Wednesday, July 27, 2011

This either makes me a really stellar Mom or one of the worst Moms in history. You be the judge.

Today is Foster's 6th birthday. He had YMCA Superhero camp all day, today, so I jumped out of bed at 6:30am and ran out to get the traditional Birthday Donuts (the way we begin every birthday in our little family), so he'd have that before going to camp for the day. Hubby and I had put up decorations last night, and we let him open one present this morning, before he left. We also bought enough cookies to feed the entire camp, so Fos would be able to share something special with his fellow campers and camp counselors. We were really looking forward to doing the big celebration, when he and Spence got home.

Another family tradition is "The Birthday Code." This particular tradition involves hiding presents in various locations around the house, and the birthday kiddo decoding special messages to find them. I worked on the coded messages last night, so all I had to do was hide the presents in their assigned secret spots. Fos loves figuring out the coded messages, so I knew he'd be excited.

John left to pick the boys up for camp, while I hid the presents, brought out the camera, got the cake ready (adding sprinkles, because, frankly, the cake was a bit lame, considering what we paid for it), and popped a pizza in the oven. I could hardly wait to see Foster and to celebrate his special day with our family!

Then, John walked in. One look at his face, and I knew it hadn't been a good day at camp. Nope. Not good at all. BOTH boys were written up at camp, today. Spence, for uttering, in frustration, a certain expression he picked up from a fellow First Grader this Spring: "Son-of-a-b-----!"  (Now, there is one expletive that I am fully guilty of uttering from time-to-time, especially when Lucy digs up my vegetables, so I'd be willing to accept responsibility, if that's what he had said. But, it wasn't. Therefore, not my fault. Not this time. I can blame it on a kid, instead. Someone else's kid, even. Whew!) Fos, my challenging, impulsive little Fos, was written up for being mean to a girl camper and for being disrespectful to his camp counselors. On. His. Birthday. Great.

So, what are you supposed to do in this situation? Here's your little boy. Love of your life. Just turned 6 years old, and you want to lavish him with love and attention and the presents you picked out especially for him, just to celebrate his very existence and to show him how lucky you feel to have him in your life. But, how is that possible, when he just got formally written up for being rotten all day??? He violated our family rules and the camp rules, and we're going to give him cake and ice cream? How does that make sense, or teach him any responsibility for his actions???

But, how do you take away your kid's birthday? I mean, seriously, how do you do that?

I'll tell you how, and I'm starting to cry again, right here at the computer, just thinking about it:

Step One: Have an emergency parent meeting in the kitchen. In urgent whispers, try to come to some kind of consensus about the right thing to do.

Step Two: Start to cry, when you realize that you and your hubby are about to take away your kid's birthday celebration.

Step Three: Pull yourself together, and have a family meeting in the living room, during which you talk about the behaviors that were not appropriate, let your children know that you love them very much, but that you do not love the choices they have made, and then ask, "Do you think that you deserve a birthday celebration after the choices you made today?" (Crossing your fingers, knowing the answer could go either way.) When the birthday boy looks up at you with big, sad, blue eyes and says, "No, I don't.", you quickly walk into the kitchen, again, so that he won't see the tears welling up in your eyes.

Step Four: You realize that there is no friggin' way you are going to be able to pull yourself together, so you look up at your husband with your own big, sad, weepy eyes, silently begging him to take over from here. He recognizes that you are losing it, so he takes charge of the kids, while you quickly put away the birthday cake, and then throw yourself onto your bed, where you sob uncontrollably at the very thought of NOT celebrating your baby's birthday with him today.

Step Five:  The phone rings. It's Grandma and Grampy, calling to sing "Happy Birthday" to their grandson. Instead, they get to listen to their adult daughter having an emotional meltdown for 10 full minutes. Not quite what they were expecting...

Step Six: Hubby leaves for his soccer game. You take birthday boy into his room to tuck him in. Before you can help yourself, you are sobbing again. Then, he falls apart. Thinking he is upset about his presents and cake, you ask him why he is sad. His reply? "Because I made you cry, Mommy. Please don't cry anymore."  Ouch. Physical pain to the heart.

Step Seven: You and birthday boy cling to each other, bawling your eyes out for a few minutes. Then, you grab the kleenex so you can both blow your noses. You tell him, again, that you love him very much, and that he will have the chance to make tomorrow a "do-over day." He clings to you once more, then looks up at you with those eyes, those eyes that can break your heart, and says, "You are the best Mommy in the universe." Which, of course, makes you start to cry all over again. Because you are the very same Mommy who took away his birthday celebration. And, he still thinks you're the best Mommy in the universe.

What. A. Day.

God, being a parent is tough. 

So, did I do the right thing? I guess that time will tell...



  1. Now I am crying girl. I am in awe of your ability to choose the hard, painful choice. I think you already have your answer too... Fos gave it to you when you tucked him ...

  2. You are an AMAZING mother. Not many would have the strength to do what you did, but it was exactly the right thing to do. Your boys will grow up to be amazing young men! Go MOM!!

  3. Well, that's certainly not what you planned, but yes, I too think you did the right, albeit painful thing. Being a good parent sucks sometimes for sure, but the end result is more gratifying. Hang in there!

  4. Stephanie, Jody, Ellen...Thank you SO much for your words of support. :)

  5. Totally emotional over here...we have had to make hard calls like that too..not on a bday but still hard never the less. Yet, as a teacher thanks for taking one for the team so his future teachers won't have to. I fully believe that if parents do the hard part now, by the time they are older they will know right from wrong and follow rules so you won't have to worry when they are 17!

  6. Oh, Beth - you and John did the exactly correct thing. Not only did the punishment fit the crime, but he agreed with what you had already decided was the right thing to do. I know it wasn't fun so I send belated hugs to you and John. Hope the "do over" day went better.
    Nancy R :-)

  7. Can I just say how much I love that there are wonderful women (and men...sorry guys) out there who are willing to reach across cyberspace and share words of support and encouragement??? I love that! Cheers!