Saturday, March 10, 2012

No Baby Seals were harmed in the making of this post.

Sometimes we feel like we're at a loss for what to do with our kids.  We search for the "right" answers to challenges we face with them.

And sometimes, we come up with creative solutions, in effort to try another approach.

It's a strange thing sometimes, parenting a precious child who hasn't been taught what we would have been teaching them in their earliest years.  It's a challenge to try to suddenly teach them responsibility when they've never had to be that way before.  And it can be hard to teach them to "do what we need to do now, so we can do what we want to do later," when prior to the last year or two, they hadn't seen that modeled.

And with that in mind, let me say that getting them ready for school when they don't feel like going has been......a.....challenge. And not the kind for the faint at heart.

So, we decided to try a new tactic.

Before I describe said tactic, let me first explain a few things.  We have routines - they're written out and posted where the boys can see them.  We have followed the same routine in the morning since August, and they are both capable of completing them with time to spare.  They have consistently had up to 20 minutes to play after being ready to go, sometimes even more.

Yet, almost every day for weeks now, it was getting to the point where it was time to go, but they'd still be running around goofing off, or just putzing around, not even dressed yet, and every single morning was getting to be stressful.

So, we told them the new rule:  With the exception of their lunches, which I would grab if needed, whatever they had in their hands or on their bodies were what went to school with us.  No other exceptions.

Even though we talked about it at length, I don't think they took me seriously somehow.  And then one of them decided to test it.  At 8:29, I gave the 1-minute warning, and a reminder.

No action.

At 8:30, I said it was time to walk out the door.  Thing 1 looked at me and exclaimed, "WAIT!  I still need to get my shoes on!"

I looked at him, and said, "I'm sorry, but we talked about this.  They are not in your hands or on your body.  Time to go."


And out the door we went.  Thankfully, I had given his teacher a head's up, so she knew the rule.  But when we got to school, I realized that nobody else knew the rule.  And it was cold outside.

I braced myself for the reactions to come.

And as he got to the edge of the van, he looked back at me, and said, "Mom, I don't WANT to get outside.  I don't have SHOES!"

I said, I'm sorry, I wish you had chosen to get ready this morning, but I hope you have a good day anyway, and I love you.  Now it's time to go!"

And as I looked up, I saw parents and other teachers staring.  And the staring turned to gaping, and the gaping turned to outright glares of disgust.

They were the kind of looks I would expect to receive if ever caught clubbing a baby seal (and seriously, who could do that?  I would so love to have this little guy for a pet).  But I promise you, I did it out of love.  It was out of a desire to see my children grow up to be men of character - men who take responsibility for their choices.

That day, I forced them to take responsibility for their shoes.  And it was a hard day.  I cried all the way home!  But as they get older, the issues get bigger and more important.  And if I don't teach them to take responsibility for their shoes at ages 6 and 8, when do I draw that line?  And what will the price be then?

A few days later, Thing 2 decided to test the rule as well, and went to school without a coat on a snowy day.  I received the same round of dirty looks.

To be absolutely, perfectly clear, they were never, at any point, in danger from these choices. They were simply inconvenienced.  They had to stay inside at recess because they weren't properly dressed, and had to hurry in to school to keep from being cold.  But they were always safe.

And since then, it has been remarkable how much more easily they are choosing to get dressed in the mornings.  Mornings still haven't been easy all the time, but at the very least, everybody seems to be on board with getting dressed on time.  And not only did they have to take responsibility for their poor choices, but they get credit for making good choices, and it's fun to see how proud they are of themselves when they make the right choices.

It's hard to face my fear of man and do what I think is right for my kids.  It's hard to follow through with what I said when I'm getting the dirty looks of disgust.  But my kids are too important to bow to the fear of other's opinions.  Sometimes we have to draw hard lines.  Sometimes we have to get creative.  Sometimes we just have to try something and see if it works.

It's hard to figure out parenting in general.  It's been especially hard for us to figure out how to fill in the gaps of things they should have already been taught, but weren't.  But little by little, with trial and lots of error, we're moving forward.

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