Saturday, November 19, 2005

The showdown...

21st Century Grandparents are out of town for the weekend, so swim class duty for the Kid fell to me this week. I certainly was not looking forward to it, since he's a tough sell on getting in the water, but I decided (perhaps against my better judgment) to go to class rather than let him get used to the idea of skipping a week.

In a nutshell, he dragged his feet getting ready so we were late, and he stood on the side of the pool the entire half an hour, not once getting so much as a toe wet. Now, had I done that as a child, I would have been brought immediately home and sent to my room. 21stCGPs, however, always treat him to breakfast and the playground afterward. (It seems Mom was right when she told me people want to skip having children and go right to having grandchildren.) They bribe him with a minute on the playground for each minute spent in the pool, so he usually gets in for the last five minutes and then weasels his way into a longer stay. So when he looked at me expectantly and proclaimed it time for the playground and the grill, I told him in no uncertain terms was he allowed to do those things. We were going to go home and he was going to go to his room. I explained that he had been fibbing to me (he swore he'd go in the pool, he's also been lying about his behavior at school, as I learned a parent-teacher conference -- another story for another day -- etc.) and that I was not going to reward bad behavior. He threw a fit. He cried in the car the whole way home, begging for mercy.

"I will go swimming next time! I promise!"
"I hear you, but I won't believe you until you show me that that's the truth."
"But I am proving it. I promised!"
"Kid, you promise a lot of things, but you fib about most of them. When you show me I can trust you, I will believe you."
"I hate you!"
"I'm not your son anymore!"
"You can't come to the beach with us!"
"I won't never be your son anymore!"

We got home and he said he was hungry. I said he was absolutely allowed to eat first, because I wasn't going to starve him. We walked in the door, and he started calling for the Grandparents to help him. He realized he had no allies today, no one to snatch him from the grips of punishment with something fun to do. He started screaming at me, and it took me aback, as it was the passionate, red-faced screaming of teenage hatred, which I had not anticipated seeing for another 10 years. I sent him up to his room, where he mumbled teary things about me, occasionally poking his head out to yell downstairs that he was taking back everything he'd ever given me because I wasn't his mommy anymore.

Most parents I think would have gone bounding up the steps the moment the words "I don't love you" escaped their children's lips, but I knew better. They were just words. Just angry words. He didn't mean it. And for once, someone had to show him that he didn't hold the power. I'm his mommy, and he needs to respect that it's my duty to do what's best, even if it doesn't feel that way.

I let him stew up there for about 15 minutes or so, waiting until he calmed down. Once the yelling, mumbling, and couple of thrown toys had subsided, I walked upstairs and knocked on the door jamb. The Kid sat quietly at the head of his bed, hands folded in his lap, gazing out the window. I asked if I could come in, and he nodded. I sat down next to him and held out my hand. He took it, turned to me, big blue eyes shining, and said, "Mommy, I'm sorry I've been lying to you. I'm sorry I said those things, and I'm sorry I didn't swim. I will do better. I promise." He let go of my hand and wrapped his little arms around me. I rested my chin on his head, and a tear crept into my eye.

I kissed him gently on top of the head. "I accept your apology."

He's been a jewel ever since.

It was nice for him to finally understand what consequences are and that he has to accept them for his behavior. No Grandpa to play on the computer with or Grandma to escape to the garden with when he's in trouble. So as much as it saddened me to do it, as the Kid ate his lunch, I unearthed from the bottom of my purse the phone number of a local realtor with a house for rent nearby so I can call while he naps. It'll break his heart when we leave (and the Grandparents' as well) but I've got to do it. It's the only way he'll learn.


At 11/21/2005 9:48 AM, Anonymous ApprenticeDiva said...

Our parents raised us that way so I don't see what the big deal about doing it to him is. People suing McDonald's over hot coffee that they spilled on themselves are the result of people not being expected to suffer the consequences of their actions. He's got to learn sometime that he is the only person responsible for his actions. I'm proud of you for sticking to your guns.

At 11/21/2005 1:43 PM, Blogger Small Town Diva said...

Wow, you should teach 21st century mommy classes. I am PROUD OF YOU. The Kid meets the Enforcer (made for TV movie???)

Just wait until he threatens to tell people how old you are if he doesn't get his way........

At 11/22/2005 9:10 PM, Blogger 21st Century Woman said...

Thanks, Divas. It's nice to know there are people out there with common sense when it comes to childrearing.

At 12/10/2005 3:34 PM, Anonymous Michel said...


I am a 'mean mummy' too - I watched my small son scream 'help me mummy' as he was forced to do swimming lessons (at 2 1/2 years of age). Now - after massive struggles, and lots and lots of lessons, he is (at 8 years old) a 'legend' swimmer - and very proud of himself and his ability.

If I had weakened, and let him sit on the side of the pool, he would not be delighting in the pleasure of swimming like a fish with his mates at the pool now.

It is so hard to stay resolute sometimes - good work!

Regards, Michel - a mum from Outback Australia

At 12/13/2005 9:03 PM, Blogger 21st Century Woman said...

Thanks, Michel! All that resolve has paid off -- he's quite the determined little fish-in-training now!

At 1/30/2006 4:00 PM, Blogger Small Town Diva said...

21st, put your manicured fingers back on your keyboard and get back to writing SOOOOON


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