Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Uncivilized Disobedience

That little bastard.

I just kept saying it to myself, silently, as I drove carpool that afternoon. My hands clenched to the steering wheel, I took deep breaths and thought about something - ANYTHING - else.

Anything besides the graffiti I had just discovered scrawled on the back of the seat.

He wrote in my car. He wrote on my car. For a few minutes I sat and contemplated the relative grammatical correctness of each phrase. It helped to distract me from contemplating where I failed as a parent, and whether I should just pull over and make him walk home.

I was in disbelief. I mean, what would possess a 10 year old kid to sit in the third row of my car, and write all over the back of the second row of seats? How could this happen? WHY would this happen?

And most importantly......what the HELL was I going to do about it?

Choosing appropriate consequences for wildly unpredictable and non-sensical behavior is close to impossible. You don't want to over-react. And yet, you don't want that shit to ever - and I mean EVER - happen again.

After surveying the damage, and contemplating all of the other issues that had come up during the week, and all of the consequences that had been mentioned in the past two weeks, I knew what I had to do. I didn't want to do it, but I had to. I had warned him. I had told him in no uncertain terms that it could happen - that it would happen - if he didn't shape up.

And he soooooo didn't shape up.
I took a deep breath, and delivered my verdict.
"That little transgression just cost you your birthday party." I declared calmly, unwavering, bulletproof. I was not going to cave. No caving. No way.

He sat in stony silence, because he knew. He knew it was on the line. It wasn't a surprise.

His 10th birthday is tomorrow.
There will not be a party.
Of course he is still getting the presents we bought him, and the ones his grandparents sent. And we will be going rollerskating - something we like to do on Wednesday nights anyway. And we are going out to dinner first. But the stack of presents from his friends? And the treasure hunt in the forest? And the sword fights and rope swings and tug of war? And the party in the clearing like the Mad Hatter's tea party with crazy hats and balloons and sparklers and jars to catch fireflies?

It evaporated - just like the Cheshire Cat.

Being a parent is hard. It's not just the hours (which suck - I haven't had a full night's sleep in 11 years) or the money (which also sucks - raising a child ends up costing way more than you ever thought possible, and I'm only talking about feeding them and clothing them) or even the sheer labor involved (physical, mental and emotional, thankyouverymuch).  And then there's the gag factor, which should not be underestimated.

It's all hard.

But this sort of stuff just kills me. The times when I have to be the grownup. The times when I think to myself "dammit, I sound just like my mother". The times when I have to mete out justice and choose what is best for my kid - even if it breaks both of our hearts.

And tomorrow, on the anniversary of the day I became a mother, I have to be his mother. I have to teach him right from wrong. Personal responsibility. Respect for other people, and their property.
Respect for others, so that he can respect himself.
I am raising a good man, but today it just doesn't feel that good.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Amen.

We're in the midst of such a punishment here- no videogames until the grades come up- and you can see the misery on his face every day.

I was tempted to tweet this morning, "There's nothing quite like a teenager to convince you of your lack of qualifications to parent a teenager."