Monday, March 28, 2011

important lessons may equal misery

The camel's back broke yesterday afternoon.  Admittedly, it wasn't the biggest of deals, but it has been an epidemic problem in our family of three small girls and when my dear spouse was bothered not less than 3 times while going to the bathroom, I had reached my limit of tolerance.

R: "Daddy!  Georgia won't give me any Lucky Charms!"
D: "I don't care.  I'm in the bathroom."
R: "But Daaadddy!"

That was it.

We embarked on an extreme reaction.  Not a bunch of screaming and yelling, just a firm disposition and changing of the way things work around here.  Apparently, a voice that three little girls understand to mean business.  Lucky Charms were counted out - one-by-one.  Two children had to change their clothes so all three of them would have the exact same outfits on.  Conversations between me & each child were timed so they each had an exactly equal amount of my time.  I actually had to cut one of them off because she was threatening to exceed her allotted amount of time.

None of this was met with joy by any of them.  Nora was clearly upset because she had not been involved in the Lucky Charms conversation, but was thrown into the mix nonetheless.  However, it is she - ye oldest daughter of mine - that has been the first and always the worst offender of making sure everyone has an equal amount of anything, or is treated the same.  It is an attitude and behavior that makes my skin crawl - I dealt with that as a kid with my sister and now with my daughter?  Not going to happen in my family - if it takes this kind of extreme parenting to get the message across, then so be it.

After about 30 minutes of this, we sat them down and had a family meeting where we explained about differences in personalities.  Pointed out that they each treat me differently than they treat their daddy, they treat one friend differently than another - it would be impossible for anyone to treat everyone exactly the same... everyone has different personalities and relationships and it is not any different for a parent with their children.  We also pointed out that is MINE - not theirs - MINE (the collective parental MINE) - and we are generous and gracious enough to share it with them... the chair they're sitting on - MINE - yet I haven't asked them to get off.  etc.  

And all of this included several reminders that I have drawn a line - a line that if it gets crossed, will result in them wearing the same exact clothes everyday, me counting out each individual piece of food so they all get exactly the same, me timing my conversations with them so they all get exactly the same amount of time, me keeping track of everything so they're all being treated equally.  I will throw away every shirt in their closets & go out and buy 1 red, 1 green, 1 black, 1 blue, & 1 yellow shirt for each of them and they will always match.  I reminded them that I never threaten to do something that I'm not committed to follow through on - I'm committed.  

It may be drastic, but I believe the lesson is worth it.  And it may be incredibly miserable for me if I have to follow through, but I believe the lesson is worth it.

They have shown an amazing ability to self-police themselves.  Reminding each other in several different instances that "mommy drew a line - remember?  I don't want to wear the same thing as you everyday!"  While it is indeed amusing, I'm also proud of them.  I am proud that they listened and are putting their learning into action.  I am proud that they are consciously making choices to change their behavior - as we grow up we learn that it isn't appropriate to act however we want to act - our natural reaction is not always the best or most appropriate.  Sometimes we have to choose to be quiet, to be positive, to be supportive, to be accepting, to be tolerant.  Obviously, 9, 6, & 5 is not too young to learn that lesson, because my girls have brilliantly shown me that they are capable of doing just that.

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