Tonight I left a social function because my young man simply could not follow the rules. I have no idea what happens to him when we arrive in someone else's home. He loses his mind. At my house he knows not to run or jump on stairs, to play with toys appropriately, to mind his manners. But, the minute we go somewhere else, it's like I've never said a word to him about his conduct.
All the way to our destination tonight we reiterated good behavior choices. No running in the house, playing nice with others, being extra nice to little kids because he used to be the "little guy", eating his dinner no matter what was served. And the minute we walked in the door - BAM! Hit like a mack truck with an unruly child. Why does this happen?
I guess if I had an answer to that question, I could solve the parenting conundrums of the world. I don't. I guess I could blame it on him being an only child, but I really don't think that is the problem either. He goes to daycare and has since he was a baby, his social interaction is fine and I've seen him make good choices around other children. What happens when we walk into someone's home is apparently a mystery I'm not allowed to solve. I'm sure every parent has been here before.
Here's where this lays heavy enough on my heart to write about it: I feel like a fool, and then I feel guilty for being embarrassed by my child's choices. I think most parents feel this way sometimes, helpless and lost and hurt. Questions cross your mind about "Why in the world did I ever think I'd be a good parent?" and "What made me think I could do this job?" The love I have for my son is overwhelming, which is why moments like this are so hard for me to handle, but I refuse to just let it slip through the cracks. That's the other really hard part about being a parent; if you say you're going to do it - you have to do it.
Tonight I warned three times (which is three too many considering the lengthy talk en route to said destination) and on the third warning I told him, "One more issue and we leave." And I held true to my word. His next stunt landed us in the car with his very tearful good-bye to everyone there. I had to. I could not back out on what I said, I could not allow him to act foolish and have no consequences for his choices. I had to be a parent. I had to follow through.
My son is an amazing child, but I believe he is so because my husband and I follow through. If I say, "no", I mean no. If I say, "I will spank your butt," I spank his butt. If I tell him he's grounded for 30-minutes, rest assured he will serve every second of that grounding. If there is no TV, there is no TV no matter how much of a pain in rear that is for me because sometimes mama just needs a little down time. Follow through people - follow through.
I'm not saying the choice to parent with a loving iron fist isn't hard. It is. Every time I correct him, a little piece of my heart breaks in two. I've shed as many, if not more, tears as he has for every moment of behavioral rectification that's been served in his life. It's hard. It's constant. It matters.
I've seen the other side. I've seen what happens to kids when they've never been given direction in their lives. I've seen what happens to kids when they've had too much discipline (both physical and verbal) before they get to high school where I teach. I know the very ugly truth of what happens when parents don't follow through from day one. And while I try not to project these horrible experiences I've had on my son, I know I never want to look back on his life and question whether or not I tried to do the right thing every time. I want to believe I did.
Ask yourself this question right now - if everyone that acted foolish in public was marched home by their mothers, wouldn't going out ANYWHERE be a nicer adventure? Yes. Yes, it would.