I'm a disciplinarian. When the kids mess up, there are consequences. Somtimes it's a long lecture (the teenagers especially love these), sometimes it's assigning extra chores, sometimes it's taking away multi-media, and sometimes it's groundation. I feel witchy when I do these things, but I feel it's my duty as well. And... I always give the kids a chance and ask them nicely to correct the behavior before I dole out the punishments....I think.
It seems that when it comes to chores, I have ample opportunity to utilize various methods of punishments. Case in point...morning chores. It is crucial during our morning routine that the kids accomplish their chores before school. If they don't, it puts me behind schedule as I, then, have to do their chores, which can be extremely difficult with the three under three in tow. For example, if the 16-year-old boy doesn't make fires in all three fire places before school, I will then have to perform that task with the babies hanging on my pants, which can be dangerous. If the 12-year-old boy doesn't take out the trash, it will be on my shoulders to do it in order to be able to use it when I do my chores. If the 13-year-old doesn't unload the dishwasher, it will be left to me to do it in order to get a load in before lunch. So you see, I very much rely on my children to get their jobs done or I am deeply affected.
Which leads me to the reason for this post. This morning I woke up late, to find that the older three kids had gone off to school already. I padded down the hall, wondering if I would find their chores finished. I looked in the first two fire places and behold, there were fires! But alas, I looked in the third and there were only cold ashes to be found. I then opened up the trashcan lid to see if the 12-year-old had done his chore, but no, the trash can was completely full. I was furious. How dare they leave me their chores to do when I already had so much to do. I thought all morning what I would do to help them learn responsibility. I HAD to do something, after all, right? I decided that since the 16-year-old boy did do 2/3 of his chores, he wouldn't be grounded, but would have to do an extra hour of chores the next day. The 12-year-old would most certainly be restricted from seeing his friends that night, as he didn't get anything done. At lunch time I would call them to another room in private and ask why they hadn't done their chores, no excuse would be good enough, and I would exact my punishments.
Lunch came, there was a good feeling in the air, and I hated to bring it up, but I did. I called the boys over to where I was feeding the twins hummus and asked why they hadn't done their chores. They both seemed apologetic when they told me that, normally, the 13-year-old girl wakes them up, but since she had been out of town on a basketball trip, she wasn't there to do it and they had forgotten to set their alarm clocks as they were not used to having to use them. The oldest boy told me he got up with barely enough time to get dressed and make two fires (leaving no time to eat breakfast) and that he woke up the 12-year-old with barely enough time to get dressed and out the door.
I listened to their stories and humbly realized that their excuses were valid and that I had unjustly judged them. I thought about that for the rest of the day. It often seems so easy to judge. I often feel so sure I'm right and that there can be no other way. It was humbling to realize that had I not asked the kids to explain and had I not listened to them and tried to see things their way, I would have punished them unfairly.
I am so thankful I have children to humble me day by day. And humble me they do. Maybe someday I will be humble enough that I won't have to be compelled to be humble. Maybe when I'm 90. Thanks for listening.
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