I think I'm making my kids into decent people.
Ask me that again in five minutes, and I might change my mind. But at the moment, this very second in time, I think I'm making my kids into decent people. The kind of people with the capacity for thought that revolves from time to time around someone besides themselves, and whose actions reflect those thoughts. Ok, the small one still needs a little tweaking in that department, but she's only five, and is still a work in progress. She still knows better than to throw a screaming tantrum in a grocery store, or to smack someone else with boogers on her hands.
You get the idea.
They're decent people. They've been given room to roam, permission to get dirty, and freedom to explore, all while being taught when to sit down and shut up, and when to keep their white shirts white. (Again, making obvious allowances for the fact that the little one is still five...)
These lessons aren't always fun for them, nor are they fun for me to enforce. And often I'm left standing alone in the kitchen as my son schleps off in a huff, shoulders hunched, eyes rolled so far into the back of his head that he could likely draw a detailed composite sketch of his brain...and I wonder "am I doing this right?"
They do whatever chores they're asked. Sometimes they try to "half-ass" their way thru it, hoping we'll get tired before they do, and hoping we'll just give up and move on. I'm not sure why, since this doesn't happen. Every time, they're sent right back to the task, and made to finish it properly, usually with some sort of snide compliment like "I know you're smart, so I don't know why you'd think I'd miss this." They're not a fan of those compliments, in case you wondered. It's usually greeted with some form of full-body seizure, or phlegm-ey sigh that for some reason they can never hear. Because "don't huff at me" is always followed by "I didn't huff at you, I was just breathinggawwww!"
My sister and I nearly murdered one another so many times. I can recall so many scratching, hair pulling "I hate you" death-matches between the two of us, and maybe two or three occasions that I truly, from the heart, wanted to come to her rescue and protect her. I even assaulted her with a kitchen knife on one occasion, and my punishment was slim to none. In fact, I can't even remember my mother coming upstairs to intervene after our little friends ran screaming "Krystal is killing Tiffany!!" If she did, I was likely sent to my room, which was where I wanted to be anyway.
The thought of one of my children attacking the other is simply unfathomable to me. And if it did happen, they can rest assured they'd still feel the sting of their punishment as they told the story to their great grandchildren.
And even as I ponder these things, I wonder "Am I doing this right?"
It's hard to punish them. It's hard to see my son angry with me, as I take away his favorite things and send him to bed while the sun is still up. It's hard to watch my daughter crying out of frustration when I tell her "either eat that food, or take yourself to bed with an empty tummy."
Every time, I'm certain that this is the time they stop loving me. This is the time they finally decide they have had enough, and that they're "mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!"
Every time I stand my ground, and their sweet faces wrinkle up in disgust at their heinous pig of a mother, I picture the future, and them hating me the way I hate my own mother...
But, I stand my ground.
The world won't fold for my kids, any more than it folds for you and I. The nice policeman isn't going to let me out of a speeding ticket because I whine and moan, roll my eyes, stomp my feet and cry loud enough to make the neighbor's cat run in circles. The gas station clerk won't give me free gas and a lollipop if I lay down and kick and scream and pee my pants, and likely behaving that way would just make the nice policeman show up again. What kind of favor would I be doing my kids if I gave them that sort of impression of the world? "Just act like a huge spoiled shit. You'll eventually get what you want."
They always come around. Even when I'm sure they'll hate me forever for sending them back to re-do a chore for the tenth time, they always come around and love me again. And my teenage son, from time to time, will even toss me a compliment on my "momming." Which, needless to say, is a truly awesome thing. When I think I'm screwing up so badly that he'll surely club me with a hammer in my sleep, and instead he tells me he appreciates the fact that I love them enough to do what a lot of his friends' parents won't do for them...it swells the heart in a way that only a compliment like that can do. The fact that he's 13, and he "gets it" means that maybe, I might be doing it right.
Or at least not screwing up to the point of turning them into serial cat rapists.
So, it's hard. But it's my job. Saying "no" is my job. Punishing them when they act like little douchebags is my job. Pointing out when they're acting like little douchebags is my job. It's not my job to be their constant cheerleader, and their yes-man, and their enabling best buddy. As hard as it is not to sometimes...
Sometimes it's just my job to be a humongous unfair asshole.
Because I love them.