My boys are complimented on a very consistent basis on how well behaved they are (an asked if they are twins!). I am able to take them with me to any type of appointment and they sit and entertain each other with things that I have brought for them to do. The grocery store is a breeze as they say hello to others and help me pick out the food for the family. The two of them use their manners the majority of the time without reminders from myself or Steve. I have even dragged them to my governance board meetings for work where they sat in complete silence for an hour and introduced themselves properly to adults. Truly, they are amazing boys and I feel like Steve and I are doing a great job parenting.
However, yesterday was rough. Really rough for us. We had to make a tough parenting decision. Yesterday, the boys were at our daycare provider’s during the day and had a blast. I picked them up and that’s when all hell broke loose. I live about six houses down from our sitter. In the course of the walk home, both boys threw tantrums. I’m talking “throw myself on the ground, make you look like the most awful mom in the world, screaming like a banshee” tantrum. Why? I asked Charlie to walk close to me and tell me about his day. After his tantrum was finished, I told Adam not to turn the corner without us. We got home and Charlie threw himself, kicking and flailing like a toddler onto the couch because I told him if his tantrums and disrespectful attitude continued that, no, we would not be taking the boys to the tractor pull in Green Lake that evening. I sent Charlie to his room and sat down with him trying to determine the underlying cause of his tantrums. After five minutes of refusing to speak to me, he started to talk: “I hate our house and want to move”, ” I wanted to run home”, “I hate when you let Adam beat me.” Overarching theme, as he’s snuggled in my arms, breathing deeply….I have an overtired child who is filled with love, but cannot express the emotion of needing a break.
See, Charlie is an introverted child. He thrives on having some time alone frequently to just sit and gain his energy back. He’s not a napper, but just needs to ten minutes of peace. I let him know that he snuggling up in his bed for a bit was okay with me and something he should do. He strolled out quietly, with an aura of shyness surrounding him and walked over to me, plopped in my lap, looked me in the eye and apologized for throwing a tantrum and being hurtful to Adam and me. Awesome. I thought we were moving on with our night.
Not so much. The boys headed outside to play in the sandbox. The boys started dumping buckets of sand on each other – our one rule for the sandbox is no throwing sand on each other. After two reminders, I was done with this and removed the boys from the sandbox. No issues as they know the consequence for their action. Next, they head to their newly built picnic table and jump off of the top. Reminders about it not being safe ensued and they were asked to find a different activity. Again, the boys headed to the sandbox where they proceeded to resume the sand throwing. Immediately, they were brought into the house. I separated them into different rooms and asked them to think about their actions. I reminded them that they had the tractor pull that evening on the line.
Steve got home then. I explained the boys behaviors and the tantrums that had ensued as both children were screaming in their respective rooms. We went in to talk to Charlie together only for him to tell us that we had to take him to the tractor pull and we weren’t being fair. Oh dear child. If you only knew that you will never get anything from me with that attitude. Ever.
We knew that we had to get our point across as Charlie has started a bit of a self-entitlement phase. We let the boys know that due to the tantrums, not using their listening ears, and disrespectful words that they would not be going to the tractor pull and would not be attending one until they proved they could do those things. And then, all hell broke loose. There was lots of kicking and yelling from my children. “That’s not fair”, “You hate me”, “You have to take me!” all came spewing from the two children’s mouths. And that’s when Steve and I looked at each other and knew we had made the right decision as parents. Yes, we felt bad. Really bad because the boys had been looking forward to this activity for weeks. But, it’s a privilege, not a given right. And, it’s not a once in a lifetime thing. C’mon…we live in Wisconsin. There are tractor pulls every weekend, all over the state during the summer.
We stuck to our beliefs that we are raising good people. We put the boys to bed early (like 6:30 early and they were asleep within ten minutes). We breathed easier when they fell asleep with soft, curling smiles on their faces. We reflected on our choice and how we could have changed the situation. We know they were tired as evident by the ease and earliness of bed time. We talked about having even less for them and really making them earn everything they have by helping more around the house. We discussed again if we made the correct decision and second guessed ourselves for quite some time.
Then, this morning happened. Both boys woke up with smiles on their faces and hugs to give. They both apologized for their behaviors the night before without prompting from us. The hugs and apologies were one of the most wonderful things a mother could hear. To know that yes, we are teaching them values and how to reflect on their choices is amazing.