Friday, November 9, 2012

Tough Love

Sometimes being a good parent can make you feel like a rotten person. 

My 10 year old Madie and 8 year old Emma are in a Bible club at school.  (A public school!)  Each week they have an assignment to read 7 chapters and then write a summary.  My girls are notorious for putting this off or forgetting about it as the week goes by.  Each Wednesday night or Thursday morning we have drama as they rush to get the assignment done.

Last week as I scrambled to find them each a flashlight so they could complete the Bible assignment on the morning bus ride, I warned them, "There is a new rule.  If you don't have your assignment done by 8pm on Wednesday night, you don't get to go to Bible club on Thursday."  Heads were nodding and two little girls quickly agreed.

Fast forward 6 days and there we were again on a Wednesday night and there were moments of panic as they remembered their assignment.  Sadly, neither girl had completed the work by 8pm. 

I had to do it.  I hated to do it.  I told the girls that they would have to come straight home after school the next day, they couldn't stay for Bible club.  What followed was noisy, to say the least.  There was weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Emma went upstairs to her bed where the wailing could still be heard all over the house.  Madie pleaded her case, told me how important Bible club was to them.  I responded that if it was so important, they would complete the assignment on time. 

I know the girls were upset with me.  I know Tim didn't agree with my decision to keep them from this activity.  He offered me several suggestions to get out of the declared punishment. I moped around all night, disheartened to see my girls so upset.  Madie came down at 8:15pm, the end of their reading time, to tell me she had finished the Bible assignment.  I told her she hadn't made the deadline and would not be able to go.  More tears.  Emma announced the next morning that she had finished hers.  When I reminded her of the rule, again, there was more crying. 

I sat both girls down and explained my situation to them.  I have to have their respect and trust.  I have to follow through on what I say, or they wouldn't be able to believe in me.  I need them to take me seriously and know that I mean what I say.  One day I will tell two teenage girls that if they are not home by curfew, there will be a consequence.  They will know I mean it and that I will back up my words.

I hate to see my kids sad.  I hate to see them miss out on fun events, especially in a situation where they weren't being bad, just made a mistake in their organization and time management.  But I'm teaching my kids about life.  I'm teaching them about consequences.  I'm teaching them that I love them enough to be tough on them and teach them about behavior and consequences. It started with the first time I swatted their toddler bottoms to keep them safe and obedient, and will last through these childhood days.  It will last through the tough teen years, and will follow them through the rest of their lives when I will be the constant voice of a mother, of experience and wisdom.

The good news is that they survived the consequence.  They never thanked me for being a tough mom with strict rules, but they have laughed and hugged me and declared me the 'best mom ever' just after the incident.  Sometimes loving them is easy, and sometimes it's hard.  But I love them enough.