So, my 13 year old came to us several weeks ago. She wanted us to write a note to excuse her from a club meeting so she could go to IHOP with some friends for free pancake day. It happened to be St. Patrick’s day, so not only would the pancakes have been free, they would have been green. A once in a lifetime kind of morning! For REAL dude! When she realized we weren’t going to write the note, in her tirade and tears, she passionately let us know that if we didn’t let her go THAT day, she’d have to wait an entire year before she could have this experience again. She’d have to wait until NEXT St. Patrick’s Day. How could we?! How COULD we?!
Let’s face it. Our children aren’t always the best at making decisions. Kids are completely emotional and erratic, and teenagers…ahem…as I’m now discovering… are a more formidable version of the littler ones! My 13 year old wanted to not only miss her service club meeting that morning, she was ready to quit the club over it.
To our credit, my husband and I started out well that night. We came out of the gate with a principled response: Keeping one’s commitments is important. We will not write you a note. You will not be going to IHOP for free pancakes, green as they may be. To my daughter’s credit, she listened to our response, got a little upset, but then went upstairs to pull herself together. The trouble started when she came back down to make her case…as teenagers should…as to why we should let her go.
The arguments went on and on…and on. Aspiring to be “good parents” we listened to every single one…and tried to respond and explain and be logical…which was exactly where the evening went down hill. It wasn’t up for discussion, but in our…okay…MY… fear of “wounding” my child, I felt I had to listen and empathize and give her room to express herself.
What I missed is that she wasn’t expressing herself as much as she was trying to get ME to EXPRESS a little breast milk. A little oh-my-poor-baby-I-just-have-to-give-in-so-as-not-to-scar-you-for-life milk. Ugh! Well…I’m sorry to say…it worked. I leaked… But just a little.
We still didn’t write the note.
We just got wrapped up in a convoluted process of trying to reason with someone who wasn’t about to see reason. Instead of just reiterating the principle—keeping commitments is important—and walking away, we got sucked into her emotion. As it turns out, her friend later canceled the IHOP trip, and another friend begged her not to quit the club. But this didn’t happen until an hour or so into it. Great.
But what lesson?
Need I say more?