PARENTING IS SOOO HARD!!! Remember that time one of your children was so heinous that you had to ask your dear friends to leave and you removed EVERYTHING… even the mattress from his room. Also important to note is making sure to have the kind of friends who get it and love you still when this very rare but super important type of thing happens. #mamadontplay #syanaraeverything #igavehimabowlincasehehastopee #bringingbackchamberpots #generouslivinghappenswhenwelearngratefulliving #goodlessonsareoftenhardtolearn #nopresidentisdealingwiththis #bethechangeyouwanttosee
My heart was racing as I tore off the sweatshirt that had been cozy and warm up until now. Now, it just felt confining and was making me hot as I grabbed armloads of clothing from the closet and threw them into the hall just outside the door.
“NOOOO MOM! NOT MY CLOTHES! YOU CANT TAKE MY CLOTHES!” my 6 year old screamed at me through fat tears and a complete loss of control.
I turned around to see him threatening to knock a lamp off of the bedside table. I scooped up the lamp, clock, essential oils, and everything else that was on the table and dropped it onto the pile of clothes in the hall. I turned around again and took the pictures off of the wall. Grabbed another armload of clothes out of the closet. Books on the floor were stacked and dropped into the pile as well.
“Honey I need your help to move the dresser into the hall.” I called to my husband who had begun grabbing arm-fulls of stuffed animals and tossing them into the ever-growing pile outside of our son’s room.
We heard the doors to the closet slam and grabbed a hammer to take them off of their hinges. Load after load, we emptied the room of all that had made it feel a combination of comfortable and welcoming. Only the bunk bed frame remained with mattresses covered in plaid flannel sheets.
I shut the door behind me as my child screamed and cried and lost his mind in rage.
“MOM! I HAVE TO PEE! WHAT IF I HAVE TO POOP?” He screeched as he simultaneously grasped for any reason to evade the consequences. The scenario had ramped up to DefCon 1.
Nuclear war on the home front was clearly imminent and we had reached the point of parental maximum readiness.
I grabbed a large plastic bowl from the Tupperware drawer and about 8 squares of Charmin Ultra and opened the door to pass through my makeshift chamber pot. Bewildered my son looked at me and said “I CANT POOP IN A BOWL! THATS SO GROSS! PEOPLE DON’T POOP IN BOWLS!”
“If it’s an emergency you’ll figure it out. I love you.”
It started small enough. Doesn’t it always? All we asked him to do earlier was to find another seat. Our dear friends were visiting from out of town and one of their daughters was in the spot he normally sits on the sofa. They had all been playing outside most of the day and we gave them a chance to watch a cartoon for a little bit. She sat in “his spot” and covered with “his blanket.” And when he told her to move and she didn’t, he stripped the blanket off of her and kicked the bottom of the sofa.
“Go to your room for 5 minutes and give me the blanket.” I said to him.
“NO!” He screamed and argued and the 5 minute consequence steadily increased to reach 1 hour and 40 minutes. Finally I had to carry the wild screaming thing upstairs. That’s when the insanity of entitlement really hit fever pitch and he mistakenly thought that all that was in his room was his to treat how he wanted. That’s when he mistakenly thought that all relationships in his life would tolerate his own selfishness. That’s when he mistakenly thought that he was the boss of us.
Mama and Daddy don’t play.
So he sat in his room that ultimately ended up without even a mattress and him without a stitch of clothing on. Every 15 minutes of self controlled behavior could earn him one item. Every outburst or “when is this 15 minutes up Mom?” earned an additional 5 minutes on his ability to earn back anything. He earned the opportunity to use the real bathroom instead of the bowl. He earned a box of kleenex to blow his dripping nose. He earned back a mattress and a cover and one single toy before he chose to finally earn back one pair of pajamas. So there he sat, naked and crying and realizing that everything we are given is a gift and a privilege and not to ever be used against another.
By the time bedtime had rolled around he added only 5 more things to what he had in his room. Bedding, a pillow, a CD player which fortunately for him already contained a single disc, a clock night light, and his brother. Yes, he lost the privilege of relationship, of sharing a room with his brother, and he had to earn back even that. He didn’t have sufficient time to earn back enough bedding for both beds on the bunk, so they slept together in the only bed he could afford.
By the time my son went to bed, his spirit was so soft. His heart was so malleable, and his demeanor so tender. He apologized to us for being selfish and disrespectful on his own. He realized the need to call our friends (who we had to ask to leave) to apologize to them. He confessed and found his own heart to be so grossly lacking, and we prayed together and thanked the Lord for how he loves us even in our mess. We thanked him for how he restores the broken places, and we talked about how our own ability to live generously with our gifts and with our spirits is what makes a life most rich.
This morning he earned back a shirt to wear, a stuffed animal to snuggle, time to cuddle with me and watch an episode of Fixer Upper, and breakfast. He nearly complained when I didn’t allow him to choose his half of the chocolate filled croissant we had leftover from breakfast yesterday, but when I raised an eyebrow and asked if he would like to wait 15 more minutes to make a wise choice, he said “thank you Mommy for breakfast.”
And still, all of those things are SO CUSHY and privileged. The point though is that we have to be a generation of parents who at least endeavor to stop the cycle of entitlement. We have to do the hard work to stop the “I want it MY WAY” mentality. We have to train up a generation of children to realize that the world isn’t fair, and things don’t go how we like, and when we behave like self-absorbed jerks, we put EVERYTHING (even and especially our relationships) at risk.
A friend sent me this quote recently and I’ve been thinking about all of this together.
“Entitlement is the opposite of humility. It puts me in the centre, instead of God or the other.” – Simon Ponsonby
My heart has been broken over the state of our country the past couple of months. It has been broken over the state of the church and relationships and everything that feels very 40,000 foot level lately. I’ve prayed and cried and talked with friends who all seem to say “what do we do?” as we look incredulously around us at a world that seems to be tearing itself apart. There was an election that did or didn’t go the way you wanted and the way we respond is what teaches this next generation what and how they can expect life to go for them.
LIFE ISN’T FAIR. It’s not. Why are we even still having to say this out loud? I don’t understand why we still have to say this out loud. Of course we should treat one another well, of course we should stand up for one another and do what is right and just and kind, but when all of that somehow devolves into a bloodbath then I have to ask, WHEN AND HOW ARE WE CLEANING OUT OUR ENTIRE ROOMS TO START AGAIN?!
And when we scream and complain and hand everyone a trophy just for participating, we train up a generation that will eat itself alive just to get its way. Where have we gone wrong? When did we stop considering how a friend might feel when we rip off the blanket when they sat in “our spot” on the sofa and insisted that nothing would be right until we get our seat back like we want it?
I am not the boss of you. I am not the boss of your kids. I am only the boss of me and my children. We are the bosses of us. So I can clean out my room and their rooms. I can strip us down to bare bones to build us back with gratefulness and generosity. But I don’t get to walk into your house and clean out your room. I can’t stand at your door and scream about your mess. If I want to change what happens in our world, then I have to do the hard work what happens within our own walls.
If this is us, then I have to figure out how to do us in a way that does America and the world better down the road.
All I wanted at the end of yesterday was a glass of wine and a hot bath. Because training up a generation is hard freaking work….but it has to be done. We have to tend to these people and these spaces where we have real skin in the game. We have to start here…in our homes, and with our next door neighbors,and the places where we actually live… and 4 years from now, or 12 years from now, or 40 years from now, I hope that what we will see is a group of people who love better out loud because they’ve learned how to love better close up.