The world of responsibility is a “hot topic” at my house right now. Mornings had been full of frustrated requests for my son to keep moving through his routine to get ready to leave the house each day. Dr. Dobson gave a great example of a checklist routine and hearing how great it had worked for his daughter Danae, I decided to try one of my own with my son. We had ups and downs at first but we’ve finally mastered the “check list” as we refer to it here.
In the beginning…
Each day my son had a checklist to go through. Nothing too harsh and it hadn’t even begun to include chores yet (that is coming shortly to his dismay) but it went something like this… Get up when the alarm clock goes off…eat breakfast…take vitamins…wash face…brush teeth…put on clothes…brush hair…get school stuff together…put on shoes and socks…wait on the couch to leave. At night it went like this… wash face & hands, use the restroom, brush teeth, put on pajamas, get into bed at the time MOM says. What is said penalty for missing just one check on the checklist? Go to bed 30 minutes early the next time it’s bedtime. He did the math and thought it was too harsh that he could essentially go to bed many hours early but he understood why it was important to follow the checklist system. I explained how the mornings had been making us both feel and that to ensure we have a positive start to our day, this checklist was necessary. He understood his part and appeared excited. Seems like a dream right? Have it all done and have him waiting there when I come down the stairs all ready for my day. How effortless! First day=AMAZING! Reality quickly sank in on day #2 where he did the natural “Let’s see what will happen if I miss a check or two or most”. It was a horrendous morning one day last week. He tested every step of the way of how I would react to him sitting around or playing with his toys or just talking and talking and talking while I am frustrated at him not moving it along. Being completely transparent, my answer in frustration was to threaten the loss of all of his toys if I saw him play with any others while he was to be doing his checklist. Kind of extreme, but in frustration it made sense to say at the time. He proceeded to grab a toy and play.
We finally get into the car and I am near tears. I find myself talking to him about how disappointed I am in him that he couldn’t get his act together and quite honestly I talked his ear off the entire 5-minute car ride to his school. I was late to work. I felt exhausted… and my day hadn’t even begun. Good parenting? I would say not. Exhausted parenting, hurried parenting and definitely my reactions were not well thought out or planned. It is very important to have a thought out plan when our expectations are challenged. I had missed that step in this entire process.
I get to work and the day just got worse and worse. Stress continued, my vehicle was in small accident, late deadlines, frustrating workload...etc., but worst of all was my guilt for how angry I was at him that morning. The last place I wanted to be was away from him. I needed to talk to him and tell him how much I love him and to try to fix our situation. The day just seemed to never end. When it did…I went home. This time, I had a plan.
I decided that although it was extreme, I did need to follow through on the toy promise since it was his consequence given for not making the right decision. I purchased several plastic bins and had them waiting in the car when my son got in. He was told that since he decided play with his toys after being warned they would go away, he made a decision that I now was forced to follow through on. The consequence for choosing to continue playing with the toys was that the toys were now going away. He could earn back a few toys at a time each day that he was on time with completing his checklist, without my reminders. I made it a point to also apologize for my anger in an effort to teach him that anger isn’t the answer to frustration. We had a nice hug of forgiveness and we hot tailed it home to begin restoring our routine. To my surprise there was not a fight. He helped me dump toy after toy into the bins, which stack high behind his bed to await his obedience to earn back. It has become great incentive for him to complete his list. Why wasn't there a fight? I truly believe it is because he was given a clear boundary and he understood that he had a consequence for stepping out of it. We moved his “sticker” list to a white board where he feels ownership over drawing a picture in each square he completes. He is on top of each day that he gets to earn more toys back. To put the cherry on top of the sundae, today he told me that he has been very happy every morning and that the checklist was a good idea! Imagine that! Thank you Dr. Dobson, and thank you God for the peace you have restored to our mornings!
I was just 2 minutes too late to pick up my son from daycare. I pulled up just as he took a spill down this very small ramp that the kids ride down as they sit on a board with wheels. One child rode behind him and then ran into him thrusting the board into his back and knocking him onto the cement where his elbow caught his fall. I walked up right after this happened and my son was on his way into the building for an ice pack and attention. The scrapes were very minor and he did great even walking to the car to leave.
Once in the car, it is like the flood-gate of emotions tumbled out of his big heart. He couldn’t stop crying and it even got to the point of scream-crying. I drove home trying to console him but he couldn’t be consoled. I think sometimes kids are so strong and then something small just bursts out all of the tears or emotions they have been holding onto.
We got inside and I just held him on the couch as I made sure the crying was pure emotion and not broken bones etc. Noticing how completely filthy he was, I suggest a bath or shower so he can get clean and feel better and he wails, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”. He is now doing the “I’m so tired I can’t function” crying (know that one?). I stand firm that he can choose but one or the other is happening and that I will help and that I want to take care of him and help him to feel better. We proceed to go through an agonizing bath experience full of resistance and tears and I wrap a towel around him and hold him. I ask if he is feeling any better at all and his answer... “I wish I was with my dad.” Wow, those words cut like a knife. I just spent the past hour and a half loving on this child despite his horrible tantrums and tears and he wants his dad. (Perspective Meg…perspective.) I get him in his jammies and ask him why he wants his dad. His answer: “My dad would never do that to me. He would just let me cry.” I said, “Oh I see. Did you want to keep crying?” He said, “Well no, but I didn’t want a bath.” So, we called his dad. His dad proceeded to tell him that I was doing the right thing and he would have done the same if not told him to stop crying when it was obviously not a pain issue. That he may have been more “suck it up” with him and my child looks at me after the phone call and says, “Okay, I’m glad I was with you. I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings.” *sigh*
Can’t kids just make you feel crazy sometimes? One moment you are worried, and then you are compassionate because your deep love for your child hates to see the tears, and then you are baffled as to why you are being pushed away! Didn’t I do everything right? Didn’t I react calm and collected, while emotionally safe for him? It is in these times that our children are watching our reactions the most. They are learning how their words and actions make people feel. If they can’t see it, we need to tell them. Be honest about how their actions make you feel. My mom pointed that out to me once; that as kids you sort of see your parents as indestructible and capable of handling anything. They almost don’t seem like real people who make mistakes and have feelings that can be hurt. I believe this night; my son learned that his actions and words can hurt his mom. I am a real person.
Recently, I was listening to music while working and a song came on the player that stopped me dead in my tracks. I've heard this song many times before and always acquainted it with a deeply romantic relationship. This time however, I felt as if God gave me these words as a confirmation of my commitment to my son. The words struck me right to the core and it brought about a refreshed confirmation that he is why I do what I do. Helping him with his homework, explaining every "why" question, working many hours to be a good provider, laundry at midnight, last minute packed snacks and lunches when I'm running late...etc. The list could go on and on!
I cry when he cries and I love to see him laugh and thrive. Parenting gives you such emotion and love to do things for your child that you never dreamed would be important to you. Your priorities change forever at that first knowledge you are to be a parent. Just because we are now parenting 'alone', those priorities don't change and I praise God for the endurance He gives us to get through all of those "to do" activities when our bodies want to "not do".
Isn't it so true that we would do anything for our children to ensure that they grow up happy, healthy, and successful in God's plan? Maybe that is partly why you are a single parent. We do well most days and even if you are like me and still learning how to do this 'single parent business', we can be constantly relying on God and His plan for our lives. That my friends are one of blessings we can teach our children! It is amazing to witness when they have seen their prayers answered or when you are able to point out how God has blessed your lives in even the little ways. The way the seed they planted grew into a flower, and the way they were scared to go to sleep but were blessed with a restful slumber. Things like that. Where is God touching your lives? Explain them to your children and bring them to the greater picture of God's plan for everything, but most importantly...God's plan for them.
I think if we remember those little ways we are blessed as single parents, it also helps us to go from day to day and to persevere. Remember those little blessings, and see how God will bless your commitment to your children.
Click to listen: To Make You Feel My Love
When the rain is blowing in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love
When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no - one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love
I know you haven't made your mind up yet but I would never do you wrong
I've known it from the moment that we met no doubt in my mind where you belong
I'd go hungry, I'd go black and blue
I'd go crawling down the avenue
Know there's nothing that I wouldn't do
To make you feel my love
The storms are raging on the rolling sea and on the highway of regret
The winds of change are blowing wild and free
You ain't seen nothing like me yet
I could make you happy make your dreams come true
Nothing that I wouldn't do
Go to the ends of the Earth for you
To make you feel my love, To make you feel my love