At ages 6 and 9, our tough parenting decisions involve Bingo games, ice picks, and the F-word. We’re not even to double digits yet.
Maybe I should back up a little….
One of Bubba’s favorite parts of kindergarten is playing Bingo. I think it’s more about the pencils he wins and less about the actual game, but he loves it. So when I found a Bingo game while perusing the aisles of Walmart, this seemed like a better option than some other toy that would be destined to die a slow death in our front flowerbed. I bought it and enlisted Grandma to bring prizes so we could all play at his family birthday party. As to be expected, Bubba was all about it, and Chica quit when she realized she wasn’t going to win. Good sportsmanship is an ongoing battle with that one.
During the same trip to Walmart I spotted these. Bubba really liked our neighbor’s Halloween projector, and he would prefer to sleep with as many lights on as possible. I knew he would like it and managed to convince Grandma to bring this to his party too. He’s been sleeping with snowflakes on his ceiling ever since.
Fast forward to this Friday morning. Most Fridays Jay joins his dad and a few others for Man Breakfast at The Kitchen, so I’m in charge of getting Bubba to the bus. I wait as late as possible to drop him off at a friend’s house (TY!) and head to work, rolling in right on time. Leaving later than normal means more time to do dumb stuff, and this Friday morning was no exception.
See the pointy thing on the end of that light? The part that looks like an ice pick? I knew Bubba’s plan was to take it into his room to pop a balloon. That sounded kinda fun, actually. I carried on with answering emails and checking my grades on Blackboard, and I realized way too late that I was hearing the repeated sound of the pointy thing on something other than a balloon. It was the box of his new Bingo game, with all of the parts inside, and I went from 0 to crazy faster than he could say, “Chica made me do it!”
There was lots of yelling. Turns out Chica did encourage him. So there was even more yelling and promises of great big ol’ consequences for both of them when I had a chance to talk to Dad about it.
When I got home from school that day it was the first thing I talked about with Jay. And you know what? He wasn’t nearly as mad as I was about the whole thing. This caught me so off guard. I
expected wanted him to be just as peeved, and his chill was frustrating to me. “It’s what boys do. I’m sure I’ve destroyed plenty of boxes before with sharp things. It’s not like he did it out of anger. That’s a different thing.”
My reaction to disagreements like this is just silence. So I sat in silence for an uncomfortably long time (for him) and tried to sort it all out in my head. Yes, it was an inexpensive thing, but I had picked it out for Bubba based on our sweet conversations after school each day. My feelings were hurt that it didn’t mean more to Bubba. I’m an adult, but I’m also human. Jay’s family and my family treat “stuff” differently, and 13 years into this we’re still trying to work out how our family approaches the “stuff”. Bubba has a habit of destroying things, so how many times before it’s something that really does matter? Sure, he didn’t do it out of anger, but he did do it on purpose. And Chica? WHAT made her think that was a good idea?
13 years are enough to know that not talking about it isn’t going to work. Oh, and by this time the kids had realized what we were discussing. They were unnaturally still and quiet, trying to listen in from Bubba’s room. So I made them turn on music to stop eavesdropping and went ahead and said the hard things. We pushed past the stinging part and came up with a consequence and a plan, Jay’s perspective tempering my too-strong reaction, as it often does.
Since I’ll forget what we decided by November 18th, 2018 when this post pops back up on my Facebook feed, here’s what I told them when it was time for the talk:
“We love you. We love you more than stuff. And we have already forgiven you. But what you did this morning was a bad choice. It hurt my feelings that you destroyed a gift that I picked out and bought for you with money I worked to earn. So when we talked about what to do next, we decided that we wanted you to know what it feels like to spend your own money on a gift that you’ve picked out for someone. Here’s the list of chores you’re each going to have to do, before you get any screen time this weekend, and how much money you are going to make for each one. Then we’ll take the money that you earn to the store, and you’ll get to pick out a gift for a kid that might not get many gifts for Christmas. And I bet that when you think about the kid receiving that gift, that you will want him or her to take care of the gift and not destroy it.”
So here we are on the other side. They’ve finished their long list of chores, minus the one Bubba needed me to help him complete, that we’ll do once this post is done. We didn’t do the shopping yet. Maybe tomorrow.
Here’s hoping that I remember when the parenting decisions get even harder, that it’s always best to keep talking. It stings, and it’s confusing, and they’re listening in, but it’s worth it. In this house where there are two perspectives, they are both needed. Keep talking and keep listening.
Oh, and the F-word? That’s the next tough parenting decision we’ve got to make. Ugh. Bubba asked this week, “What’s the F-word?” I was on hold on the phone when he asked it, so….well….we just never got back to it. My wise (?) friend told me to say, “It’s fart,” and be done with it. Another, maybe wiser, friend said he surely already knows it and just wants to see what I’ll say.
Tonight the F-word is “figure”, as in we’ll figure that one out tomorrow.