This evening, the boys were having a difficult time calming down and getting settled for bed. It's been a trend of this, the last few weeks - an argument between the two of them, Chase being loud while Cole was trying to fall asleep, Cole demanding a book from Chase... and its worse at night, when my patience is low and I'm tired.
Earlier this year, I caved and allowed Cole to listen to his beloved ipod at night until 7:30 - it kept the boys from baiting each other and provided a quiet buffer for Cole to fall asleep without Chase's loud noises. It was working super well - everyone was falling asleep earlier. But Cole's ipod hasn't made an appearance in a couple of weeks, and despite my inquiries, Cole insisted it wasn't broken and everything was fine.
Finally, this evening, I climb into Cole's top bunk to snuggle him a bit before bed. Something about the quiet, the dark, the before bed... Cole's defenses are down, he's more likely to open up to me so we can talk. I tread carefully during this time - I don't want to abuse the privilege of his confidence by nagging, attacking, or accusing. I gently ask him if I can take his ipod downstairs to put a new book on it - he quickly answers, "No, that's ok." "Are you sure? I have three new good ones, I know you'll love them."
Suddenly, he breaks down, sobbing in my arms. I hold him close and ask him as non-accusingly as possible - "Cole, is your ipod broken?"
He looks up with a tearstained face and the words tumble out, tripping over each other in their haste to get out. "Yes - it's locked again - I'm sorry, I didn't mean to -"
My first instinct is to hold him close. I can feel his shame. I'm so sad he's been holding onto this burden for weeks. He's embarrassed, he's worried we'll be angry with him, he's been missing his most cherished object.
And I'm heartbroken, for him and for me. You see, one of my main goals as a parent is to be my children's rock: the one they can come to, no matter what. I want my children to know no matter what, they can rely on their mama to help them. Kids make mistakes - little kids make little mistakes, big kids make big mistakes. I don't want my son to be afraid to ask me for help when he slips up and makes a wrong choice, whether it's accidentally pressing a wrong button on his ipod or making a wrong choice and getting drunk at a friend's house as a teenager. Fear of parental wrath has escalated so many situations into tragedies.
I remember growing up, my parents had a rule. Anytime, anywhere, any situation, if we called them they would come pick us up, no questions asked. It didn't matter if we were drunk, if we were at an unsupervised party, if we had missed curfew. I never had to use it, but I was always comforted in knowing that my safety was the biggest importance.
I'm always working on finding the balance in parenting. My latest goal is to find the balance between disciplining our children and fostering the trust and understanding between us, so they know they can always come to us for help if they make a mistake. That's my job as a parent - to help my children navigate this tricky world we live in. And how can I do that if they are too afraid to come to me for help?