I hate to break it to all you moms and dads out there, but last month’s head to head landed us squarely as frontrunners for The Meanest Parents EVER award.
Yep. I’m already ordering the t-shirts.
Life is so crazy these days that I can’t even remember the exact transgression leading up to our little come to Jesus meeting in the family room. It could have been end of day drama or time to come in the house drama or general discontent drama…whatever the cause, it resulted in a particular Tone coming out of T-man’s mouth that I find rather objectionable.
I know, I know. “Tone” is what some might call a highly subjective, not easily quantifiable transgression. And I suppose I would agree that it’s difficult to discipline for Tone, if we hadn’t specifically discussed this issue with T-man on several occasions.
He readily admits that he knows when he’s doing it. T-man can hear the difference between “okay” and “Oh-KAY!” with no problem. So really we’re talking about a matter of self-control when it comes to tempering his irritation. Or accepting the consequences of speaking to me like I’m an idiot. Whichever.
So after this particular incident we gave T-man time to cool down (he does much better if he’s had a little space to get his head back in the game) before chatting on the couch.
Oh, lawd, I just remembered what sparked this whole mess. We’d gone out for an evening walk. We aren’t real crunchy folks – this isn’t a typical activity for our family – but things had been just a little too tense between the dinner and bedtime hours so we were trying to break the pattern. What better way than to actually leave the house for a while, right?
Well, while we were out there was a bit of a…problem. Let’s just say T-man got some news he wasn’t too thrilled with and, after throwing down the gauntlet, he took off. BrightSide and I stared at each other, dumbfounded, wondering if the kid was actually gone or if he’d come back after a minute and apologize. Bear shifted uneasily, not really sure what to say or do.
After a minute the three of us started walking the dogs back to the house, with no sign of T-man along the way. BrightSide and I were making pleasant conversation with Bear who, quite frankly, was looking a little freaked out. Every once in a while she’d get far enough ahead that we could furiously confer about what the hell we’d do next. (Meanwhile, inside my head, I was all “OH MY GOD, WHERE IS THAT KID?! DID HE GO ALL THE WAY HOME? HE’D BETTER BE HOME BECAUSE HE DOES NOT WANT THIS MAMA GOING DOOR TO DOOR SEARCHING FOR HIS ASS.”)
The relief at finding him sitting in the kitchen was short lived because, you know…parenting.
I throw all that out there so you know this wasn’t just me flying off the handle over some snotty tween comeback. T-man had made a serious error in judgement. In all honesty, I was remarkably proud of how calmly I handled the entire thing.
BrightSide and I sat him down and explained briefly how very wrong he was to take off. That instead of having time together and reconnecting as a family, we’d spent the walk back worrying that we wouldn’t find him at home. That something might have happened to him between the park and the house, and we wouldn’t have any idea what. That our evening had not gone the way we’d hoped, so the next day would not go the way he hoped.
That’s when I dropped the bomb that T-man would lose all outdoor time as well as his technology the following day.
Now, outdoor time ranks right up there with waffles and strawberries on T-man’s “life necessities” list. His iPad ranks a close second. To say that he was unhappy would be the understatement of 2016.
To his immense credit, T-man asked this extraordinarily pointed question: If we went for a walk so we could reconnect with each other, why would you take away outdoor time from me? If that’s the thing that makes us feel grounded again?
Ooooh…points for effort, big guy, but no cigar. This attempt at derailing his punishment only earned T-man a brief rundown on the concept of behavior management and the importance of linking highly effective consequences with unacceptable actions we never want to see repeated.
The pitch for keeping outdoor time was a good try, but it wasn’t nearly as classic as what came next. Because my elder child – my lovey, my only son – actually managed to say the following with a straight face:
“I feel like you’re punishing me for puberty! Why are you punishing me for something I can’t control?!?”
Oh, child, that’s a good one. Because if you think you’ve got a blank check for every dumb ass thing you’ll do for the next six years, you are sorely mistaken.