I never dreamed I would be the mom, sitting in her running car, with her window rolled down, in her parent’s driveway, yelling to her son: “You can’t withhold your love from me forever!” as he slowly sulks away, into his grandparent’s home for the day while I head off to work…
That was me. Just this morning.
Discipline is hard. Taking something valuable away from a child who does not fully understand there are consequences to actions and a loving parent has to follow through in order to teach their wounded offspring valuable lessons….Is.Hard.
Now I understand. The sentiment, ‘This is harder on me (as a parent) than on you (as my child).’ Discipline is not something that comes naturally. Especially to mothers, who are ingrained to nurture, cuddle, communicate, laugh, cry, show emotions, and produce happiness among their beloved offspring.
I cannot stand it when my sons are mad at me. Even if I am mad at them, knowing they are feeling any other emotion than happiness, protection, comfort, and deeply balanced peace, brings a level of anxiety to my mommy heart that is unrivaled by any other random anxiety I feel on a daily basis.
Yet, discipline is part of the gig. Teaching our own mini-me(s) right from wrong, good from bad, and respect versus disrespect, are the imminent lessons we all must learn as children and teach as parents. Because, while not impossible, those same lessons are MUCH more difficult to learn as adults.
Dads often seem more equipped to carry out consequences and ‘stick to your guns’ without wavering. In a home such as mine where we are divorced and function as co-parents, I sometimes have to function as ‘Dad’. It is not a role I prefer. I want to be the nurturer. I want to wipe the tears, give the hugs, read the stories, and heal the boo-boos. I don’t want to enforce the consequences…and worse yet, have to stick by it when my sons ignore, talk back, beg, plead, or ‘I promise to change’ their way back into a non-punishment space.
If I give in, will they respect me? If I don’t give in, will they hate me forever? I know the answers. Yet, I struggle with the feeling of inadequacy that comes from relationship strife between my sons and me.
I will continue to hold fast, stand strong, and ‘stick to my guns’, wavering though they may be. I will continue to try to make him laugh, give him (seemingly) unwanted attention, and pushed-away hugs. I will stand near, in hopes his need for me arises from the ashes of his anger and staunch belief that ‘life isn’t fair’. I will continue to pep talk myself into oblivion, repeating the phrase: ‘This too shall pass’. And I will pray, ‘Lord, help me to be the parent he needs. Even when it is hard. Even when I don’t feel comfortable. Even when he’s upset with me. Help me to teach him…the way you have taught me.’.
Discipline is not comfortable for the child OR the parent. Yet, it is necessary for growth. For understanding and connection and the ability of these young men to function in a world they do not understand. Heck, none of us understand the present world in which we live. But there are rules. They must be followed to stay safe, be successful, and have abundant peace each night when their head hits the pillow and rest overtakes their body, mind, and soul.
“You can’t withhold your love from me forever!” I shout. I know, deep down, in my mother’s heart of hearts, he won’t. He still loves me. And standing firm in my resolve will only make him love me more…though he may not fully realize it until he is confronted with disciplining his own child, many years down the road. I will wait patiently, knowing fully that discipline is an essential part of love.