“Mommy, there was an accident! Some beads came off your necklace!”
And there lay the carnage – my favorite beaded African collar necklace was now a string of beads unraveling from the regal, red background, broken at the sweet little hands of The Kid.
I love that necklace! And to hear my child’s explanation that the beads grew legs and “came off” of my necklace was such a shocker.
It sounds like it shouldn’t be such a big deal since no one swallowed a bead or stuck it in their [fill in body part here]. But it just struck me that, once again, what’s theirs is theirs and what’s mine is theirs.
This is why parents can’t have nice things. No matter how whiny this sounds, you know it is true. Your favorite or most expensive stuff is their target.
My husband, “Hubs,” and I have two children: “The Kid” age seven and “Bawse Baby” age eight months. Hubs and I have chosen to discipline them in a mixture of the ways we were each raised. We try to make consequences logical for the situation and we explain ourselves and our decisions. YIKES, right? Most of all, we try to use discipline as a course of study in self-correction and self-control for The Kid. We do this by encouraging independent thinking, reinforcing the value of his own moral compass. We teach him to value and develop personal integrity over external correction. Our constant mantra is “Once you know what’s right and you control yourself, there are NO consequences. Once you know what’s right, but you leave it to others to control your behavior, there will always be consequences.”
So, when it comes to my stuff, we have a rule: The Kid has to ask permission before playing with things that belong to Mommy or Daddy. I wasn’t asked to play with my necklace, and this is far from the first time that the rule was ignored. My immediate reaction is usually to scold, review the ignored rule that led us here and punish/lecture. I know these are just things, but my feelings about the breaking of this necklace were so real.
And, I didn’t feel like my lectures and punishments would make this less likely to happen again. Something had to give, nothing was increasing his likelihood of doing better at asking before playing.
I ran through my things that had become a casualty to his creativity:
He ripped the tassel off my Gucci purse (aka killed the octopus).
He snapped the chain on my Bendel cheetah box clutch (aka the shark bit the snake too hard).
He crashed the hard drive on my MacBook by incorrectly shutting it down too many times (aka he really likes pushing buttons, any buttons).
All of these once cherished items required a hefty repair or were now banished to the darkest corners of the closet.
So now we have a pattern, and it’s unbroken by my usual methods. I needed a moment to internally address my feelings, so I could separate them from my reaction. I took a quick bath to think in peace about what was going on inside (shout out to Husbands and supportive villages for opportunities for peace), and I asked myself why. Why did I care so much about these items? Why was I so upset?
It came to me that this necklace was not just a necklace. It was something that snapped me out of my Mom ruts. It allowed me to dress up a t-shirt or set off a simple dress. It made me feel like I HAD TIME TO “TRY”!
My normal day starts around 4:00am with an impatient yell from “Bawse Baby” to FEED ME NOW then a few more hours of sleep punctuated by feedings and punches from Bawse Baby. By 7am, it is off to the races (you may want to skip this part): nurse Bawse, house chores, homeschool The Kid, playtime/storytime, make lunch, nurse Bawse, homeschool The Kid, naptime for the Bawse Baby, laundry (we cloth diaper), grocery shop, clean something dirty in the house (pick your poison), chauffeur to extracurricular activities, cook dinner (if I have any energy left), prepare for tomorrow, bathtime, bedtime, quality time with my Hubs, pass out around 1:00 am. And I didn’t even mention squeezing in my own work as a blogger and education consultant plus making time for myself and my friends (WHERE THEY DO THAT AT?).
When it comes to my self-care, on an average day, I sit the Bawse Baby in a pile of laundry (don’t judge me, you don’t know if it’s clean) to cushion his fall. I hop in the shower, hit the “hotspots” and, if I’m lucky, my face. And these are the times when I’m lucky enough to take a daily shower. I throw whatever is clean-ish on my body, barely recognizing that in an attempt to remain stylish I’ve subconsciously collected the world’s largest wardrobe of black and black and white patterns on Earth. Boring? Yes. But it sure does make it easy to pull a top and bottom together that plays well with each other.
Leaving the house is a production. I get the Bawse Baby ready, which means wrestling an impossibly large and strong willed 8-month-old into an outfit and clean cloth diaper. At seven, The Kid can get himself ready (and I seriously commend his creativity and IDGAF style). So, I make sure he’s gathered all the things for his fifty-eleven extracurricular activities, grab the baby’s bag and supplies (which is like packing to travel with the Prince of Zamunda), and nurse the Bawse Baby so he doesn’t scream the entire car ride. After making sure we’re all ready to leave, I either throw on a cute hat or African headwrap or tousle my short curly cut and hope it falls into a style. #alladat
After spending the majority of the day taking care of my three guys, things like my necklace are the items that allow me to feel like I took a little care for me.
These special items make me feel original, creative and more like myself as a woman – not a Mom, Wife or any other hat that I wear.
These things make me feel like I have time for myself like I do for others – the way I should be treating myself regularly. When these special items get broken, it’s upsetting on many levels.
Now, with calm clarity, I revisited the latest episode and I realized I could turn this into an educational experience for both of us.
I decided I would turn this into a video challenge. I told The Kid that he has toys and I have “toys.” And, like him, some of my toys are my favorites. He got that. My purses, shoes and bags are my toys. The rule is (and has been) that he has to ask before playing with my toys, like I ask before playing with his. Because he kept forgetting to ask before playing with my “toys,” from now on, he will have to shoot a video, explaining in detail “Why Mommy Should Share the Specific Toy.”
It’s been a great experience for both of us. He has to really sell the idea to get access to my favorite toys – including drawn sets and pictures – so, he has to be resourceful. He gets to use his creativity, practice storytelling and hone his negotiation skills. I get to have videos of my little guy being extra creative, using his cute little voice to explain the most dramatic scenes.
I had to take a moment to pause, think through his motivations and think beyond my reaction. By taking that moment, I was able to come up with a more effective, positive, educational response, instead of punishments.
I think we arrived at a creative, empowering, skill-building place that is now helpful, encouraging and educational for him.
It will happen again. More of my stuff will be broken. That is a rule of life.
But, perhaps instead of “Parents can’t have nice shit”, I’ve amended the law to “Parents can preserve nice shit for a little while longer.”
Image Source: @alex_elle