Sunday, July 10, 2011

Parenting Can Sometimes Be a Leap of Faith

Ugh.  What a morning.

In the last week, my 7-year-old son has made throwing Barbies on the roof his favorite way to pass the time.  Now, I have to admit that I don’t blame him, for my own personal reasons.  Every time I look at all the Barbies laying around my house I kind of feel like throwing them up on the roof, too.  Not only do I find them a little creepy, laying in bizarre bodily configurations all over the floor like my living room is where Mattel toys find their final resting place...but one look at those perfect legs, tiny waist, and huge rack and I’m about ready to chuck them all up there myself.

You ladies know what I’m talking about.

The first time he did it, I punished him, telling him that he couldn’t play with the little boys on the street for 2 days.  As any parent knows, enforcing sentence like that on a child in the middle of the summer is as much a punishment for us as it is for them.  He was bored, annoyed, and I thought for sure he had learned his lesson.  I ALSO made him pay $10 for the Barbie he got stuck up there, which was also a punishment for me because that meant I had to go out and buy another one to add to my living room graveyard.

But I stuck to it, didn’t back down, and in the end I was pretty proud of myself and my developing parenting skills.


Here we are, this morning, 1 day after his punishment was lifted, and what do I wake up to?

“MOM!  He’s on the roof!”


Instead of throwing the Barbies up on the roof as he did before, my son had lifted his screen and thrown one out of his window.  And then possibly deciding this wasn’t such a good idea (or just not thinking at all)...he lifted the screen, climbed out the window, got on the porch roof, and got it.

Now, it’s not like he can just step out of his window onto the roof...the roof doesn’t meet up there.  He had to kind of climb over to get to the roof.  And then climb over (dead air 2 stories up) to get back.

For any mother, this would be a heart-pounding moment.  For me, I went straight from heart-pounding to sheer panic.

This isn’t entirely random.  I had my gutters cleaned yesterday and when the guy came over to do it, we decided it would be better if he climbed out my bedroom window (the first man to ever do that, I assure you) and clean them out.  I didn’t even see the little wheels turning in my son’s head as he watched the man lift the screen and head right out onto the roof.

I promise you that a longer, stricter punishment is ahead for my son.  I sat with him this morning and showed him pictures of what wearing a “halo” looks like when you break your neck.  I showed him pictures of a spine and vertebrae and then explained to him that once those things are broken...very rarely do they come back and we went into what it would be like to be in a wheelchair. 

I’m hoping, because he has such a literal mind, that seeing those pictures will be something he won’t soon forget.

But do you want to know what I really wanted to do???  I wanted to shake him and say, “A split second decision.  That’s all it takes.  One decision and you’re either gone or your life has completely changed.  And do you want to know how I know that?  Because your dad is dead.  After making a split second decision.”

I didn’t say that, but I wanted to.  And when he gets older, we may have that conversation.  Because we are not a family that can pretend that bad things don’t happen.  Bad things have happened.  It’s affected us all.  And any split second decision could make them happen again. 

Some bad things are beyond our control.  But going out onto a roof for a $10 toy is not one of them.

I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I think I’ve done a pretty good job of raising my kids through grief.  We talk about it.  We acknowledge our loss.  And we live our lives.

But I’ve been wondering today...if I’ve done too good a job.  There is a lesson to be learned in my husband’s death and maybe I haven’t taught it:  That life is precious, we all make mistakes, but do your best to think things through a little bit before you do something that could change it forever.  I’ve been concentrating so hard on making them not afraid to live their lives even though we’ve been through this...maybe I’ve gone too far the other way.  Maybe I should have made them a little afriad.

Part of our issue is that my husband died when the kids were so young and the way we live now is just their normal.  We talk about him and look at pictures...but they were too young to really go through what I and an older child might feel having that kind of loss.  Chances are, it might affect them later.  But as far as understanding the fragility of life and how quickly it can be gone...I don’t think they get it.  Yet.

When I write blogs, I usually try to end with something I’ve learned along the way.  I can’t do that with this one because I think I’m still learning it.  And I honestly want to know...

....what do you think?

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