the hard way.

Lee Brown Photography-1

Photo by Lee Brown Photography

We had spent the entire morning getting ready for the gym. It sounds pathetic to admit that out loud, but I’m seven months into this two-kid gig, and it still takes us all morning to get ready for anything. Three people need to eat, three people need to get dressed, one person needs coffee, one person needs a diaper change, one person can’t find his Lightning McQueen, one person needs to nap. By the time we’re finally ready, someone has to pee again and it starts all over.

We had two errands to run: the bank and the gym. I had given fair warning, everyone knew what to expect. I’m not sure who was more excited, myself or Everett. He loves the gym daycare just about as much as I love being alone for an hour.

The car was adequately packed. I was wearing my favorite Nike shorts and my bright pink running shoes. My water bottle was full; my iPad was charged.

We were ready.

Everyone fawned over the kids at the bank, as they always do, and I deposited my two checks quickly. I held Carson on one hip while Everett hung out next to my leg. Right as we were leaving, one of the branch managers ran up to us and informed me that a new account I had just opened a few weeks prior required one more signature.

“It will just take a minute!” she promised.

I walked over to her desk with Carson in my arms, while Everett trailed behind us. At this particular bank, there were stuffed bears on each of the six desks. Everett—taking full advantage of my full hands—took it upon himself to grab each bear, carefully assembling them in a pile in the middle of the floor.

I watched this happen out of the corner of my eye while the pretty bank teller with perfect hair asked nonchalantly, “So, how’s your ‘business’ going?”

I’m sure I imagined her condescending tone. I’m sure I imagined her air quotes around the word “business.” But I was surrounded by people in suits and suddenly painfully aware of my Nike shorts and pink running shoes, the baby drooling on my shoulder and the toddler creating a mess in their quiet workspace.

“Oh….business is fine. Just fine!” I replied, “EVERETT. STOP THAT. Put those bears back right now.”

He looked at me innocently, “Huh?”

“Don’t ‘huh’ me. Put those bears back right now, we’re leaving,” I demanded.

And then he looked right at my face and uttered one little brave word: “No.”

Excusez-moi?

It is worth mentioning that I was the only customer in the bank and all eyes were on me. Everyone was waiting to see how I would handle this awkward situation. I marched over to Everett and the pile of bears, with Carson on my hip. I leaned down and grabbed his face and looked him straight in the eyes.

“Everett Hudson Gadd, you need to pick up those bears right now. We are leaving.”

He looked at me again, briefly paused, and defiantly said, “No.”

It might also be worth mentioning that I have encountered this scene probably five times since becoming a mom. Everett is generally very well behaved, especially in public. He is respectful and almost always follows instructions, so when things like this do happen, I am slightly dumbfounded. I was just as shocked as the gawking bank tellers, who were still waiting for me to make a move.

I could feel my face turning red as I moved Carson to my other hip and picked up the bears myself, furiously returning them to their desks. I calmly pulled Everett out of the bank by his arm while he cried and continued to make a scene. It was surely the most exciting thing the bank tellers saw that day.

The second we got settled in the car, I knew what I had to do.

“We’re NOT going to the gym,” I announced dramatically.

Everett wailed. And then he wailed louder. And then he screamed, “I WANNA GO TO THE GYM!!!!”

And then it was really settled.

The whole way home, we talked about The Incident. I explained over and over again that when we don’t listen to mommy, we don’t get to do fun things. He cried and cried and cried some more. I wanted to cry a little bit too.

We returned home barely twenty minutes after leaving it. Three people into the car, three people out of the car. Two car seats to buckle and unbuckle. All for seven miserable minutes and an embarrassing meltdown at the bank. We prepared all morning for that??!

He was still a mess. Three tantrums and three time-outs later, we landed in the backyard for some fresh air and a fresh perspective. It was over. Done. We all suffered the consequences, but I couldn’t help but feel like I had suffered the most. My hour of exercise, my hour to myself, was gone. Poof. This is motherhood, folks.

It would have been easy to go to the gym anyways. It would have been easy to stick the kids in childcare and take my much-desired break. It would have been easy to forget all about The Incident and stick to our original plan, ignoring what had happened.

But sometimes, we mothers have to do the hard thing, the thing that basically punishes all of us. He lost his reward, and as a result, I lost mine too. And while this was such a small thing (a moment of defiance! an hour at the gym!), I couldn’t help but foresee a future of discipline laid out in front of me.

I know I’m still new at this, but I believe there are going to be many, many times as a parent that I will be faced with an opportunity to choose the easy thing or the hard thing. Maybe the easy thing is staying at Disneyland, staying at the restaurant, breaking out a candy bribe and hoping for the best. Maybe it’s letting them watch TV anyways, use the computer anyways, drive the car anyways. The easy thing is usually the quick fix, the bandaid, the action that buys you more time and sanity, the thing that doesn’t punish the parent.

Sometimes you need to do things the easy way. We all have those days, myself included.

But I’m learning that when it comes to discipline and enforcing rules and gaining the respect of your children, sometimes you need to do things the hard way. The long way. Sometimes we have to skip the gym and leave the donut shop without eating our donuts. Sometimes we have to take the car keys away and drive our moody teenagers to school ourselves. And while it is unfortunate for the child who loses a reward or misses out on an opportunity, sometimes we, the parents, have to suffer as a result. I think we need to love our kids more than we love ourselves, and sometimes that looks like letting a teachable moment take precedent over our plans, our hobbies, our own precious time.

I’m trying to keep my eye on the prize. Someday this three year-old will be eight, and then eighteen. I pick my battles daily, and some days there are a lot of them. There is a time to let things go, and there is a time to stick to your guns. There is a time to settle and a time to follow through.

Because the thing is, all of these tiny moments add up. That one time we left the gym, that one time we left the donut shop, that one time I took the TV away, that one time I put Elmo on top of the refrigerator for 24 hours because someone threw him at the ceiling fan, again. These small actions add up to one big lesson: I am the mom and I love you enough to put forth the effort into raising you well. I mean what I say, and I say what I mean.

I can only hope and pray that five years from now, ten years from now, twenty years from now, doing the hard thing will pay off. I can only hope and pray that someday I will reap the harvest of all this work.

Come to think of it, maybe I already am.

Lee Brown Photography-43

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18 Responses to the hard way.

  1. Blake says:

    I’m not a mom yet, so I can only imagine the difficult, tantrum-filled times all the mothers go through with their kids. Hopefully when I’m a mom I’ll be able to handle those situations without losing my own mind.

    I think a lot of parents think they need to be their kids’ best friend, and that if they punish them, their kid will suddenly hate them. I guess I saw this more in high school – when parents would sponsor underage parties or let their kids walk all over them. I grew up with tough love and I was grounded, had my phone taken away, etc., and I grew up perfectly fine! I actually appreciate my parents (they weren’t too strict, but just strict enough) because they taught me a lot of valuable lessons in life.
    Blake´s last blog post ..Tote-ally Adorable | Favorite Totes Under $20

  2. Emily says:

    Love this post! It’s hard and it’s so much easier to just give in, but that’s not what molds our kids. I also feel ‘ya on the bank meltdown – Aaron is generally extremely well behaved in public, but those rare times when he DOES have a meltdown are the exact times I’m most hoping for his best behavior. Murphy’s Law. 🙁
    Emily´s last blog post ..A few of my favorite things

  3. Heather says:

    Very timely post… we’ve had a week of these days with our 3 year old and it can be so difficult at times. It’s so important to start young, though, and it’s my hope that our kids will one day appreciate that we didn’t always take the easy way, even if it means we all lose out.
    Heather´s last blog post ..Sunshine, Stress and Wellness

  4. Tiffany Ware says:

    I love this post! I myself have been in this situation all too many times with my two little boys ages 2 and 4 1/2. Sometimes I wonder how the bank can even have those bears out and expect a toddler to just sit there and look at them. After all we are always telling them to go play and isn’t that what bears are for? To play?.. I think I have encountered this same situation and I probably felt the same way as you, did we tell them not to play with the bears because of all the “eyes” in the bank staring at him playing with the bears?! I’ve walked out the same way, with a temper tantrum and often thought to myself “why couldn’t he just play with the bears?” Then all of that could’ve been avoided! I’m still searching for the right answer!

  5. Suzy says:

    Well. Done. I feel like clapping. When you said you decided not to go to the gym I was like, in my head, “BUT ASHLEEEEEEEE! YOUR ALONE TIIIIIIME!”

    That sucks for you. But well done on doing it anyway. You’re such a good mom.

  6. Love this! We definitely take the path of least resistance when it comes to enforcing rules with Ethan and it’s definitely biting us in the ass! We both work full-time and we’re just.plain.tired at the end of the day. But we also knows how much better he is with rules and structure so we have to keep it up. Thanks for the great reminder today!
    natasha {schue love}´s last blog post ..Gift Guide for the Dads

  7. San says:

    Bravo, Ashlee. You absolutely did the right thing. I have no idea how hard that must have been, but being consequent like that is the ONLY way you’ll raise your children to be decent human beings. I know too many examples of parents who let things slide one too many times and are now suprised that there kids feel entitled all the time and have no respect for anything or anyone.
    You’re doing a GREAT job.
    San´s last blog post ..Recipe: Tiny turkey-zucchini meatballs with balsamic salad

  8. Tanya says:

    Thank you for sharing. In an age where parenting has become more an art and there are more theories than there are children, it’s easy to forget that sometimes it just comes down to right or wrong and following through. It also helps so much to hear other moms struggling in the same ways I do everyday. In the moment I begin to feel so alone, and yet every mom goes through many of the same trials!
    Tanya´s last blog post ..#tbt Once Upon A Time I went to Africa

  9. Sarah says:

    I’m just getting into the defiant stage with my 16 month old and it is SO HARD. Especially when I lose out on the deal, too. But this was such a perfect post explaining why we sometimes have to choose the hard way. And I’ll try to remember that as I sit and cry in the corner with him after I’ve chosen the hard way and punished us both.
    Sarah´s last blog post ..Vacation, Part Two

  10. Kelly says:

    Thank you so much for speaking this hard truth. We are in the midst of our own discipline stage, with a 16 month old who has plenty of opinions and plenty of strong emotions, but very few words. I am so encouraged.
    Kelly´s last blog post ..Dear Charlotte, 15: we’re moving

  11. Ea says:

    I read tons of blogs and have never commented but I had to let you know how much I appreciate your honesty. I have a four month old and a 2 1/2 year old and you help me see that I’m not alone in my feelings, struggles, and joy! Thank you!

  12. Jennifer says:

    We have some “grown up” friends, as I call them, (since I’m not certain I’ll ever feel like a grown up) who did an awesome job raising their kids. When I was expecting our first, we asked them what one piece of parenting advice they would offer. “Always mean what you say,” they said. If you threaten a consequence, follow through, every time. You’re doing good work. Good parenting, I find, rarely involves the easier choice.

  13. Monica says:

    Love this, Ashlee. That is tough, and I got teary reading the part where you didn’t get your “you” time either because I can imagine how much that sucked. You’re doing a great job!

    P.S. Does your bank offer mobile checking? I cash all my checks with my smart phone and it’s changed my life.
    Monica´s last blog post ..Reflections on My Birth, a Year Later

  14. Kathleen says:

    Ugh, I hate disciplining SO much. This story is a perfect example of what we are going through all the time at our house. My daughter is what we like to call “spirited” so we have many chances to practice! I recently read the book Love & Logic and it was incredibly helpful and practical, and definitely reinforced these ideas.
    Kathleen´s last blog post ..life with kids & kittens

  15. Victoria B says:

    You go mama! You are a great mom and this is just more proof of that! 🙂
    Victoria B´s last blog post ..England 2014: Manchester United

  16. Pingback: Why I Read Mommy Blogs (Even Though I’m Not a Mommy) | the young hopeful

  17. Emily says:

    Beautiful words and post. This is the kind of stuff I think about just as a basic babysitter. Not a Mom yet but probably will be one day. This reminds me of a lot of things that happened between me and my Mom, and the way she made me take the long route. Anyway, thanks for sharing!

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