March 22, 2012

I Was Wrong

Mostly, they play together like angels.
I have no doubt that I'll be wrong again, but this time will probably stick in my memory forever.

This is undoubtedly the first of uncountable times that I will be guilty of this particular crime.

..I punished the wrong child.

You see, whenever DD is acting out, she makes the same sound.  It's her last ditch move to express her anger and frustration before she completely melts down.  I know that sound- I will always know that sound.  It's one short "AH!"  Her ultimate act of defiance before she loses all control.

While I was cooking yesterday, I heard a skirmish begin next to the girls' toy kitchen.  And then I heard that sound.  And as I walked into the dining room to find out what had happened, DD pushed SI away.

And, like I do, I began to lay down the law.  I put DD in time out.  I won't quite say that I yelled, but I made VERY CLEAR that it is NEVER okay to push ANYONE.  And as I lectured and forced the time out, DD just wailed and wailed and wailed.

And finally, I got to the point of getting to the bottom of things.

"Why did you push your sister?"  I asked.  I was fully not expecting an answer.  So far, every time I have asked this question it has been greeted with the response, "Yeah," or "Okay."

This time?

Playing at Shabbat
"SI hit me," she whimpered.  Her eyes still filled with tears as she bravely tried to weather her punishment.

I was shocked.

"Where?" I asked.

She began crying harder all over again, pointed at her ear, and said, "Here.  It hurts."

While I kissed her on the ear, I thought back on my own youth and childhood.  On all the times I felt I had been wrongfully punished when the real trouble maker was one of my sisters.

I can't even begin to describe the guilt that washed over me.

"Is that better?" I asked.  She shook her head no, and pointed to a different spot.  Apparently, my kiss had missed the mark.

I kissed her again, and she heaved a huge sigh of relief and pressed her head into my chest.

I called for SI.

"SI, did you HIT your SISTER?"  I asked.  I fully expected her to deny it.  She always does, even when I've witnessed the crime.

SI nodded solemnly.

"Is is EVER okay to hit your sister?"

"No." said SI.

"Is it ever okay to hit ANYBODY?" I asked.

"No." said SI.

Backyard fun with daddy
It was too late to put her in time out.  DD had just spent two minutes in time out, while SI had played happily. So I simply told SI she had to apologize to her sister, and give her a kiss.

She did both of those things readily.

I still feel dreadful.  I acted as I'm sure my own parents did, responding to what I saw, rather than the entirety of what took place.

Does it excuse DD from pushing her sister if she was hit first?  No.  But there is an injustice in only punishing on child.  Particularly the child who perpetrated the less effective violent act.

I'm going to do this again.  I know I will.

I just wasn't ready to be so thoroughly a parent.  I wasn't ready to be so self aware of my own failures, my own fallibility.  I wasn't ready to be straight up wrong.

They still love me, of course.  They will continue to basically ignore these failings of mine for some years to come, no doubt.

But the failings will continue.

I am not capable of being a perfect parent.  I am not capable of always knowing who is in the right, who is in the wrong, and who should be in trouble.  But it is my job to deal with those situations regardless of what I know through my own observations, it is my job to be as fair as I can be.

I let these kids get away with a lot
It is not fair for me to assume that SI is the mastermind behind any altercation, even if I suspect so.  From that she would only learn that I have no trust in her.

It is not fair for me to simply believe my children when they accuse each other of wrongdoing.  I have already come to know that they have the capacity to lie.

It is not fair for me to withhold punishment altogether when somebody acts out, there must be repercussions for wrongdoings- there must be consequences for behavior that is simply unacceptable.  It is the only way I know to impart to my children that there are societal expectations that they must adhere to- and perhaps first among them is how to interact peacefully with other people.

I try hard to discipline without hypocrisy.  Not to punish violence with violence, not to break my own rules.  We talk a lot about choices in our home, the choices to act correctly or to act badly.  We do not talk about somebody being inherently bad for making bad choices.  We stress always that your behavior is conscious, that you know when you are making choices you will regret.

And then it is just as important to see to it that those choices are regretted.

And it works.

I can take a child away from the dinner table while she throws a fit, and bring her back after her time out, ready to eat almost like a civilized person.

I can take a child away from a battle over a toy to talk about choices and consequences, and return her to a room to take turns almost like a rational being.

Through our discussions about choices and their consequences, I can make our children bathe and use the potty and go to bed.

But I can't always be right.  I can't always be fair.

My choices are not always good.

And as a result, I must live with the consequences.

I wish it was always this easy.
...the crushing, never ending maternal guilt that will hover over me as along as I live.

1 comment:

  1. Awww, don't be too hard on yourself. We've all done it. I don't have two little ones, but I do have lots of neices and nephews. It's bound to happen, it's how we make it right that counts.



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