Before I had children, I had a solid grasp of childrearing. I was going to be firm, consistent and hold limits with my kids. I had witnessed many offenses in parenting where moms and dads were overly permissive, sent mixed messages or avoided being the “bad guy” to name just a few. And in my head, I believed that I knew better. When it was my turn, I knew that I would never make these mistakes.
I can barely read that sentence without giggling at myself.
Fast forward to last night. It must be said that Charlie and Giuliana are a rambunctious pair of three and a half year olds. Just in case you are new to the blog. My average day includes setting hundreds of boundaries and limits. If I had to pay a royalty for using the word ‘No,” I would have to get a second job. On the average day, I’d grade myself with a C+ or a B- as a mom. People close to me seem to think I’m more of a B+/A-. I am a tough grader–maybe they grade on a curve.
Last night after an entire day of “stop climbing that,” “don’t do that,” “give that back to your sister,” “give that back to your brother,” “get off your sister,” “get off your brother,” “where did you get that?” and probably a hundred similar phrases, I must have reached my limit.
It was bedtime and the children were chasing each other around. We needed the children to settle down and listen to us. I pulled out the big guns and did the ultimate December namedrop.
“Are you listening to Mommy and Daddy?” I said. “Because Mommy and Daddy will be calling Santa tonight. And we want to tell him that you are good listeners. Are you both listening to Mommy and Daddy?” Almost immediately, the children fell in line.
I was glad for the results, but felt crummy about the method. In my years, I had witnessed parents shuffling the blame for their requests onto someone else. I was confident that I would never do this. I would never stand in a store and tell my children they needed to behave or put something down, because “the man” was going to get upset. Using “the man” to get kids to behave seemed like such a cop-out. I felt like I would figure out how to get my future children to behave strictly on the merits of my own authority. That’s how it lived in my head.
Last night, I was tired. I just wanted a teeny tiny break from being the “bad guy.” “The bad guy” is a role that I am very used to occupying. I am aware that it’s a role I’ve willingly signed up for, for many years to come by becoming a parent. I only wanted a moment’s respite from that thankless position.
So I blamed the Big Guy. Mommy’s just the messenger, is what I conveyed. Santa is the one who wants you to listen. Not exactly model parenting.
Maybe it’s just me rationalizing, but I began to consider that maybe my judgey pre-children self didn’t understand the whole picture. Perhaps those parents, the ones I judged, were just tired. Maybe I was seeing them in the 10th hour of holding their line and they simply wanted a break–one brief moment in time to not be the “bad guy.”
So, I blamed the Big Guy, certainly not my finest hour.
So what. I blamed the Big Guy. It’s not like I’m going to be calling the Easter Bunny in March.