One of the main jobs of parents is to civilize their children. We are supposed to teach them how to live responsibly and courteously with the rest of society. Now, I have been around boys all of my life, but parenting and trying to civilize two of these creatures has turned out to be quite a challenge for me.
Today, I felt like I had made a small measure of progress with my older son. During our marathon shopping session today, he burped in the middle of the store and then started laughing. Not seeing much progress yet? Well, at that point I hadn't either, but after I said his name he quickly said, "I am embarrassed now." I made sure that he was embarrassed by what he did - not because he got in trouble. I don't know for sure whether he really was embarrassed, but at least faking it to be polite is part of being civilized. Right?
The next opportunity for teaching occurred shortly after that. We left the store (which happened to be a party store) without buying anything. We were about to get in the van when I noticed that the little one's shirt was tucked in one side and looked a little odd. When I asked him what had happened to his shirt and reached to fix it, I felt a familiar object. It was a container of mini m&m's. I knew the shape, but it was not supposed to be in his pants. Further probing revealed a miniature Reese's peanut butter cup, too. I looked all in his pants to make sure that was all he had taken and then told him he would have to take it back into the store and tell them he had taken it. Now, I understand that the little one is very little, but he also knows better than to take things we have not paid for. Considering his food-sneaking ways (which have been documented many times in this blog), I was not surprised that he was the one to do this first, or that the pilfered items were candy. Anyway, he became very shy on the way back into the store. He tried just putting the candy back where it belonged, but I wouldn't let him do that. I told him he had to give it back to the workers and tell them he had taken it. I put the items on the counter and waited for them to finish with a customer. When they turned to me, I turned to him, and he had backed away and was trying to "disappear". He wanted me to tell them for him, so I did. One of the ladies looked very stern and without saying anything to me walked around the counter and came over to us. She got to my son, called him by name (which she had heard me call him) ... and thanked him for coming back and giving the candy back. She got a (somewhat hesitant) high-five out of him, too. (I quietly thanked her for this as we left.) We headed back to the van and I could tell that my son was very embarrassed about all of this, so I picked him up and carried him to the van. He put his head on my shoulder and held me tight. I was a little worried that he was going to start crying, but he didn't. I told him when we got to the van that everybody does bad stuff sometimes, but he did the right thing by taking the candy back inside - and that was important. It was a hard lesson for him, I think, but I hope he will remember it.
A parent's job is not easy, but it is important. Now it is time for another important part of my job - loving on my boys (and embarrassing them with hugs and kisses).
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