The day started out almost perfectly. The kids were up a little too early for a Saturday and we had some snuggle squabbles where they both wanted to snuggle the same parent at the same time and didn’t want any intruding sibling’s limbs to interfere.
But our day was planned. It was Fire Safety Day, a much anticipated event in my household of want-to-be-firefighters. They’ve been counting down the days until they get to see the firefighters, the fire trucks and Sparky at the fire station, crawling through the smoke tunnel and watching the jaws of life. Fire Safety Day is practically Christmas.
They watched a Popular Mechanics segment on fire fighting from the library while I put together a favourite breakfast and then we all sat around the table in pyjamas, lingering over strawberries and biscuits, slowly peeling hard boiled eggs, snuggling and laughing. There was no rush to eat, no heavy conversations to be had, no sight words to drill. We just enjoyed. I said to my husband, “A leisurely breakfast with your family where no one wants to leave and everyone is enjoying food you made…that’s about as good as it gets.” We even said wouldn’t today be a perfect day for baby to show up after good time like that.
Not too long later, the boys tromped in from outside and my youngest, just over two, went running through the kitchen in his rubber boots. “Boots off first,” I said and reached to grab him but he went running by. “Micah, stop!” I said, “Boots off.” He didn’t stop. So a standard time-out was issued. No big deal until he dug in his heels and decided he wouldn’t say sorry at the end of it.
My husband and I looked at each other. Now what? You have to say sorry, right? So we explained, “If you don’t say sorry, you can go back into time out. When you say sorry, you can come right out.”
And the timer was set for 2 minutes. At the end of those 2 minutes one of us would sit on the floor in front of him and ask if he was ready to say sorry. And he dug in his heels. At some point in this, right around the time when we were supposed to be leaving for the fire station, it became apparent that our little plan may be sabatoged by pure stubbornness. Stubbornness on his part and on our part.
When you start a battle like that, you have to finish it or you don’t teach anything. They’ll learn to dig in their heels just a little longer than you dig in yours. At least that’s how it seemed.
So the other two eventually went ahead. I explained to Micah he could go too if he said sorry. They would come back and we’d all go together. But no sorry.
An hour and a half went by. Slowly. In two minute intervals. Getting my 9 month pregnant butt up and down off the floor 45 times. But who’s counting? “You are in a time out because you didn’t say sorry.” “Are you ready to say sorry?” “You are in a time out…” The beeping of the timer.
Finally I fed him a banana, changed him, put him in his crib and gave him one last chance. Say sorry and go to the fire station; don’t say sorry and have a nap.
He was asleep in about 7 minutes. I wasn’t far behind him.
I woke up just as the fire station’s open house closed. Micah was still sleeping. Maybe it was that fantastic cocktail of late pregnancy hormones, maybe the stress of the morning, maybe the disappointment of my little fire fanatic having to miss out but this Mommy started crying and couldn’t stop.
Sometimes the enormity of the task of parenting is overwhelming. I want so badly to teach them well, to be level and fair. I want to parent well—not so people can say I’m doing a good job but because parenting should be done well. Children should be parented well. God desires it.
Today it was the two-year-old and the sorry battle. I’ll blink and it will be the 15-year-old and the social media battle. Or the 20-year-old with the questionable partner. This isn’t an easy job but it is a good one and one worth digging your heels in for.
Later, we went on to feed ducks and roll down hills full of leaves (I did nothing of the sort) and crawl around in pjs laughing, tongues out like puppies (I was the pokey little puppy). A few times Micah ran up excitedly and would ask, “We go to fire station now?” And I’d have to remind him that he chose not to say sorry. He’d lay his head on my lap for a minute and then go off again to play.
Did it get through? Maybe. I hope so. Was it hard? Certainly. Do I wonder if it was a good decision? Absolutely.
So my question for the day is how do you, in parenting, or in life, come to terms with the inevitable ambiguity involved in doing the right thing? Do you wish it was more clear cut or do you enjoy the freedom to choose?