I love my kids so much, it hurts – so when I have an epic fail as a mom, like, epic fail…it wrecks me. Today, was an epic fail day. And it’s not even 8 a.m.
My oldest has been struggling with his grades. I could make excuses and tell you it’s because he’s got processing delay issues, was on an IEP since the age of 2, or that his hearing loss has contributed to the way he learned to speak. But that’s not the case…it’s sheer laziness. He doesn’t like to do homework. He’s 15. Who does? But it’s part of his grade, so it’s gotta get done. And being the terrible mom I am, I not only ask him to do the homework, but want to see it, to make sure it’s been done. (I’ve been fooled before)
I even try to offer incentives, you know, like bribery. So when I told him I would buy that super-cool sweatshirt he wanted, but he had to earn it. I meant it. I even set rules. I said he had to bring two of his grades up. Not all of them. Not an insane amount of work. Not unrealistic expectations. Most of his grades were already Bs. But two were not. Not even close. So when I told him I’d get him the sweatshirt once he earned it, we shook on it. Good. Agreed. Negotiation done.
Well, the sweatshirt arrived early. Yesterday actually. One day before his progress report comes out. One day before his Spanish test, that he’s been studying hard to ace. He even stayed after with his teacher. He’s been doing the work.
And here’s where the epic fail comes into play.
I let him see it. No…worse than that. I let him try it on. What was I thinking? I knew once he tried it on, he’d want immediate gratification. I managed to get him to take it off and put it back in the bag. Done. Wait until he officially earns it and then give it to him. Yes, yes that was the plan.
So when he asked if he could wear it this morning, as “good luck” for his Spanish test, I should have said, “no” – I should have explained the rules again. I should have. But I didn’t. Epic fail part 2.
As soon as he came down the stairs with the sweatshirt on, I saw the look on my husband’s face. Sheer disbelief and dare I say, disappointment? Mayday! Mayday! Abort! Abort! But he was already wearing it. He was smiling. Happy. I couldn’t make him take it off now. That would be bad. That would cause an almost guaranteed argument.
And then my middle son came down. He saw his brother wearing it. His face said it all. And I knew, I’d make an epic mistake. I let him have a reward without earning it.
But my oldest was smiling. He was so happy.
And then, it was all a blur….I remember telling him to take off the sweatshirt…that I had to do the right thing…that I had to set an example for my other children, and what lesson would they learn if I let him wear that before he actually earned it? But he didn’t hear any of it…it was like a movie in slow motion…things happening…his face, shocked. Then angry. Him, getting up from the kitchen table and going up to his room…me, calling after him trying to explain…it was all just ugly. All of it, completely unnecessary. If I’d just stuck to the agreement… This was all on me. I did this.
He left for school without the sweatshirt. Without saying goodbye to me. Without my usual hug and “love you, too” – that stung. That pained me.
Being a parent is hard. It’s incredibly hard. Mistakes get made. But in those mistakes are lessons to be learned.
So I’ll sit here and lick my wounds for a bit. I’ll get over it. He’ll get over it. We’ll hug it out. We’ll forgive.
This won’t be my only fail. This won’t be his only incentive.
In the end, he will earn it. And I hope when he does, he has a sense of pride, accomplishment and satisfaction. Working hard for something you want is fundamental, not just within these four walls, but in life.