Why is it that when I check out at the store, it's a signal for my kids to turn into raging maniacs? The smallest one ALWAYS seems to have a meltdown at that exact moment...kicking off shoes, wailing, thrashing, crying and begging for some bauble or another...completely irrational and inconsolable. You would think the older three would see their poor mother wrestle a giant three-year old, try to whisper words of comfort/threats, not lose her cool completely and scramble to pick up a thrown flip flop while at the same time digging around her gigantic purse among receipts and whatnot for her wallet so she can pay and escape the mad, recurring nightmare she is in the middle of once again, and they would come quickly to her aid, or else stand silent and obedient, opening doors, loading bags and picking up flung shoes. You would think. Instead they seem totally oblivious to the hideously loud scene that the rest of the store has obviously noticed and they continue to wander away in their absentmindedness, beg/whine for just one small treat, and/or bicker among themselves. (And actually, Miss B did try to help at the bitter end, but it was no use at that point.)
What have I done wrong?
I remember years ago thinking about how I would parent my then small children. I thought of how I would implement organized chore charts as they grew and my darlings would spring from their beds each morning, eager to do their part because of the sweet lessons on responsibility and hard work that I would have indeed taught them. They would smile and nod their angelic heads and rush to finish their tasks so that as soon as their work was done, we could sing and dance, bake and craft, read stories and go on outings. It was a lovely dream. A dream I was sure would come true, for I would teach them and mold them and I had a plan. I wasn't so naive as to think that I wouldn't have arguments, or back-talking or whining, and unwillingness at times, but I was 100% sure that I could talk with them about the reasons of why/why not they should/shouldn't do this or that and they would undoubtedly come around to my way of thinking relatively quick. I had it all figured out. As I am sure most parents do when they first get the job. And so the years flew by, along with many chore charts, lessons, talks, time-outs, failures, successes, reward systems and more talks and I started to realize that I have absolutely NO clue what I am doing. In fact it seems I get more dumb as the years go by. There is this little thing called individuality that I forgot to include in my plans. You see, kids have their own minds too...they are in fact mini adults with their very own and completely unique personalities. And sometimes they have their own agendas that do not (gasp) coincide with my own. Which results in friction. And it is hard sometimes, very hard. No amount of planning can prepare you for each of your children's very own free will. It is theirs, it is unique and it starts early...even the smallest one-year old can make herself heard. I've also discovered that I thought I would teach them something and it would be taught..end of story, such as "Don't pick your nose," and they would then file that away and never, ever pick their nose again because simply, mom said so. What I didn't take into consideration is that I am the parent until they are grown. Which means I probably have to teach the same concept over and over and over and over and over until it finally and completely sticks. There might be a few times with certain kids where some concept or another only needs to be taught once, but for most things it has to be repeated, repeatedly until you think you are going to permanently repeat every sentence you say for the rest of your life because it is so second nature.
So, what I have concluded is this...parenting is hard work. It is not for the faint of heart and I can never, ever give up. And it will continue for a long time and I have to keep at it every single day until the light bulb finally turns on (for me and them). A child isn't raised, taught, molded, loved and heard in a day or a month or a year...it takes every day for the rest of their life probably. I just have to remember that even though it seems like I am beating my head against the wall, repeating myself and implementing yet another new and exciting chore chart (that is almost doomed for failure during the first week), it will hopefully pay off and they are filing away those lessons somewhere in the backs of their little minds where they can pull them out as adults and become well-balanced, thoughtful, hard-working, contributing members of society. Or at least that's what I am counting on.
In the meantime we shall have yet another discussion on how we act in stores. And where trash is/isn't thrown. And where the rightful place for chewed gum is. And that if you just FINISH your chores quickly, you have the ENTIRE rest of the day to play. And how we don't lean back on our chairs and that we keep our mouths closed while chewing. And how we don't slam doors. And that we flush the toilet and wash our hands. And that we obey the FIRST time we're asked to do something. And that we get along, and don't say "stupid" or "shut up". And that the more you argue, the worse off things are for you. And many other important and frequently repeated lessons.