us forever to take them to Chapters so that they can buy their new books. This seemed like the perfect opportunity. I spent twenty minutes or so looking for their gift cards, but to no avail. When the kids got home from school we told them the big news that we were going out for dinner, and that Grace and Rowan could redeem their gift cards. I then asked them where they had put their gift cards. Grace thought she had put it somewhere in Christopher and my room. We tore the room up looking for it, and finally found it under our bed (don't even ask me why it was in our room). Rowan was pretty sure that his was in his knapsack. It was not. Now we come to the tricky part.
I for the most part want to shield my kids from unpleasantness, even if they need to experience unpleasantness. It kills me to see them upset or disappointed. I know that to appreciate the good, you need to experience the bad. I know that to learn consequences you need to experience them. I know all of this. Knowing and doing are two VERY different things. This was the time I felt that we needed to let Rowan experience consequences. He is forever losing things, and we or rather I bail him out. He asked if we could just buy him a book. Normally I would do just that, I mean it's only a few dollars and books are great. This time I knew that to go this route would not be doing him a favour. He needed to understand the value in putting things in a safe place, and being responsible (he received this gift card last month). So the answer to his question was, "I'm sorry but no. You need to learn to be responsible for your things" As I said it I could not believe my own ears. I feel terrible about it, but I really do think it was the right answer. I guess we will find out when I get the test results in 13 years.