When I was pregnant with my first child, I read every pregnancy and parenting book I could get my hands on.
Yes, I did say “get my hands on.” Seventeen years ago, the Internet was still relatively unknown to me, and Nooks and Kindles had not been invented. It was still a time when people bought books in a store and not online, and we actually had to turn the pages of the book with our hands – quite a change from today, when we turn the pages of downloaded books with the swipe of a fingertip.
I wanted to read everything I could so that I would be the best parent I could possibly be to my children. The one thing that really stuck with me from every book I read, from “Parenting for Dummies” to “How to Raise Your Child to Not be a Serial Killer,” was how each book said the most important thing a parent can do is follow through with what they say they are going to do.
If you promise your child you will get them a giraffe if they get straight As or that you will take away their iPhone and make them walk around school with a flip-phone if they talk back to you again, a parent must follow through.
Following the advice of the books, I have always strived to be a mom of my word. For instance, when I tell my children I will be there to pick them up from a friend’s house at a certain time, they know I will be there. If we get up one morning and I tell the little ones I will play a game with them that night if they help me pick up behind them, they know I will follow through with my promise.
If I commit to the children to make 30 homemade cupcakes with perfect little ladybugs hand-piped on each one for them to take to school for their birthdays, they know I will do it (after I had six children, I gave up the hand-piped, homemade cupcakes and now to send ready-made ones from the bakery).
Tackling the truth – and consequences
My children will be the first to tell you that I follow through with the negative consequences as well as the rewards. Just last night, I was taking one of my daughters out shopping for a homecoming dress. Faster than a yellow light can turn red, she went from being sweet and appreciative to being a monster. I gave the monster that had taken over my daughter’s body one warning and told her if she said one more ugly thing, I would turn the car around and we would go home without a homecoming dress.
This was a very stubborn monster who didn’t listen very well, because in the next minute I had turned the car around and we were on our way home. Yes, I am a mom who does what she says.
That was up until recently. To say that things have been a little crazy and stressful would be an understatement. Things over the past few months have been life-changing. I have been spread a little thin trying to juggle the kids’ schedules, deadlines for work, my dad’s ailing health and the daily life things that have to be taken care of. There have been times in the past few months where the kids have been telling me something while my mind has been somewhere else. Suddenly, I’m starting to realize that I am not the mom who follows through anymore.
As the story goes, or so I have been told by four eyewitnesses who are all younger than 13 and in cahoots with one another, one night back in the summer, my 7-year-old Finn asked me if I would sign him up to play tackle football this year. Apparently, I told him I would. Fast forward to the time for city football sign-ups and I sign Finn up to play flag football… the same sport he has played for the past two years. A few days later, I got a call from the coach with the practice schedule.
Knowing how much Finn has enjoyed playing flag football in the past, I excitedly call him down to the kitchen to tell him the good news.
“Guess what, Finn?” I enthusiastically chirped. “You are playing for the Dolphins, and your first practice is Tuesday.”
“Is it tackle?” he asked.
“No, Finn – it’s flag. Just like you played last year,” I responded.
I have never in my life seen my child throw such a fit. It was worthy of an Oscar.
“You promised me I could play tackle. I am not going to play flag, because that is for babies. You said I was going to play tackle,” he screamed.
Suddenly, there was a chorus behind me of, “Yes, mom, you did promise him.”
I wanted to tell them to mind their own business, but trying to be the good mom and knowing that I could have very well told him he could play tackle and then forgotten my commitment, I made a call to see about getting him switched.
No such luck. The organizer of the tackle program told me the sign-ups had been a few months ago and the season was already under way. But at least I tried. That should be worth something, right?
No. Finn is standing his ground that I said tackle, and if he can’t play tackle, he is not playing. My last resort was the other night when we were at his brother’s first middle school tackle football game. A friend of mine who organizes the flag football leagues tried to talk to Finn and tell him how great a time he would have playing this year.
Finn looked at her with seriousness of a grown-up and said, “No, I want to play tackle.”
Cindy looked at him with matching seriousness and said, “Well, it’s not safe to play tackle at your age.”
Finn was quiet for a moment and then asked her, “Why not?”
Without missing a beat Cindy said, “Because playing it at your age can make you stupid.”
Finn seemed to take her comment in for a moment and then said, “Well, I’m still not playing flag,” and ran off to play with his sisters.
As Daly got into the car from his game, Finn said to him, “Daly, do you know what?”
“What?” Daly asked.
“I think Mom likes me better. She doesn’t let me play tackle football because it can make you stupid,” Finn said. “But she lets you play, so I guess she doesn’t care that you are going to be stupider forever.”
I give up. I am always going to be a mom who strives to follow through with what she says she will do for her children. But in the future I am going to have to work a little harder on teaching them that when unexpected things come up in life, we are all going to have to adjust and accept that mom can’t always follow through with everything she says she is going to do.
Please share your tips on how I can get back on track to following through…