It is 6.55am and I am about to run out the door to work. Granted still applying mascara and with tooth brush firmly placed in mouth when Eldest strolls up to the bathroom door and casually informs me he needs a bus ticket. Freeze frame- my brain and I have a little chat. There is a part of me that wants to throttle him and scream “Are you kidding me! You choose NOW to tell me? What happen to the 10 trip pass I bought you only three days ago?” The other part of my brain is still concentrating on not poking myself in the eye with the mascara. Being responsible and accountable - throw in organised for good measure - are not strengths of my son but are they for any 14 year old?
My parenting belief is to try and raise people who are self reliant, responsible and caring of others. I am extremely proud to say that all my boys (ages 10, 12 and 14) can cook, vacuum (including moving furniture!), put dirty washing in the machine, put clean washing on the line, fold dry washing, feed the animals, do the recycling and so on. Once upon a time this could have been considered child slave labour, but to me it is empowering my children with life skills that will make them wonderful human beings in the future…did that sound plausible?
There are times however when they just utterly miss the point and I resort to ranting to get things done. Me to Eldest “did you get the washing in yesterday?” “Nah I forgot” Right – breathe – “Ok so did you want to get it in off the line now then please” “Nah, its not my job today.” emphatically walks off.
Did he REALLY just say that?
We have reached that point where if I want eye to eye contact with him it involves me standing on a milk crate, but I will not let this deter me. Sorry buddy that is not how things work in the world. A silent finger pointing to the back door was enough on this occasion to get point across; other occasions I have fought the futile fight.
Despite the fact that my kids do jobs around the house, it is certainly not a daily relied upon occurrence. Many times I have cried fearing that I have failed as a mother because they can’t put a dirty dish in the sink without being told; times when I have yelled and screamed like a banshee because their dirty dish still isn’t in the sink; and times that I have felt so frustrated by their apathy that I have thrown the dirty dish smashing it on the floor and rung my mum begging for advice.
I have explained to her that I don’t want to be that type of mother who runs around doing everything bar wiping her kids bums even when they are tweens and teens, and I don’t want to be the mother who screams at her kids to get them to do simple stuff. Surely there is an in between. My wise wonderful mum gave me these words of wisdom: "Remember love, it is all about you”. She explained that if the boys NOT doing something stresses me out to such an extent that it effects me emotionally then I should just do it myself. Leave them to concentrate on another task they do well. Quality over quantity. She also reminded me to chose my battles. Assess what you can achieve in fighting the fight right here and now. What outcomes will you achieve if you wait until that night or the next day? I love my mum.
This made a lot of sense. There have been times that I have chosen to fight tooth and nail and then watched my first born walk off to school without saying good bye. Amazing how that guilt kicks in. What did I achieve with that outburst other than to reinforce to my son that he cant confide in me, trust me to be there for him or that compromise can be reached?
This morning I looked him the eye and said “where is your other ticket?” He claimed it hadn’t worked so he threw it in the bin. Sounds reasonable, stupid but reasonable. What bin I asked. “Cant remember” Now I know he is lying. I suggest he pays for a new ticket out of his pocket money but he is not keen.
“Its only $2.20" he pleads.
“It is only $2.20 of your pocket money”. His reply? He has better things to spend his money on. It is past 7.00am now I am in real danger of being late; I hand him $2.20 and tell him we will talk tonight. He can tell me the truth when I get home. Sometimes deciding not to have world war three in a bathroom with a tooth brush hanging from the side of my mouth is a wise move. Thanks mum.
So the bus ticket incident ended that night with Eldest saying that he had mistakenly thrown out the new ticket instead of the expired one. We discussed how easy mistakes can happen, and how important it is that he puts in place ways to not let it happen again. And he has to pay for the next ticket to reinforce the consequences of being an idiot. He smiled his beautiful smile at me and asked “is this going in your column?’ Hell yes, baby! Everyone now knows you agreed not to lose another ticket!
(originally published in South Kids magazine 2011)