When your child breaks a rule, you dish out a punishment or have a word of reprimand or both. What happens when you break the rules? Well, here’s the good news, you still get to blame the child!
We had a set of new rules put in place for the new home to remain ‘new’ and un-spoilt for a while. One of them being the ‘no food or drink upstairs rule’ and it applied to kids and adults alike. I guess I need to tell you what “upstairs” really means. The upstairs of our home, along with bedrooms, also consists of a media-room which has been combined with the kids’ toy room to use the space to its full potential. So it is actually the whole family’s paradise, we have our T.V. and they have their toys (well they have a lot for them in the T.V. too). When I say that our family of four occupies this room most of their waking hours (school and office hours obviously do not count), believe me, I am not exaggerating. It is a truthful statement accounting for an urban life. Phone conversations, internet surfing, playing games, reading books and even finishing homework, all happens in this room and in front of the Television.
Just a couple of months back, even dinnertime was not a sacred affair. Quite frankly, it was easier to get the kids eat their veggies with this one bribe always at hand.
With the shift in residence, somehow, the parenting expert in me awakened and I decided enough was enough. It was time we figured out how it was to eat our meals in front of each other for a change.
To my surprise, there was no opposition at all (that should have actually given me an idea of how non-seriously they took it). The reason they didn’t raise their voices, especially my better half is because they might have taken this as one of my random and fleeting ‘live better’ whims. Like the time I had decided to take a walk for 20 minutes every evening, no matter what the weather. A decision, which took a dive with the temperatures on the 6th freezing day. Or like when I declared that the only kind of rice to be cooked in this household would be brown rice. This one didn’t make it through even half the week; the craving for white rice got the better of me after a couple of meals.
So well, when I said “no food upstairs”, the hubby and my kids, all nodded in (supposedly) sincere agreement.
It all started with a cup of tea, then a small bowl of chips and soon the whole dinner tray followed. On weekends we even started carrying mid-night snacks upstairs to munch while watching latest Hindi movies. I protested a little but gave in easily, old habits die hard, they say and I agree. We happily settled back into the old routine of eating in front of the television with an added effort of carrying dinner upstairs until last Friday, when a spill and a scream left me with a heavy heart.
I had my dinner last. The start to a weekend leaves me in a good mood and I felt like indulging myself, so cooked up Maggie, boiled some hot tea and carried the tray to the media room. The younger one was already asleep and my 1st grader was making valentine cards for us. After relishing every noodle to the fullest, I set my plate and cup of tea on the carpet right next to where I was seated. Here I must mention what parents reading this must already know, kids have a knack for toppling things.
Twice, she already, nearly turned the cup over and with a strict warning I told her not to come anywhere near the leftover tea. Me and hubby argued for exactly 5 minutes on who should go down and put the plate in the sink (because the probability of the carpet being stained was directly proportional to every minute my 6 year old remained awake). None of us were in the mood to move and the plate and the cup remained. “Go sweetie brush your teeth and go to bed” the minute I finished saying that, a scream came out from me. ‘Sweetie’ had come around to where I was sitting, knocking the cup down, spilling some tea on our brand new carpet.
I was furious, he was even more furious. Together, we pounced on her verbally, pointing out how careless she had been inspite of our repeated warnings, before rushing to clean the carpet. She burst into tears and soon fled to her room. Rubbing the cleaner furiously over the carpet, I was still fuming mad. The ‘told you so’ from hubby annoyed me even more.
Ten minutes later, anger evaporated and guilt settled in. I mean I was still angry but it had been redirected. It was all my fault and I blamed my sweet lil girl just because she is still at an age when she ‘has’ to listen to what mommy has to say. She hadn’t even protested, just sat there listening to our angry words, huge tears dropping down those baby cheeks.
Why don’t parents think twice before blaming the children for their own mistakes? Is it because they really think it was the kid’s fault or is it because making a mistake in front of their children hurts their ego? I think it is a bit of both.
I don’t know how long I sat on the couch crying, but slowly, I wiped the water running down my eyes and went to her room. “It’s Friday and you always sleep in our room, remember?’ I brushed her hair aside. “I don’t want to, not today, not EVER.” She angrily shot back, half in sleep, half still in tears. “Mommy is sorry, and she will be very sad if you don’t sleep next to her tonight”, I apologized, kissing her forehead. She stayed quiet, taking this to be a yes; I lifted her up and carried my baby to our room. She hold on to me tight and I snuggled closer to her, grateful for the innocence and her forgiveness.
There are some lessons in life that you learn the hard way, but once you do, you never forget them. For me, this was one of them. We teach our children to accept responsibility for their actions, but do WE?