Leading by Example
When I picked Brogan up from the sitter’s today, he was in one of those moods. He was running all over the house, talking (obnoxiously and intentionally) loud while the sitter was taking an important call, picking on Beckett (like, literally trying to pick his nose), and not listening to anything I asked of him. And then it was time to make it to the car. Now this daily ritual is always a fun one. Beckett demands to “walk!” (one of his new words), he screams when you put in him his car seat because he wants to turn on the overhead “light!” (another new word). Then he wants to help buckle himself in. Meanwhile Brogan is typically running around the car, ignoring instruction to get in. He’s typically picking up rocks or acorns, or he’s taken off to ride the lawnmower parked in the carport. But today, he decides he’s going to drive my car. Which means he’s in the driver’s seat, turning on my lights, honking the horn, blaring the radio, buckling himself in and locking me out. And while I’m equipped with the keys, the very act of him hitting the lock button and starring at me through the window with the nah-nah-na-na-nah grin is enough to send my blood boiling. Breath.
I finally negotiated him into his car seat, but by this point, my nerves were shot and I was highly aggravated. Then Brogan asks (because the sun was in his eyes), “Mommy, can I wear your sunglasses?” “No.” I responded. “When you don’t listen and you misbehave, I don’t do nice things for you.” This was not the first time I’d given him this response. Previously it felt right, like a justifiable response. In the moment today, it felt good too. It was like, Ha! You don’t listen to me, I’ll show you! But after that fleeting moment of vindication, another thought occurred to me… what am I teaching him? Am I teaching him that acts of (my) kindness are dependent on him acting a certain way? Am I teaching him that when someone upsets him, he too should resort to pettiness? Am I teaching him that some part of my love is conditional? I thought I was teaching him that there are consequences to his bad behavior, but that was not the message I was left with today. I began thinking about the parallels with a marriage. I believe that a marriage is a 100/100 proposition – each spouse should give a 100% regardless of what the other is giving. It is not 50/50. But I felt like in this tit for tat I had going on with Brogan, I was not giving him my all. Shouldn’t I be leading by example? Shouldn’t I show him giving, and consideration despite his rough attitude? After all, that’s how I try to live my life in other arenas. Why does my maturity wane when I’m tested by a three-year-old? Maybe it’s because it my non-mom world, people don’t relentlessly aggravate me until I’m shouting four-letter words under my breath (typically), but it’s really no excuse. I’m the adult. It’s really mind over matter, and I should learn how to deal. In this circumstance, I was not wearing my sunglasses, the sun was legitimately in his eyes, and they were within my reach. I simply said no because I was pissed, and I wanted to make him mad too… and somehow teach him a lesson. Well today, I was taught the lesson. I need to be the example of a caring and calm adult who does not let her emotions dictate her behavior. Funny how I get on to Brogan about not being able to manage his emotions, but I can’t always manage mine. Funny how I tell Brogan to share, to be nice to his brother, to calm down (and take deep breaths), and to lose his smart-mouth attitude, but then my go-to response contradicts all those things I say. The good thing about today was that I had a moment of clarity that reminded me I have to show him. Trying to be a good parent is a daily mission and I’m coming to believe it’s a perpetual work in progress. But I’m going to keep on working.