Tuesday, November 1, 2011

When Mom Speaks . . .

One thing my mom used to tell me still remains vivid in my memory. “Don’t envy people because you don’t know what they’ve gone through to get there.” Maybe it has stuck with me because I’ve seen so much suffering and nonsense, even among the “privileged.”  I mean real suffering, not the Kim Kardashian kind.

That phrase and “Always address people you meet by Mr. or Mrs. until they give you permission to use their first names.” That one haunts me because the social atmosphere currently is so informal. I still practice that because I fear she’ll come around the corner at any moment, or the next time I talk to her on the phone she will know that I called a stranger by their first name. (She would always know, even when I was 200 miles away!)

But, what I hated the most, (you can probably guess) was “Because I said so!” I swore I would never say that to my kids. However, when Mom spoke, I listened.
I hated that, because I didn’t always agree, and debating with my parents wasn’t an option. I wanted to ask “why?” so many times, but I knew better. My plan was to reason with my children and let them know why the rules are in place so they would understand and follow them. (I know you are ROFL ‘bout now!)  So, when I was faced with disobedience my initial attempts at reasoning when they reached the stage of reason often went like this:

“Clean your room.”
“Why, nobody goes in there?

“Because, you need to get in the habit of cleaning up so you’re not a slob. If you’re a slob no one will want to live with you.
“What if they’re a slob, too?”

“Then your room will be a mess, and neither of you will have friends. "
"What if I don't want any friends?"
"If you learn to clean your room, you’ll learn discipline and do well in school. Go clean your room.”
In later years, I noticed they were tuning me out during my “reasoning speech.” The joke now is, while I’m talking and I can tell they’ve tuned me out, I’ll say “no one is listening to me!” and someone will say “huh?” and bring the house down.  They all get a kick out of that, even Dad when he’s around.

And now, the conversations takes on the proportions of a presidential debate. Even with the 7 yo.

Big sigh.
Well, that strategy hasn’t worked for getting clean rooms. After 20 years of parenting, I still can’t get a child to clean a bedroom regularly. The “you can’t go anywhere until your room is clean” strategy works better. When my teenager cleans her room everyone in the house knows she wants to go somewhere.

Out of frustration, I have reverted to the occasional “Because I said so!” I had about given up on the “reasoning” strategy, until I witnessed my oldest (15 at the time) admonishing my youngest (5 at the time) for doing something unkind to a baseball teammate. I don’t know what she said, but she talked to him for quite a while. He was contrite, apologized to the little boy, and I’ve never had a problem like that from him again. Since then I’ve frequently witnessed the oldest two “reasoning” with the younger two. Occasionally jumping in before I can open my mouth!
Since, we’ve been here I’ve overheard conversations between the girls. The most recent being my oldest daughter (now 17) coaching the youngest  (11) on how to take the high road in dealing with difficult kids at school.  And the arguments she made for and against certain behaviors were compelling and pretty much the same arguments I would’ve made.  Hmmm.  

I wanted to raise, independent thinking, reasoning , compassionate children.  So far, this has been true. No serious trouble, all enjoy public reputations as polite, kind children, pleasant to be around.  I can’t say I will never use those dreaded words, “Because I said so!”  I’m human, and sometimes I lose patience. And I can't say no one will ever give me any big trouble. We still got a lot of child rearing years ahead of us. But, I take comfort in knowing that when this mom speaks, they appear to be listening.

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