Monday, March 14, 2011

Who's in Charge Here, Anyway?

Today it hit me that perhaps an unhappy change crept into our family dynamics while I was not paying attention. #1 son, whom we refer to in our household simply as "The Boy" set a precedent in our household in recent years. This is not an unusual event at all, in fact, it seems he sets all the precedents. This one, however, caught me by surprise.
I spend so much time with my now 18 year old, that I seem to have forgotten that the "darlings" as we call them, are not yet 18 themselves. Below is the sad tale of how this was impressed upon my consciousness.
We travel roughly 45 minutes for tennis lessons on Monday afternoons, which becomes Monday evening by the time we finish. Normally I like to rush directly home to prepare dinner and begin one of our family nights which includes the reading aloud of what is now, I believe, our 8th sequential Tarzan book. (They are fabulous and the entire family enjoys them, Dad included!) We have, however, become somewhat desperate for a Target run, along with another quick errand which could only be accomplished in that city. So, knowing this would put a major hitch in my already tight schedule, and leave Dad home alone wandering aimlessly in a too-quiet house, we set out on our expedition anyway.
I had "hurry" on the agenda, but somehow this message did not transmit itself to the darlings. They were overflowing with their own agendas: cosmetics and bathing suits. I heard their longings, and believing myself to be a generous, thoughtful and benevolent mother, I encouraged them to peruse the bathing suit section thoroughly while I acquired all our little necessaries. When I returned, ready to make a run for the checkout, what should I find but pleading eyes, tales of desperation, and woes of depleted sizes. They simply must try on the few remaining cute suits before they disappear, and of course, they need them before Saturday! In retrospect, these are all perfectly logical concerns, but to a harried mom in speed-mode this is not a welcome surprise!
This is where, perhaps, all my great parenting flew out the window. If these children were 5 years old, I would not have hesitated. I am the mom, and I set the agenda; I am confident! We must do this another time. To these young teenagers, however, I seem to have given a disproportionate amount of influence, and consequently, I grudgingly give way, and we schlep back to the dressing room with my mood deteriorating with each step as I clock the minutes...
After a drawn out fashion show, one of the darlings is happy and the other, disappointed as we check out. To add insult to injury, my quick errand to Target has cost me a cool hundred dollars. Ugh! When finally we can leave, my darlings remind me that their triumph will be complete when the begged for "Mocha Joe's" are duly purchased and consumed- another ten minutes of painstaking delay. I am now finding it difficult to be civil.
The ride home was quiet except for the chattering of the baby and the slurping of the Mocha Joe's. I mentally plan the quickest meal we have on hand, and try to keep my mouth shut. My silent musings led me to check the motives of my heart. Whose best interests am I truly seeking? The painful conclusion of this introspection reveals that I am actually desiring the approval of my kids and my husband. Never mind what is best for them, what is best for the family, what is the right decision. I'm just concerned they won't be happy with me!
It occurs to me that what I'm really doing is patronizing and insulting to them. They are big girls, and are old enough to want to contribute to our family in every way possible. I do them a disservice every time I give in to an ill-timed whim which detracts from the overall good of the family. If I had taken a moment to explain the situation fully and plan a time to return when we could enjoy the process, think how joyful the shopping experience could have been! I cheated us all out of that joy by taking what seemed to be the path of least resistance. That is not the path I set out to follow. I guess we all catch ourselves asleep at the wheel every so often, eh?
The good news, and there is always good news, is that through this very minute crisis I have had my eyes opened, and will henceforth commit to remember that I am the parent, and not a contestant in a popularity contest, and that real love is not demonstrated by giving in to every desire a child displays at the moment they voice them, no matter how old that child may be!
Will you pray for me in this?

How may I pray for you?

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