When the topic of One Parenting Lesson We Learned the Hard Way was chosen for this round robin blog series I knew exactly what my story would be. All that was left was to figure out if I am willing to tell you all this raw, hard tale or would I substitute it for a hilarious story about maxi pads and Christmas Eve.
Lucky (or unlucky) for you I am pulling up my big girl panties and braving the vulnerability that accompanies telling you about my hard learned lesson.
If you have been reading around here for a while you may have gathered that I used to be a different sort of mama. I believed all sort of things about parenting that when I look back are more the result of fear than trying to lovingly guide my children through their growing up years.
One such fear based tactic happened during the summer that my son was 4. We were visiting my father in law and his wife for probably a week of vacation. Like all good grandparents, my father in law had a noisy toy for the grandkids to play with. In this case, it was a harmonica.
The high pitched squeak of the harmonica being forcefully blown into by my preschooler was driving me completely bonkers. (I have a thing about noise). A quick decision was made, the harmonica could only be played outside.
I don’t recall how long it was before I heard the beastly instrument being played in the living room again, but when I did I marched over to Hudson just in time to see him hide the harmonica behind his back. That is when mistake number one occurred.
“Were you playing the harmonica in here?” I asked brusquely.
The wide-eyed boy shook his head at me. “No.”
In case you have already missed the first lesson let me spell it out for you. Don’t ask a question you already know the answer to.
Not only was I super strict mom at the point but I feared my children sinning. Lying of all things. That was a sure way the devil would get a foothold in my 4-year-old son’s life. Now comes mistake number two. I put a few drops of hot sauce on my son’s tongue as punishment for lying.
If you want to stop reading this now and decide that you officially hate me, go ahead I understand.
A week after that visit Craig’s dad sent us an email. A horrible, terrible, life-changing email. In it, he called us borderline abusive parents. He raged about my behavior with the hot sauce, and he made a few other harsh observations about our parenting choices as well. He had taken it upon himself to order us some parenting books that he thought would help us out. He was brave and stood up for what is right even though it was very uncomfortable for him.
Upon reading this letter I went into full on grief mode. Anger surged through me. I cried at the drop of a hat. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. This man thought I was a bad mother. The very thing I was pouring my life into had been attacked by someone I loved.
(Confession: I burned the books he sent)
It didn’t happen right away, but I did learn so many lessons from this whole torturous experience and I am actually grateful for many of the things that were pointed out to me in the email.
I learned that I was doing a lot of wrong things as a mother and that my fear should not lay in my children making mistakes, but in whether or not I am loving them enough that they will come to me with their failures.
I learned that second and third and fourth chances provide the opportunity to support my children instead of punishing them.
I learned that things will probably turn out just fine without me being a force to reckon with.
I (sort of) learned to forgive myself. I think it’s probably important that I still have regrets about that time in my life so that I remember the damage that happened, but I also use it as a benchmark to see how far I have come.
What parenting lessons have you learned the hard way?
Be sure to read the rest of the bloggers writing about the lessons they learned the hard way:
Shawna @ Simple On Purpose
Louise @ Talk Nerdy to Me
Jac and Juli @ Two Fun Moms