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Parenting On Credit

A couple nights ago Cora’s cat opened her door (yes, all by herself) and ran free through the house. Around 3 a.m. we heard the sound of glass shattering, bolted out of bed, and ran down the stairs.

To find a crystal vase filled with roses had been knocked off a table, and there were crystal shards. Everywhere.

Brian and I spent a grueling forty-five minutes painstakingly cleaning up all the shards from the blast radius. I hovered over the floor, barely skimming it with my hand to pick up every sliver, every shard, making sure the floor was clean enough to perform surgery on by the time I was done.

As we climbed wearily back into bed, my sweet husband patted me on the back and said encouragingly, “You’re such a good mom, working so hard in the middle of the night to make sure your girls are safe and don’t get a piece of glass in their feet.”

And since I was tired and wanting to be crabby and argumentative, I righteously wrapped my martyrdom around me like a cozy blanket and said grumpily, “It’s just because I don’t want to deal with them getting a tiny splinter in their foot and then me having to listen to them complain while I try to dig the shard out. I’m just being pre-emptively lazy.”

When I woke up the next morning and recalled the conversation, I was first ashamed at how I slapped down my husband’s compliment, but then rather proud of myself for the “pre-emptively lazy” phrase. And I marveled at how many areas of my parenting that statement could fit.

Countless times every parent is forced to answer the question: Pay now, or pay later? Do I take an excruciating amount of time/patience/energy to deal with this the right way, or do I let it slide/bribe the kid/ignore the outburst and face the consequence of that down the road?

My friend Abby pointed this out to me early in our parenting years, and I’ve never looked at discipline the same way. I know that every time I look the other way when a child is mean to her sister because I “don’t want to deal”, I’m making it that much harder down the line to reinforce consistently good choices.

Not that there isn’t a time for parenting on a layaway plan. There are days when you’re sick as a dog, and then it’s perfectly ok to park your kids in front of the television for eight hours straight and let them eat sticks of butter and Doritos all day because you simply can’t get out of bed. Sure, you’ll hear about it in two days when your three-year-old throws a Mount Vesvius-size tantrum over only watching one tv show, and your five year old can’t poop for six days, but sometimes that’s just the way life is.

On the whole, though, I find my life is much easier if I just suck it up and do it right the first time so I don’t have to go back and clean up my own mess – which, let’s be honest, will be exponentially bigger the second time around – at a later date. And by re-naming this thing, I’m not a perfectionist or holding my parenting to high standards – I’m doing the work now so I can cruise a bit in the near future.

Pre-emptively lazy. That’s me.


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