This afternoon I heard banging coming from the basement where the kids were playing. I should’ve known to go check it out immediately. But I didn’t. By the time I made my way down the two flights of stairs, the damage was done.
My 4-year-old and his buddy had been amusing themselves by throwing toys at the wall to see the cool marks they would make. They made lots of cool marks — 74 cool dings, divots and scratches on my wall, a few of them all the way into the dry wall.
While I examined the damage, I had flashbacks of the day my 3-year-old brother took a razor blade to my mother’s couch cushions. I realized my son’s mishap could’ve been a lot worse and handled the situation in a much kinder fashion. (I’ll have to thank my brother the next time I see him for saving my son today.)
At MOMentity, one of our MOM Resolutions is “cherish our children.” On days like today, when I’m staring at a wall that will need to be repaired and repainted, cherishing my children can take every last particle of my patience.
So how do we handle moments that drain our patience and try our tempers?
First, it’s important to remember what is most important.
When kids ruin our stuff, it’s often hard to not yell and blame and totally overreact. After all, that stuff costs money and we’ve worked hard for it. Those things are valuable to us — but so are the people who break them.
I’ve worked really hard to stop myself during moments like these. I try to mentally pause and physically breathe and ask myself, “what’s most important?” Of course the answer is always the same — my children are more important than my things.
In Richard Carlson’s book “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff with Your Family,” he recalls a phrase his dad always said to him during minor emergencies like dents in cars or things breaking. His father would respond, “Relax. All things can be replaced — but you can’t be.”
Carlson urges his readers to “keep in mind that, ideally, feelings should be prioritized over practically everything else.”
Second, don’t hesitate to call in reinforcements.
I was upset and afraid to say much for fear my words might really hurt my little guy. So I reached out for support. I used the webcam and called my husband at work. I then deferred to him until I could gain my composure.
Boy was my son worried when he found out his dad wanted to video conference with him in the middle of the day! But really it was to my son’s benefit.
My husband — totally removed from the situation — was able to ask calm, direct questions and really connect with my son in a way my angry self couldn’t.
Finally, we must determine appropriate consequences for the offense.
My son’s friend had to go home and I sent my son to his room for a good half hour — much longer than the one-minute-per-year-of-their-age many parenting resources suggest for time-out. But here’s the thing, I had no idea how to punish him.
If I have him fix the wall with me, he’ll be thrilled. He loves stuff like that.
I can’t make him stay in his room all week (though the thought did cross my mind).
I needed time to think. I needed time to figure out what to do.
There is no manual on this parenting stuff, but thankfully we do have Facebook. I posted my problem and my friends came to the rescue — like a wonderful virtual Magic 8 Ball.
“How should I punish my son?” I asked.
“Take away toys or privileges and determine consequences equal to the time or effort needed to right the wrong,” the magic Facebook 8 Ball answered.
I took away all the toys used to make those dents. And I decided I would have my son work off each dent with a chore around the house. With more than 70 dents, he’d be busy until the fall. So we came up with a list of 36 things he can do around the home to help out. The list includes “write mom an apology card” and “patch the holes.”
Before he went to bed tonight he already had five things crossed off his list.
Being a parent is tough stuff. Being a patient parent is even harder. Cherishing our children includes cherishing their feelings even in the toughest situations. Here’s to hoping we always have a Magic 8 Ball.
This MOMentity article originally published in Motherhood Matters on KSL.com.