There is so much in parenting, for me, that is a gray area. Even when it comes to time outs. I live on the fence in many other areas of life, so why not in parenting too? Yes, we have our rules. Yes, we implement boundaries. We are known as the stricter parents in our small circle of friends. Regardless, I find this constant balancing of when to say yes, no, and tomorrow, very interesting and especially challenging.
We just got back from vacation (more to follow on that front). We visited family, friends, and especially cousins. Levi has three. A new baby girl, an almost three year old girl, and a four going on five year old boy. Reyna, Owen and Levi spent at least 6 days interacting, 3 of which were full days. Levi loves his cousins. He got on especially well with Reyna.
Levi got to know his grandparents even more. His Grandma Lasley was like a permanent playmate. She played trains, legos, and toured her yard with him. How much fun is that? Your own personal playmate, dedicated to you, giving you undivided attention? All these people fawning, gushing, hugging, loving you – and then you come home.
We flew in last night. We were more or less settled at home by 9pm. Levi fell into a deep sleep in the 20 minute ride from the airport to home. He was so dead to the world, when Peter got him out of the car – he didn’t move or fuss or cry – or anything. This is an unusual feat. When I went to wake him up this morning, he sternly spoke, “Close the door!” Close the door? What? Usually this bug wants the door open. It was then I made my decision. We are staying home.
I did not tell him of my decision for a little bit. First, I consulted with the husband. Second, I continued to ready myself. I approached the small fry again, only to find similar disdain.
He’s four. He’s not thirteen. “Buck up and go on with life” is a lesson we will layer on. Now, is not the time. He’s been with his cousins twice in his entire life. I can still count on one hand the number of set visits he’s had with each grandparent. He’s four. When I was four, my grandparents were a staple in my life. We spent so much time with my cousins they were like extended siblings who simply lived in another house.
Yes, it was our choice to live across the country. But, my dear four year old doesn’t have to completely pay for our choices. So, enter Parental Gray Area. I chose to play in the gray line. I forgot to tell one person I wasn’t coming into work today, too, while in this gray area wondering if I was making the right choice. Family comes first, though. No matter what.
I find this gray area ironic since in many ways I like to or wish I could see things more black and white. So many things are clear. You cannot hit another person to express your frustration. That will get you a time out. There are ways we behave in the store and there are ways we do not. You will be removed from the store (when parental choice, that is the both of us are in the store) if you do not behave correctly. There is a way to behave at the dinner table, with friends, at school. If Levi chooses to deter from this path we’ve laid out, there will be consequences.
I do not believe this is corporal punishment. I believe this is an education into how the world works and a protection of my sanity. I cannot be the parent who coddles and manages and is gentle all the time. I try. I do. My husband asks me often if I am okay likely because I have the same guarded game face on all day long. Keeping opinions in check. Keeping thoughts in check. Giving the benefit of the doubt. Putting myself in the others shoes.
But so many things are not clear. Life is a negotiation. He needs to learn not to hit, to use his words, to be polite, etc – but all in one sitting? Learning is like peeling the layers of an onion or studying art history. You see the big picture first, then you spiral down until the details blur and clear up before your eyes. Putting myself in another’s shoes. Putting myself in my son’s shoes. Four. Missing all the glory of the last two weeks. Not understanding vacation times, job obligations for his parents, and why his visits were so short.
In these shoes, it was not fair for Levi to go to school today. Shocked, sad, frustrated that he could not visit longer with his cousins for circumstances beyond his control and perhaps his understanding. The gray area won out.