Thursday, July 13, 2006

I make little boys cry

...because I am such a very mean mom.


It's like this: today is day 3 of rain, which means no beach.

It's day two of not having a car, and thus being tied to the house.

It's day N, one of a seeming continuous stream, in which I pay very little attention to the children while we're home (nearly all the time, these past few days), because I'm working on moving stuff around or sifting and sorting, and generally trying to convince my mother to just let go of some of the junk that has accumulated around here. (We don't, for example, need any DOS software manuals, or ancient copies of "PC Computing" magazines. )

Generally, I let the kids have free rein in the house while I'm busy elsewhere, meaning they can watch TV or play with their toys or on the computer as long as they are not killing each other or otherwise inflicting damage to anyone or anything.

The only thing I ask them to do is a bit of practice schoolwork, so they don't lose everything over the summer. "Brain drain" is the one big problem with the tradtional school calendar, and I work actively against it. So: a little writing, a bit of reading, 15 minutes of math drills a day. They could easily accomplish all of this in a half-hour, 45 minutes, tops, if they would just sit down and do it.

Mostly I get a lot of guff and I've reduced the lecture down to one word: six. "Six" is short for "six words," the six words beings: Day camp in Arizona next year.

Really, I don't need these hassles. I love spending time with my kids but I don't love it that they'll so casually blow me off or hassle me about what little I ask them to do. It's ridiculous.

Today, I told DS1 I wanted a reading summary. He did them all last year during school, and had been stuck for a writing topic, and so I gave him one. He didn't do it, even though I harangued him about it several times.

The problem is, after the haranguing, I was then distracted by some stuff I was working on with my mom, so I let it drop, and the boy thought he was off the hook. Not so, because at bedtime I realized I had never seen his writing today, and so I told him that today's writing was an F as far as I was concerned.

I talk way, way too much some times, and unfortunately for my kids, this was one of them. But I am tired of the way they disrespect me, and it was time to say something about it. DS1 made a choice not to do what I asked, and I was angry about it, and he got all upset and blamed me for calling him on his choice -- well, tough.

I probably harangued him for about 5 minutes too long (the initial 2 minutes probably would've sufficed), but then I had to give him the model for how this situation should play out:
1. Choose not to do what I'm told.
2. Mom gets angry at my choice.
3. Accept that I made a bad choice
4. (most important) Do better next time.

More tears! What's with that? I don't think I can do better, he sputters.

Now that's just silly, as I demonstrated to him by reading all the great stuff he has already written this summer. He's a great writer -- I told him he has to be, since he's my son, and his father's a darn good writer also. It's in the genes.

What's really going on here is three days of cabin fever, plus being unaccustomed to so much humidity, and eating strange foods (marshmallow fluff!) and everything else that's weird. I've been homesick for a while, so I have an idea of how all the strangeness could be affecting him.

But I still can't give him a pass when he blows off the one thing I asked him to do that actually required some effort on his part today. I wasn't trying to make him cry, but that's going to happen sometimes and I have to live with it. I have to pretend to be heartless when my kids cry in situations like this, but I'm not heartless, and it does hurt. No parent likes to see her child cry, and no parent wants to make her child cry.

It's not easy being a mean mom, but I'm not doing my kids any favors if I let them grow up thinking that they'll never have to do anything they don't want to. That's just not the way the world works, and that's a lesson they'll be more than familiar with, if I have anything to say about it.

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