Wednesday, February 22, 2012

money. mouth. together.

I've never understood that idiom... put your money where your mouth is.

I mean, I get what it MEANS. I understand that it's about... doing what you say. put up or shut up. all that.

But put your money on your face? Does it mean, if your words are out there then get the money out there too - as in, get it out of your pocket and show it for everyone to see?

Well, anyway, this is me now. put up or shut up. doing what I actually say I'm going to do.

For years and years and just... like, since 3 seconds after I had my first daughter, I had great advice for my friends about how they should raise their kids. Especially when laying down the law and threatening a consequence.

Here's another idiom, one I love: don't let your mouth write a check that your ass can't cash. I know what that one means.

And yet, since about 3 seconds after I had my first daughter, I've been able to see how other people screw it up but me... oh ME.... my kids deserve a second chance. And then a third. And now I really mean it. And now I'm going to just forgive you.

And now I'm just... not. Not anymore. Not for one more second of crying and whining and doing it again and me losing my temper and me feeling like the bad guy for taking away a privilege or toy or unpromised reward.

A few weeks ago I saw a friend's photo of their kids at Chuck-E-Cheese. "Their reward for super-good behavior while their dad was out of town this week". Gosh, I thought, I usually don't take my kids to Chuck-E-Cheese for a reward, I do it so I don't have to cook. (Mistake #1). And, I think my kids wouldn't earn that because they probably couldn't be well-behaved for a whole week. Maybe I would have to make the deadline shorter, like, 2 days or something. (Mistake #2). And if they acted up, I'd probably give them another chance, so I wouldn't have to punish EVERYONE for when just 1 or 2 of them mess up. (Mistake #3).

Last week I took the two smallest Peanuts to Wal-Mart to shop for groceries. I kept telling them, If you are good and stay by me, I will take you to McDonalds for a treat! (I had some coupons for free apple dippers, free cones, free hamburgers, etc.) I warned them when they ran away down the aisle. I warned them again when they held hands and played tug of war with each other, falling over in the path of oncoming grocery carts pushed by grumpy octogenarians. I warned them once again when they were desperately STARVING and claimed that their hunger would only be satisfied with Hostess Donettes. Finally, as we drove away from Wal-Mart, I explained that we would NOT be going to McDonalds because of their behavior.

No one cried. Or cared. Maybe they knew they'd been naughty. Maybe they'd forgotten. Maybe the youngest one just didn't know "McDonalds" from "Church" from "Insert any word here besides Spongebob".

My husband is really great about follow-through. He lays down the law and by God, his ass cashes all the checks. Me, I'm a little more afraid of disappointing the kids. Lets face it, I disappoint them every. dang. day. No, you can't have a 3rd glass of Kool-Aid. No, we aren't having dessert tonight. No, you can't watch that movie until I've watched it first. No you can't go to your friend's house because your homework isn't finished. No, you won't be going to camp this summer because we don't have the budget for it. I just don't have the energy to disappoint them for the small stuff AND the big stuff too.

I want to be the Yes Mom. I think, I try to be the Yes Mom and I end up regretting it. I have always thought, "If my kids want something and it's not going to hurt them, I shouldn't say no. Even if it annoys me a little bit or is somewhat inconvenient, if I can handle the inconvenience I should try to give it to them." This comes from growing up in a household where I was told NO quite often. It happened regularly enough that I came to just expect NO and eventually I quit asking. A few extra bucks? NO. Permission to go out with friends? NO. Extended curfew, just this one time, since it's prom and all? NO. I'm not looking to be my kids' BFF or anything, I just want them to be happy.

Isn't that what we all want? for our kids to just be happy? I know kids can be happy a number of ways and one of those ways is from healthy boundaries, set up by their parents, and enforced by those same parents. I should know that, right? I mean, I read at least 3 baby books so I'm clearly all set in the parenting advice department. So why is it so hard to give my kids the learning experience of facing a consequence? I just can NOT watch them struggle. With my friends, I'm all about, "You have to let them learn by failing. It will be the greatest teacher!" But with my own I only know how to swoop in and save them from disappointment.

This year I have a number of goals - NO I WILL NOT CALL THEM RESOLUTIONS BECAUSE WE ALL KNOW THAT'S A SURE WAY FOR THEM TO FAIL - which focus on self-improvement. I'm still being flexible on the specific plans for improvement, but I do have ideas. 1) improve parenting. I want to be more present for my children (less time on computer while they're around; save it 'till they go to bed or else get up & take care of it in the morning before they wake). I want to be a supportive wife for my husband's parenting - united front and all that. I want to do, and follow through with, all the things I know in my heart will be good for them but feel in my gut so afraid of trying.

So, for now, I'm going to put some real consequences out there and leave them there to either be met or not. I hope my kids choose to run away from the consequences, fast and far in the opposite direction. But if they don't, those consequences will be waiting and if I'm anything better than a spineless pile of dung, I will be the ass writing the checks.

So, I guess, here's hoping I'll be an ass.

Texan Mama


Gigi said...

I totally get where you are coming from. It's so easy to tell someone else what they should do and then turn around and not follow your own advice.

How come the parenting books never talked about the immense amount of guilt that comes along with being a parent? You feel guilty if you give in and you feel guilty if you write the checks.

Ellen Stewart (aka Ellie/El/e/Mrs. Seaman) said...

Be an ass.

A few years back, I heard a news report on the radio that said most kids qualify their parents as liars. Why? Because we threaten to do things as a consequence for their actions, and then...we don't. That's a lie.

Hard stuff, but true. So I applied it to teaching. (My son's all grown.)

Foursons said...

It is soooo hard knowing we are going to deliberately disappoint our kids. I have been known to give my kids a chance to earn back the reward they just lost. Right or wrong? I don't know, but we are all muddling through this together and doing the best we can. And when we know better we do better.

Jennifer said...

I'm not a very strict parent, but when I say it I mean it. If I lay down a consequence it is going to happen. I think it is about more than just getting them to do what I want, but also teaches for every action there is a consequence and that it is important to stay true to your word.

Jennifer said...

You know? I was good at following through with Noah. But he was the easy child. And then came Zoe.. and I totally get the war-torn parent you see in the grocery store that you KNOW should follow through on her threats not to buy candy and yet see her buy it at the end anyway. Because Zoe just wears me down. And sometimes I am too tired to care. And then I think of Cosby- how he says as a parent you are not interested in justice, you just want peace and quiet! Yeah.. like that. And here is me giving you advice I have a hard time following myself- but I know it sucks for the kids that have been good to lose a privilege because just one or two messed it up for them... but then they learn to keep each others in check. And then you have a little help with the discipline.

Andrea said...

Just found your blog and this post totally hit home for me. Your walmart story totally hit home for me. I SUCK at discipline. I think my problem is the fact that I cannot stand to hear them screaming. It drives me a little crazy. Look forward to reading more.


Melani said...

I know how you feel. My husband is the bread winner, meaning he gets to go to work everyday and provide for us, while I stay home and "run" the household. Which sometimes can be hard. I have told them, if I tell you something ONE time and I have to repeat myself, then I get mad and you get into trouble. I don't like back talk and my 6 yr old is great at it. so I am coming up with ways ot handle her with out loosing my cool completely.