The idea of consequences has always been a powerful one for me.
In fact, I find it so difficult to detach anything I do from this concept. I just can’t seem to ‘let it go’ like Dave so often implores of me. If I don’t pull the boys up on this bad behaviour now, they will be doing it until they are 30. Or if we don’t sort out Ivy’s catnapping now, she will be a poor sleeper indefinitely. I grasp urgency from thin air and use it to power my parenting decisions. A lot of this drive is positive and forces me out of laziness or letting things slide. But there is a sinister side to this mindset.
Inevitably (says the condemning voice in my head), when I try to relax or go with the flow, it backfires. Like yesterday, for instance, when I ‘painted’ the boys’ faces as Batman and Spiderman using charcoal eyeliner, eye shadow and bright red lipstick and then came out to find them wrestling on my cream-coloured rug with new scarlet highlights. Thank Google it came out!
The problem is, my love of consequences appears to only extend to tangible things. Bedtimes, behaviour, battles over food, packing up. In the clamour of these concrete milestones, the soft flowing emotional needs can often be drowned out. Cuddles cut short, sweet moments missed, and open hands left waiting because I’m furiously dancing to the beat of the wrong tune.
On Sunday night Eli kept switching his light back on after we had put him to bed. I came in to find him reading a book. With a tone forbidding any nonsense, I relayed his loss of privilege for tomorrow and firmly shut the door. Minutes passed and I heard nothing from his room, but there was a quiet niggle that wouldn’t shift. I tiptoed back into his room and a little head raised itself from the pillow. “Are you scared from the movie?” I asked as I snuggled next to him on the bed. “Yeah” he admitted in a sad tone. We chatted about the ‘bad pirate’ in the movie and how we choose to do some of the same bad things at times, like snatching toys or wanting to be first or not letting other people play with us. It didn’t take long for the worried crease in his forehead to relax and soften and a peaceful sleep soon followed.
So often, I take the ‘no nonsense’ approach and allow no give in my rules. “After all, if this happens every night, bedtime will soon be a write-off!” warns my inner drill Sergeant. But the type of mother I want to be is directly opposed to this inflexible Matron.
There is a book by Sarah Garland that we have been reading – ‘Eddie’s Garden’. In the book, Eddie asks his mum if they can create a garden, and she enables his dream by taking him to buy the seeds and equipment, showing him how to plant everything, and helping him harvest the bountiful produce and create a beautiful picnic at the end. While his garden is still growing, Eddie becomes worried about slugs eating his vegetables, and he gets out of bed, grabs a flashlight and starts heading outside. Eddie’s mother asks what he is doing, then invites herself along to the fun, searching for slugs in the moonlight together. This whole scene seems magical to me, but I know that if I was the mother in the book, I would have ordered Eddie back to bed and he would have lost time on the i-Pad for the next day. The moment would have been gone forever.
I really want to be like Eddie’s mum. Spontaneous, creative, fun. Barefoot in the kitchen with kids helping peel pumpkins for a pumpkin pie, rolling out pastry and a toddler on the floor eating beans. Precariously balancing pots and packets of seeds to create an amazing garden together. Making a teepee like ‘bean den’ for the bean shoots to climb and encase a secret hideout for the kids. My reality is often a lot more like snatching bowls and beaters away from sticky fingers and sending the ‘helpers’ away so I can cook in peace, or avoiding the shops at all costs so I can avoid looking like the hapless and out of control mother. Putting on a show to distract young eyes so I can get the washing done or dinner on.
If I can just tweak my perspective on consequences so I can be more motivated by urgency in relation to the missed relational opportunities rather than the behavioural ones, maybe, just maybe, I could start to make choices more in line with my ideal? I guess one can only try.
Hudson took this photo of me and I really like it, despite the lack of makeup and abundance of pajamas…