I was not a sweet mother.
I was not the smiling all the time, milquetoast type of mama.
I meant business and ruled with a hard fist.
Make no mistake - I adored my little children but I could not afford to let them slip through their childhood without understanding that authority is a fact of life and who better to learn it from than mama.
I slathered love upon them and affection was freely applied but underneath it all, they knew that I had expectations that they needed to meet in order to become good friends, worthy citizens and adored spouses.
I believe that I have finally discovered what the core of my mothering, the heart of my teaching, was for my four little ones:
We learned that a person's space, belongings, beliefs all needed to be treated with respect. If they hit or damaged another person or thing, the weight of understanding the disrespect that came from that, was full of implications and responsibilities. If they complained or had an attitude that was inappropriate for the circumstances, they were taught that was disrespectful to the One that designed them. If they disrespected laws, ours or the states, there was a tangible price to pay. For instance: a son's first speeding ticket brought him 7 hours hard labor of scraping and priming a needy garage, a hated, hot job. If another's toy was broken, hard earned money from their own account was used to pay for a replacement along with an apology. Not taking care of clothing or rooms amounted to disrespect to their father who worked hard to provide what they had.
A big hit(!) with the children was the Confiscation Bag. This idea originated with my third pregnancy. My burgeoning body kept me from picking up all the blocks, Legos, Barbie shoes, G.I Joe equipment, He-Man and Skeletor's swords, so after countless reminders, I set out to teach a lesson that worked wonders. When the time came to sweep and pick up, I would announce loudly that I was Confiscation Bag bound. If there were any child like item in my bedroom, if there was any item left on the floor, if there were clothes left unattended, it got 'confiscated' to a very large brown grocery sack. If the item became needed, then a cost was given for the redemption. I can clearly remember needed socks on a Sunday morning that would have to be paid for from their allowance or earnings that were hard earned. I can hear you say, 'Ha! You gave them the allowance anyway! They don't lose!' Ha, I respond! Our kids were expected to pay for their own clothes and shoes and toys. Since they invested in them, they knew how much they cost and how important to them to take care of all of it. I can still picture one small son faithfully polishing the shoes that HE bought out of his own account. They received a goodly sum but there was expectations from that sum. Gifts for friends and toys they wanted came from this allowance. If they accepted yard sale clothing or consignment clothing, then we would pay for that. We purchased dance costumes for recitals and classes. We bought ball team uniforms. We paid for equipment because we knew that someone else was holding them to a standard or excellence with the wearing/using of said equipment. I would remind them that misusing the privilege of being a part of a team was a disrespect to the organization and the people that spent a great deal of time in the sharing of their talent.
Often, after a grocery run, I would gather the children if front of the very full refrigerator and tell them that indeed, it is a privilege to be able to feast our eyes on a full refrigerator. That it was a gift from God and we were not to misuse it. We were not to complain about the food that we were given; we were to try new tastes and not complain or make faces if they did not agree. They did not have to eat something that they didn't like but they certainly were not to be rude in their negative response; they were simply to say, 'I don't care for this but thank you anyway.' Then they were invited to prepare a PBJ for themselves for dinner.
Once, one of our teenage children told me, while cuddling with me in my bed, 'I think I want to take up smoking'. I was caressing her long hair and without missing a beat, I informed her that while I appreciated her telling me, smoking with asthma could be a nasty thing. In typical 15 year old response, she nodded with her head but not her heart. True to her word, she continued in her pursuit till the dastardly day when she was caught by her strict fundamental school, whose rules clearly stated that cigarette smoking would equal dismissal. I pointed this out to her when she enrolled and she proclaimed it bullocks. I further pointed out that the reason that was given was that God has given us our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit and should not be defiled. Long story short, she was expelled, the principal called with the bad news and when I told him that I was aware that she was considering this habit and the ramifications of such, so just send her home. Trust me when I say that the LAST thing this rebellion bent 15 year old had in mind was to be home-schooled with her two youngest siblings! The pain and suffering that she put herself through over this very bad ending to what sounded like a fun thing, was almost painful to watch. But I did. Later, when the habit continued (of course), and I caught her hanging out her bedroom window, blowing smoke, I let her know that no longer would we buy her asthmatic inhaler. The End. Left it at that and once her hard earned money went to expensive asthma medicine, she learned No yelling, no wailing at what we did wrong, no threats of terror, simple natural, retribution to the disrespect to her body and her authorities.
Wasn't all this investment in time and follow thru hard and time consuming?
You're damn right it was! Hardest thing in the world to stand strong with the wrap of love time after time.
But eventually, it gets easier. It gets more self explanatory as they get older. They come to the conclusions on their own and start to see the results of bad choices sooner. The time invested when they were very young and consistently insisting on respect in all areas, is very satisfying as they age.
The reaping of the harvest, as it were.
So it is with a great deal of parental satisfaction, a great deal of thanksgiving from the Father who instructed and led me and a great deal of joy that I share this important message in light of the weekend that I just experienced.
Watching your adult children, now parents themselves, handle their life situations, their parental responsibilities, their spousal needs, their spiritual feeding, their civic duties with a great deal of respect and humble service, makes all the quiet, inward tears and painful observations of lessons hard learned, all worth while.
I praise God for the strength to have ridden these children hard, to expect much from them for they had been given much.
I am so thankful for the adults my children have become. I am pleased that this world is blessed by them. I am humbled by their wisdom and joy.
Now, I can be their friend. Now I can spoil them indulgently. Now I can enjoy their spunky spirit and raucous, fun personalities. Now I can go to my reward with the peace that comes from no regrets and a job well done.
May you be strengthened daily (hourly, minutely, secondly) by the power of God as you parent. And may you delight in the outcome....