Lest our posts give the impression that nothing ever goes wrong around in our house, here is one of my more humbling stories from a recent weekend that I spent with the boys that ended in anguish, misery, and some parenting lessons re-learned.
Over the weekend, Maria went out to visit her family for her cousin’s wedding. As the wedding invite list was restricted to adults, and no babysitter in their right mind was willing to take our brood for multiple days, I hung home with the kids for an “all-boy” weekend. It was a great time, except for the last 30 minutes.
We spent most of Friday snowed in after 20″ of the white stuff dropped on us the day before, playing some games together and watching Lion King for the 20th time while I called into some meetings and cleared off the deck. Saturday we spent the most notable part of the day over at the neighbor’s house for their daughter’s 4th birthday party, which was awesome, letting them get tons of energy out with their friends, eat multiple pieces of cake (a “secret” treat that they couldn’t keep a lid on for more than a couple hours before I got ratted out ;-)), all while I got to have a beer or two over a really nice home cooked lunch with friends. After a few hours there, we packed the three boys into the double stroller and hiked it back home through the lightly falling snow…a truly touching moment in nature. On Sunday, the boys got to watch Lion King for the 21st time while I cleared the driveway from the additional 4″ that fell overnight so Maria could make it back into the house with the little Civic. The rest of the afternoon was spent fighting entropy to get the house back in order in anticipation of Mommy getting home.
About 30 minutes before Maria pulled in, I was finally ready to kick back and claim success over the weekend. The house was clean, dinner was all cooked and ready to be plated, and the kids were playing quietly in the playroom (should have been my first clue that something was amiss). With everything in order, I decided to spend my last half hour relaxing with the boys, building legos or whatever they were into. I walked into the playroom to find Ben excitedly showing me his bucket of “clippings”. I recalled him getting out some construction paper and the safety scissors a few minutes before with the intent of making Mommy a card, which he often does…such a thoughtful boy…but when I looked at his bucket, I saw a bit more than just construction paper clippings. There was also a bunch of what looked like fibers. My mind started racing through the potential sources of this foreign matter…the rug? No, not shaggy enough. A stuffed animal? No, not the right color. I was about to ask Ben what in the world it was when I looked up and realized those unidentified fibers were indeed his hair. &#%@#&$!!!!!
Without thinking, I flew into a tirade that must have been terrifying to those poor boys. Under intense interrogation (just short of water-boarding, I think), I learned that not only had Ben cut his own hair, but he also got a couple of Matt’s curly locks, and that Jake had also followed his lead but only had time to take one tentative snip of his own hair before I came in. Through crying eyes, Ben tried to explain that he just wanted to show me his “cool new invention”. In retrospect, that innocent explanation should have cooled my jets, but I continued to fume. I sat him down in the bathroom, broke out the clippers and set out to try to fix the mess…a futile affair which only served to frustrate me further. At this point, Ben is crying because he doesn’t want a shaved head, and the other two boys are curled up on the sofa to avoid the screaming Tasmanian Devil that I had devolved into. It is into this chaos that Maria arrived home from her weekend away. “Welcome home honey!” From the look on her face, I could tell that she was more than a little shocked at the scene, but was able to quickly defuse the situation and get everyone calmed down.
In retrospect, I handled the situation miserably. After all it is just hair, it will grow back, and thankfully no one got physically hurt. At 5 years old, none of Ben’s friends would be likely to even notice or care that he had a huge swath carved out of his parted hair. It is only now in thinking back on it that I realize why I was so upset…because I had failed. I had to explain why, under my watch, the kids had enough time to perform such masterful barbering on themselves (that probably happened in less than 2 minutes, but that is beside the point) I had dropped the ball and blown the “perfect weekend” (a stupid goal to begin with)… After this realization set in, I felt even worse for how hard I came down on Ben. Yes, he made a bad decision, and yes, it is important that he understood the danger that he put himself in that should never be repeated, but I certainly had some making up to do with him for how I reacted.
Not a shining moment in my parenting legacy, but it provided me with a good learning moment for myself and reinforced two points that I seem to relearn over and over again: 1) It only takes a minute for the kids to get into something dangerous and 2) some of my most upset moments with the kids have more to do with me than it does with them. While this is by far the worst infraction that Ben has on his record to date, this scene is likely to play out more than a few more times over our kids lives…I am just hoping that this experience will better prepare me to deal with the next one just a little more productively and recognize who I am more upset with at the time…them, or myself?