Bumbling towards Responsible Adulthood

I blew my lid with the kids this morning. Our babysitter left her bag at the house and my children took out her sidewalk paint and gleefully used it all up. They went into her bag and helped themselves. I was horrified. “What? You just helped yourselves to someone else’s property? Would you rifle through Grandma’s purse? What made you think that was okay? I am ashamed of your choices…” and on… and on.Hendrick_Jacobsz._Dubbels_001

There are times, like this, when I feel like the most terrible parent around. I felt guilty for losing my cool (but not that guilty.) I felt like a failure because my 8 and 6 year-old took stuff that wasn’t theirs and they should know better. I was embarrassed. I clearly had not done my job. I cried on the way to school. I knew I was over-reacting. My rational self kept mumbling, “This is not about you.” But she lost control of the ship; it was all she could do to keep me from blurting out, “I guess I’ll have to come visit you in prison!”

Knowing that I was teetering on the edge, I called Hot Swede at work. He is experienced and effective at talking me down from emotional cliffs. His level head and calm voice soon lowered my crazy sail, and I began to think sense.

People make mistakes. Kids are inexperienced people; they’re going to make a lot of them. Of all the lessons children need to learn, moral and ethical ones the most difficult.  Moral action requires mastery of oneself- doing what’s right instead of what’s desired. Ethical behavior takes courage, thoughtfulness and maturity- three things that my young have yet to develop. It takes practice, redirection, consequences, forgiveness and love to learn to behave in moral and ethical ways. It is part of children’s job to push boundaries and figure out how they will operate within and on the world. That is where I come in. My job is to help them learn these lessons with sidewalk paint, instead of more expensive property and consequences.

I thought they had “do not steal” all sorted- my fatuous mistake. When rational, I understand that, of course, I am not done teaching and reinforcing lessons about respect for others and their property. They are 8 and 6. Duh.

So, I will explain why I was so upset this morning and the seriousness of stealing. They will each buy a set of replacement paints with their saved allowance and write an apology.  Two sets- because I want them to feel the cost and because when we wrong someone, we often have to expend extra effort to make things right.

I wish I had been prepared with an attitude of “Wonderful, here’s a chance to teach a lesson.” instead of caught off guard and horrified.  I will pray for wisdom and grace in anticipation of the next time they make a bonehead move. Because this is just the prelude.

Still the best option

Still the best option

13 comments on “Bumbling towards Responsible Adulthood

  1. tiptoebay says:

    “I cried on the way to school.” I have done the same (although I would have used the words ‘sobbed uncontrollably’ in my case!) and I’m so glad to hear I’m not to the only one who over reacts to the silly things our kids do!! Thanks for the post.

  2. Hope Happens says:

    The best thing about “blowing it” in front of our kids: we get to teach them that everybody loses it sometimes. If we only give them an example of perfection, we do them a great disservice. They need to know that when (not if, but when) they have a meltdown (as a child or an adult), it’s not the end of the world. There are ways to learn our lessons, make it right, and move on with confidence that everything’s okay in spite of our mistakes.

    If they get to see us fall on our faces then pick up, dust off, and move forward, then they will know they can do the same. You are giving them the gift of being human and being good enough. I say, good for you!

    Also, I think your discipline sounds perfect for the situation. Well done, Mom! Keep up the good work!


    • Aw, Monica, thank you.
      That is true. It is an opportunity for another lesson. Thanks for extending some grace to me:)

      Also, I think it is okay to get mad when children do bad things that impact others, because it is a serious offense and because other people WILL get mad. That’s a real life consequence. My issue with my anger was that I was barely in control of it, and I knew that I was one slip away from saying something that might be hyperbole and not true.

      Thanks so much for the words of encouragement. I need them!

  3. Mr. Wapojif says:

    Well I don’t have kids but from my experience as a wee one part of growing up is being rebellious and making stupid mistakes. It doesn’t reflect on you, really, it’s just kiddishness (that’s a real word). There are specific daft thinks I did as I kid like this which stick with you and shape you for the better in t’ future. Innit. Either this or you have a couple of Jackson Pollock-esque geniuses on your hands.

    Incidentally, I accidentally stole a Reduced To Clear supermarket Humous yesterday (79p). It didn’t scan through the machine, for some reason. Free homous! But The national police force are now on my case. You didn’t see me, okay?!?!?!

  4. Mr. Wapojif says:

    Hey, I managed to get two variations on Houmous there. Just how do you spell this word? No one seems to know; hummus, homos, homous, houmous…

    • It’s true, what you say about daft things sticking with you and making you better. I vividly remember breaking my little sister’s plastic spoon so I could have the last bite of the pie we were sharing. I think I was 4 or 5. Ha ha. It still makes me feel badly.

      Not smart to write about your criminal exploits on the internet, Mr. Wapojif. This is how bad guys get caught. You’d better run!

      hummus, usually. Hummous, when I’m feeling uppity.

  5. franciscameron says:

    very good we all make mistakes it getting things right from them.xxx

  6. joy says:

    Your strong reaction will make more of a permanent impression on your kids, the importance of respecting others property. Grandma’s purse was only the first (maybe) lesson, you taught them to ask Grandma if they could rifle through her purse – and we did it together!

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