I’d already told her it was bedtime, yet my five-year-old was running around the house like a crazy person. Threats were made, and she disappeared.
Then she returned.
I had no choice but to follow through. The object she’d been playing with went straight into the garbage – just like I’d promised it would if she didn’t listen.
I took her little hand in mine and calmly walked her, wailing at the top of her lungs, straight to her bedroom. I tucked her in, told her I loved her, gave her a kiss, and explained that I hoped she’d make better choices tomorrow.
Then I walked away as she sobbed uncontrollably.
I hated every minute.
It was even worse that the previous evening had ended nearly exactly the same way. Hysterical kiddo and irritated mama, which then ruined the whole nighttime mojo for the rest of the family.
I was over it all. And I was over it even more because the day up until that point had been fantastic. Summer fun, memories made, good family time.
All suddenly tinged with this awful conclusion.
Here’s the deal. I’m not under the mistaken impression that I can “be friends with my kids.” I know that they need an authority figure, and that my primary role is “Mom.”
But I also love to hang out with them. They’re fun little people, they’re old enough that I’m no longer bound by nap schedules, and frankly I love me some summer fun.
However, I’ve discovered that summer fun puts a serious damper on my kids’ ability to behave.
I’m not exactly sure what it is, but I have a theory: During the summer months the schedule is relaxed. We joke around more. Things aren’t quite so structured. So my kids don’t think they “have to” obey when things get serious again.
I remember this happening during previous summers, too. I remember sitting on my couch thinking, “I don’t think we can ever have fun. I just have to be the ‘strict mom’ all the time.”
It’s disheartening. I want to have fun with my kids – and I want them to have fun experiences. But I also know that kids need structure, and it feels like sometimes they’re incapable of moving between “fun mode” and “real life” without some serious drama.
Being a mom is hard. And it’s even harder when we have to follow through with consequences when every fiber of our being doesn’t want to.
But if this experience has taught me anything, it’s that I must. Even when it’s awful, when my heart breaks, and when my mind tells me that I’m somehow irreparably damaging my relationship with my child.
Because I’m not.
I’m doing it because I love them and want the best for them. And though it may be painful in the moment it will be worth it in the long run.
Because if I don’t parent properly, the stakes will be even bigger as my kids get older.
So for now I’ll still have fun with my kids. But I’ll also be extra mindful that transitioning back to a normal schedule may be challenging. And I’ll also make sure to spend extra time listening attentively when they’re droning on about Minecraft, Pokemon, LOL Surprise Dolls, or uninteresting sports statistics.
Because it’s those moments that build the bridges. The bridges that tell my kids “I’m interested” and “I want a relationship” and “I see you.” They build the bridges that form the foundation without compromising the overall authority I need to maintain as “Mom.”
I’ll be honest. More than anything, I want to be friends with my kids – because I adore them and I think they’re amazing. But I’m willing to sacrifice that during this season for their long-term benefit. We can have a relationship that may at times resemble friendship, but in the end defers to the relationship of parent.
Because my kids need that the most, and I’m coming to understand that they can’t handle moving between a non-authoritative relationship and an authoritative one; it just confuses them and makes things harder on all of us.
How do you feel about the idea that you can be friends with your kids?