His Highness and a friend made some really bad choices yesterday. They didn't injure anybody, and the mess has been cleaned up, and since everyone is safe and all the things are back how they started, I'm already chuckling about it just a little. But still, he earned himself some pretty stiff consequences. There is grounding, and there are chores. And worst of all he lost a lot of his independence for the foreseeable future. I'm not sure that he realized before how much independence he had earned, but he is feeling it now that it's gone.
We think of ourselves as fairly laid-back people. Since we had kids, we get a lot of comments on how laid-back we are as parents. Which is interesting, because while I guess we do let our kids do stuff sometimes that other kids aren't always allowed to do, everything is the result of evaluating, and talking things over, and calculating the risks, and deciding yea or nay. Yesterday His Highness and his friend were out playing because we had already done the work of supervising for a while, and then slowly backing away, and we had built up that trust over time that he wasn't going to do anything overly-dumb or too dangerous.
And then they did a really dumb thing, so the bounds are pulled way in for now. We are not shocked or anything; six-year-olds are bound to make mistakes. He gets to learn this lesson, and we get to let him feel the discomfort from within the safety of our family (and our neighbors who alerted us to what was going on--thank you, Neighbors!!), and he gets to work at re-building trust, and so the journey goes of growing up, a little bit at a time, eventually into a good man. By the grace of God, and all that.
So today, after the Cat Daddy left for work, we went for a jog. The younger two in the double-Bob, and His Highness on his bike. Seeing as how he will be indoors for the next two weeks at minimum, I figured it would be a good opportunity for him to let off energy and get some fresh air. Well, I can make a few guesses at his reasons, but His Highness decided that a temper tantrum was in order. His helmet hurt, his arm hurt, his leg was bored, and it was all very tragic as we were starting off down the block on our regular route. Double- and triple-checks were performed and, barring the sudden onset of illness, I was reasonably sure he was sandbagging. So I went. And he lagged behind, crying and wailing along the way.
Some moms were walking by, witnessing the commotion, and commented "Some tough love, eh?" I smiled and said, "Yeah. He's very capable, just some dilly-dallying." And they said, "Oh, we were right where you are 10 years ago, we totally get it!" and all was kind and happy.
And he kept crying. And I kept going, looking back over my shoulder, but maintaining overall forward momentum. I crossed the street, and yelled back for him to wait, as a car was approching. He did. We did our zig-zag to the next long stretch, with him 100 or so feet behind, wailing the entire way, but still moving.
Finally a car pulled up alongside me. The driver was one of the ladies from before, this time concerned: "I know I said I was right there with you before, but now I'm really concerned about him riding these streets. There have been cars that have come by, and there was a trash truck back there, and I'm just really worried now."
I said, "I really think he's doing alright. It may not look like it, but I've been watching him the whole way, and he's doing what he needs to do to be as safe as possible."
And then we did that thing where we were kind and respectful, but sort of talked in circles, saying a lot of I-know-but's, before we each went on our way. During which time His Highness finally caught up to me, and we had our own little heart-to-heart where I told him he had some important choices to make, the first of which was whether he wanted to enjoy the rest of our jog, or be miserable. And that I would let him be miserable, but we were going to finish our route either way and I hoped he would choose instead to have a nice time.
And guess what? He chose to ride down that hill SO FAST, and we saw a bird that was SO BIG, and it was flying right down by the houses (we Googled it later and found it was a turkey vulture), and we got to take a detour because our normal path is under construction, and we had a really nice (if chilly) time the whole way back home.
Still, my conversation with the well-meaning and kind lady, who didn't have the whole story, did make me think a little. I evaluated. I weighed. I re-played. And this is what I saw:
--When I told His Highness to stop and wait to cross, he stopped at the crosswalk and waited until the oncoming car waved him across.
--He was either on the sidewalk or hugging the curb at every point. No lolling about in the middle of the road. Yes some cars came thru, but they passed by without incident.
--He slowed for the trash truck and looked at the driver. I was telling him to come on, but he waited for the driver to wave him across.
I told him these things in our heart-to-heart moment. I said, "Look, fussing aside, you're doing a really good and safe job on this ride. You're screaming like a madman and probably making the neighbors wonder what on earth I'm doing to be so mean, but you're watching for cars, and being careful when you cross, and I'm proud of you for that."
And of course he responded, "You ARE a mean mommy!"
I said, "Well yeah, it's kind of my job!"
And it may or may not sound like it, but we were back on good terms. He took off down the hill and all his aches and pains (and limb boredom--does this just happen in my family??) disappeared, which I had suspected would happen, but was still just a little bit relieved to see it in actuality.
To the lady in the car, thank you for caring about my kid, and thank you for not overstepping bounds after talking with me. I'm not sure what you or I might have done about it anyway, but thank you just the same.
I say all of this partly to write down a great moment. There are many crazy, overwhelming, bad-tempered, unkind, screwed-up, wrong call moments, so it's nice when I have a good one.
I also say it as an encouragement to all of us who are making decisions as best we can with the info we have. Rest assured, we're rarely flippant or arbitrary. We try to be calm, but that doesn't mean we're not aware.