My preteens can challenge me like no other. From their beginning I have told them to be honest and to stand by their choices. It was easier five years ago when pretty much everything I said went unquestioned. Yes, back when my word was law. Magnificent.
Now we are in a stage of questioning and something else? It's not so much arguing as it is closer to "I have a better idea". Yes, NEGOTIATION. It is our new constant. If there was ever a time for me to hone my boundaries, it is NOW.
So I did it. Kissing my son on the cheek, giving him a hug, and uttering these words: "You are not allowed to be late for school and you are taking the bus home today. Love you to pieces." I got in the car, with my daughter all ready to go and we took off. (New morning rule, time of departure is 7:10am). In my body, all was well. Mentally, I was cringing with worry and regret. Trying to control another person is hell. Trying to make my son do anything is, well, stupid. Mainly because it takes so much energy without much success. I sent a text asking him to touch base with me to let me know he made the bus...etc.
He phoned me instead: "Mom. I had a really stressful morning. I was hungry and couldn't find the cereal at first. But then I did. I couldn't find my shoes. Now I am at the bus but I forgot my money on the kitchen table. I will make it to school on time."
Let me be really clear here. My son said NOTHING about me leaving without him. Not a peep. There was no blame. He took responsibility for himself, he struggled and he succeeded. And I stepped out of his way. WAHOO!
We got into it last night over rules and rewards. I'll say it this way: Rewarding bad behavior is a form suicide. And my son knows how to wear me down. He has this wonderful talent for spinning reality inside out and upside down. He kept saying : "I deserve to play". If you say it aloud enough, everyone begins to believe it. (OMG!!!) He was throwing furniture, fake crying and looking for things to break. He was seething with anger, confusion and deep upset. The minute I considered relinquishing my stand I decided to vacate the premises. I said these words: "I leave it to you to decide how to participate and contribute today in your effort to make up for dropping the ball all week" and left the house.
Again, my body was good. My mind was in turmoil as doubt stirred about and worry began to bubble. I let myself slip into future and knew I was in big trouble.
I returned to find our home still upright. He greeted me with a hug and a kiss. I went to prepare dinner and he went outside to help with our garden project. Ten minutes later he approached me asking if I noticed anything. (Ooops) I said no. He was bummed. I grabbed his hand and said just show me, I had no idea to 'look.' My son had taken it upon himself to straighten up the living room (FOLDED all the blankets) and cleared the dining area, he also cleaned his bedroom, did the dishes and wiped kitchen counters. I was happily impressed and almost fell over when he added: "I can't believe it took me so long to get it straight in my head. I am really sorry mom."
I am sole proprietor of my word. I have been lazy with my kids on that front in the past and it caused us stress. We have all heard it before, in many forms. Here is my version: If I reward bad behavior because I am too tired to hold the line, WE ALL LOSE. Of course in the moment we all think win: they get what they want and I get them off my back. This is not the quality relationship I am interested in propagating. Healthy discourse, reasonable suggestions and proposed solutions are my interest. And we need to learn together how to cultivate this as we are all breaking through old patterns of behavior.
I spent so many years being afraid and allowing myself to be constantly detoured by it. I am an emotional being, for sure. I can generate really well all the delight and drama needed for any scenario. And I am choosing challenge to grow us all forward into better connection. Open book sort of stuff, no more secrets and hiding in shame. My freehold is better expressed through authenticity.
Knowing how to take care of myself, to disengage, stand strong or lend support is all part of my practice. Giving my kids the space to know themselves and the patience to figure things out are my two tickets to serenity. Thank gawd for hair dye.