There's times when being a parent is so frustrating - and so hard. There are times when you know what the right thing is to do as a parent - even though it is tough on everyone.
Yesterday was one of those days. James and Anna both have been having a very hard time listening, obeying, and being respectful of others. I'm not sure if it stems from the sibling rivalry that has descended on our house, the anticipation of Christmas, or just the barometric pressure - but truth be told - both of them spent the better part of their Thanksgiving holiday in time out. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration - but really, they were separated from each other quite a bit, and both did spend a significant amount of time 'thinking about what they had done.'
In addition to sparring with each other, they have been horrible about not listening to Deonne and I. When we try to talk to them or direct them to a task - they either blatantly refuse, ignore, or do the complete polar opposite.
Which is frustrating in and of itself - but compounded when safety is a concern. It may be one thing for James to ignore me and skip and run away in the backyard - but when he's headed down the driveway for the street - or away from me in the parking lot at school - then it's a whole other issue. Patience runs thin. I get very upset and angry. He listens even less. Repeat cycle.
So far it's been limited to home - but yesterday surfaced in his preschool class. The kids work hard to earn their symbol of a 'good' day at school by a colored bear system. Green Bear - awesome day. Yellow Bear - okay day. Red Bear - horrible day.
I think if they had a Black Bear that James would have earned it yesterday.
The same old stuff he's been doing at home - not listening, disobeying, not following the rules, being unruly, talking out of turn - being a disrespectful turd. Apparently he was SO bad that they had to take him to another teacher to administer a stern talking to.
So when I picked him up yesterday, I was very excited as we were off to the church Advent activity party for kids. Dinner and crafts for children all centered around this season of expectation. The kids had been looking forward to it all week (they'd been given handouts about it in their respective Sunday school classes), and truth be told I was as well. Deonne and I had arranged for him to pick up Jack so I could spend some time with my older two without wrangling a 19 month old.
When I found out about his day - his teacher and I had a talk - and we were both of the opinion that he shouldn't get to participate in the Advent party. Fun things like parties are rewards for good behavior. But his little face fell when we talked to him about staying until Daddy could pick him up and not going to church just about broke both mine and his teacher's hearts. And it was church, right? How could I deny my child the opportunity to learn about the LORD?
So we talked, and negotiated, and decided that he could go to the Advent party - but in exchange, he was losing his family movie night on Friday. Now, Friday Movie Night is a big deal for the Party kids - so to tell him he had to stay in his room while we all watched a movie was devastating to him. However, we all agreed that if has Green Bear days both today (Thursday) and tomorrow (Friday) he could earn it back.
So. Off we go to pick up Anna from her school and head to church.
In the car on the way there we talked at length about staying close to me - not running off - listening and obeying - as I could only imagine how crazy the Fellowship Hall would be with the entire congregation of children doing crafts at different stations. I didn't want to risk losing track of him and having to chase him around in circles to obey.
He agreed wholeheartedly - that he would be a good boy and "obey right away without delay."
And then we arrived at Anna's school - and as soon as he was unbuckled from his seat - he was off and running away. Down the sidewalk and into the school, long before I could ever reach him. And upon entering the cafeteria, he started grabbing the pen parents use to sign their kids out from After Care, then running around the tables, digging in the cart of craft stuff, and NOT listening to a word I was saying.
Anna, thankfully, had a great day (she's been an angel at school - she has incentive. She needs 10 days of Smiley Face Days in a row to get to go see that new movie Tangled.) She happily put her homework away, picked up her coat, got in the car, buckled herself in and was excited as all get-out to go to the Advent party.
And then I had to make the call - I had to make the decision.
We didn't go to church. We missed the Advent party. I just couldn't risk James' behavior being so awful, nor could I continue to reward his behavior.
So we went home.
James went to his room (screaming and stomping the entire way up two flights of stairs.) Anna was sad about not going (my little craft girl) but perked up when I told her she could watch a movie before dinner.
It would have been much easier to just let it slide - to let it go - and take him to church. And that little voice in my head kept saying 'it's CHURCH - how can you deny them that?'
But the bigger voice told me I was doing the right thing. Even though it was hard. And it sucked.
This is one of those parts of parenting they don't tell you about in that "What to Expect" book we all read as pregnant mommies....