Tuesday, June 11, 2013

My Favorite Redhead and a Discipline Blunder

Sibling spats are tough on an aunt who wants to be a gentler role model than she was with her own children.

This morning didn’t go well before my nieces left for school. I failed big time when I stepped in as their uninvited referee. Immediately, guilt and memories of my own parenting blunders came a knocking.

Aubrey mishandled something that belonged to her twin sister. Not only once, but twice within five minutes. The second time, I told her to return Amber’s property, a bracelet.

My favorite little redhead

An Irish redhead with a stubborn streak, Aubrey dug in her heels. I counted to three. When she didn’t handover the jewelry, I snatched it from her grasp and gave it to Amber.

Aubrey opened the basement door and ran downstairs, crying. Amber’s facial expression told me I had goofed up. She followed after her sister in hot pursuit. When Amber returned a few minutes later, she no longer had her bracelet.

What’s the point in me settling their dispute if the one being wronged gives into the other?

You know what’s ironic? I had no right to silently judge Amber’s action. With only ten minutes until the school bus arrived, I didn’t want the mood for Aubrey’s day to be set by that confrontation. So, down the stairs I flew to smooth out her ruffled feathers. Not only was I met with a cold shoulder, but Aubrey wouldn’t even take the tissue I held out to dry her tears and blow her nose.

After they left to start their school day, I sat snuggling with the dogs. Memories of how abrupt I could be with my own youngsters came flooding back. Granted, all I did was snatch the bracelet from Aubrey, but I did so in a rough way.

Their mom is a gentle soul with a firm yet gentler parenting style than I had. These two young girls don’t know any other type of discipline. As I thought about how I yanked the jewelry from my niece’s hand, waves of guilt crashed against the walls of my chest. Wanting to talk to someone, I phoned my now 26-year-old son but got his voicemail.

If I had the chance to do motherhood all over again, I would have slowed down and enjoyed my kids more when they were younger. I would have avoided slamming the car door in the midst of my little girl’s run-on sentences, only to tell her to continue her story once I was seated behind the steering wheel. And after one of my teenager's acts of defiance, I would have gently grabbed his arm instead of leaving indentations from my fingernails.

Such attempts for control are irrelevant now. In hindsight, I realize that type of control crushes a young person’s spirit. I’ve often wondered if my adult children have emotional scars from those trying times.

Halfway through writing this story, my son returned my phone call. I told him about the incident with my nieces. I quipped that I was calling to see if I was a good mother. He chuckled.

I asked if he remembered my curt parenting at times. If he remembered me shutting the car door in the middle of our conversations. If he remembered me grabbing his arm, my nails digging in his skin.

He couldn’t recall those specific moments and said, “You were a great mom.”

I know he wasn’t sugarcoating my concerns. And I know he wasn't overlooking those circumstances from his childhood. He just didn’t remember them.

I… was… a... great... mom.

Typing those words, I’m now the one who needs the tissues meant for Aubrey’s tears.