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Dear Village Momma,
I feel obligated to write you this letter to say I’m sorry for disciplining your child the other night.
But I’m not sorry for disciplining your child.
Let me set the scene. Your kiddo showed up at my door the other night. No problem there, we have a huge village, but then he invited himself to dinner. I probably could have said no, should have said no, but I didn’t. The only trouble was that he crashed a play date and a sleepover, so yours became the third wheel…and three is not company when it comes to nine year old boys.
And so it began.
I was already irritated. I’ve been playing single momma for nearly two weeks. It was Friday night and it had been a long week of work…I was tired. Actually, I was exhausted. I had already committed to a sleepover and had an extra kid (now two), so I didn’t feel like I could have a drink. Your child invited himself to join us. He had his iPod, a luxury the other two didn’t have and a distraction I can’t stand.
Nothing about this night was lining up as a recipe for success.
The trouble started when we got in the car. There was resistance about wearing his seat belt – a non-negotiable in my world. But after my insistence, he put it on but not without my child only adding his two cents. That was just the start of it, the banter of two nine year olds throwing down at each other. The mudslinging was ridiculous, not just because of the silliness of it, but they were digging their heels in and going at it. One insult after another and it was getting personal. And it was making me crazy.
I ignored it. I let it slide.
It ramped up at dinner; we were talking about movies and ‘Beauty & The Beast’ came up. Your child said, “That’s for girls,” the kind of talk that makes me crazy. I know they’re only nine, but do we have to continue to stereotype girls and boys? I tried to make it a teachable moment but instead got eye rolling.
I took a deep breath, and again, ignored. I let it slide. We got through dinner and we jumped back in the car. Again, a fight about the seat belt….ohhh, my patience was really being tried. Another deep breath. And then the insults started up in the back seat again.
I attempted to ignore. I attempted to distract. I attempted to redirect. They kept at it. I tried getting stern with my own, hoping they would both get the hint. Which they didn’t – it only escalated. I asked them to stop, which of course, they didn’t. I told them to stop. They didn’t. I ordered them to stop. They didn’t. And then the back talk began…
THAT was the show stopper for me.
I had to draw a line in the sand and take control of this situation. Like a total psycho, I took the next exit off the highway. My child knew it right away, “Mom, you got off at the wrong street.”
Yep, I sure did.
I pulled into a parking lot, parked the car and made our children get out. And I let them have it. Despite my total frustration, I was calm, scary calm. I looked both of them in the eye, going back and forth between them, employed my stern voice and we had a little chat (okay, maybe lecture) about respecting adults.
It didn’t take long for them to figure out I was serious. They climbed back into the car…and it was a very quiet car ride home.
I’m a firm believer that an important part of growing up is realizing that there are different rules in different places. There are different rules at home and at school; there are different rules at my house and at yours; there are different rules at home and at work; there are different rules in different countries, that’s how this world works. Our kids have to figure that out and we have to help them.
However, the reality is that we can’t be there every minute of every day to ensure these lessons are learned. The fact that we both work makes it even harder, but I know I’m doing the best I can and I trust you are as well. But when our best isn’t good enough, that’s when the village comes in.
I feel a little bit badly, did I cross a line? Yours is a child I don’t know all that well; you are a mom I don’t know all that well, and I jumped in and disciplined your child.
I worry about what you’ll think. I worry that you’ll think I’m being critical of your parenting. And it sounds like I am. But I’m not. After all, I’ve realized that our kids are not a direct reflection of our parenting – they are their own people making their own decisions, even at the age of nine. And while they provide plenty of proud mom moments, they also provide those cringe worthy ones as well. Those moments where someone has to step in and discipline.
But should it have been me, a peripheral adult in your child’s life? Some might say no, but you know what? I’d do it again. Why? Because it’s part of being a part of the village. A village you and I both depend on. And if we’re depending on the village, we have to take the bad with the good. If we’re going to depend on the village to watch our kids, we have to trust the village to also provide some guidance, some discipline from time to time.
I assure you, if it was my child who was misbehaving, I would hope, no, I would expect, you would do the same.
But you’re you and I’m me. Hopefully we see eye to eye on this one because when I’m being honest, I’m not sorry that I disciplined your child.
Your Fellow Village Momma