childhood, motherhood, parenting

Consequence Parenting

The Little Man couldn’t find his favorite sweatjacket this morning. It turned him into the Tasmanian Devil.  He was running around the house pulling out drawers, rifling through closets, and yelling back at his sister that he did put it on the coatrack where it was supposed to be. It’s a mystery. I suspect he’ll come home after school and find it crumpled on the floor in his room. I just pointed out that his laundry had been folded by the First Reader and I, and it was his responsibility to take care of it from there.

Responsibility for our actions is, in some ways, the very nutshell of being an adult. If we don’t put away our laundry, or plan ahead (at the very least!) and lay out what we need at night so we aren’t rushing in the morning, then we have to deal with the stress of consequences. The Ginja Ninja has been dealing with this recently as we’ve pointed out that not doing one’s chores has consequences. The Junior Mad Scientist learned recently that being responsible for someone else’s children (babysitting job for the win!) can have great rewards when you are faithful to fulfill your promises.

As parents, we have to not only measure out the actions we take, we have to be conscious that we are modeling for the children how to handle what life throws at them. This weekend was one of chores, and cooking, and laundry, and the most unpleasant chore of the year: taxes. But I did it, and the First Reader pitched in when I was overwhelmed with paperwork to help me out with cooking and dishes. We didn’t make a big deal of it, we just did it. How much of this do the children see? I’m not sure. Sometimes we point out what we’re doing, or we tell them that what’s happening to them is the result of choices they made. But most of the time we’re just living life.

The big conversation around the house this weekend was about budgeting and planning for the future, as we prepare to go house shopping. The other conversation was about cooking, and baking, and being a Good Wife. I have this thing where if I’m not cooking every day and not keeping the house just so, I feel guilty. I’ve never been a good housekeeper, it’s just not something that comes naturally to me. I can clean, and I’ve even done it professionally. And while I love to cook, there are evenings I come home from work and can’t face the kitchen. So this weekend I cooked and baked my heart out, and this week we have crockpot meals planned.

There are times I’d rather not adult. I don’t want to have to plan to run into the store after work and pick up milk, or whatever. I want to go home, put on comfy clothes, and curl up with some art to create while I unwind. I told the First Reader this weekend that if anything happens to him, and the kids are grown and gone, I plan to become a crazy cat lady. Go to work, come home, put a cat on my lap, and… that’s it. I might never leave the house again.

Life rarely travels in predictable lines. We make plans, the universe laughs. The First Reader bought a tiny house planning to die alone. Along came a redheaded woman with clutter and bookshelves full of books, and in her wake came three kids. Now we’re sitting down with the mortgage guy to talk about how much house we can wisely afford, and eyeballing a four-bedroom with a decent yard. Ask me ten years ago, and I’d have said anything other than scientist, author, and artist, but yet, here I am. With the profit and loss sheets to prove it.

What lies in the future? I don’t know, I can’t possibly predict it. I can make plans, and backup-plans, and live below our means so we have savings that allow us to make a move when opportunity knocks. Now, if I can just teach the kids that… some days when you have a headache, or a tummy-ache, you get up and do it anyway. Because it’s not just the dishes/dinner/laundry. It’s the principle of doing what needs doing, and you can translate that from the small chores to the big things in life like jobs, and marriage, and… everything.

If responsibility is the nutshell, it’s not an empty one. It’s full of the sweet richness of a nut, that’s the reward for all of this effort. It’s being able to have a family, and love on them, and cook for them and watch them grow. It’s rolling over at night into the warm solidity of your husband and having him curl an arm over your hip in his sleep. It’s a roof overhead, and food in the pantry, and a job to go to on Monday morning. It’s security, and stability, and all the good things in life at your fingertips. It’s joy, and quiet moments, and excitement when it all goes just right. Happiness is reaping the consequences of your actions when you did good and… and the macarons came out delicious even if they did crack. The little successes build into the big ones.

They don’t have to be perfect, as long as they taste good.

10 thoughts on “Consequence Parenting

  1. I never even thought of measuring my mom’s worth as a wife and mother as a ratio of how many meals she personally prepared. Doubt many people have. Just sayin’.

    1. That’s essentially what the First Reader said. I’m just… I don’t know. Old fashioned, I guess. I spent a lot of years at home with the kids, so it’s weird to adjust to the new reality.

  2. “I spent a lot of years at home with the kids….” THAT is something irreplaceable, that no amount of money can buy. You are to be congratulated, even adored, for that. Too, too many women are not willing to do that these days.

    1. For me, it wasn’t so much a choice as just what needed to be done. Don’t get me wrong: I love my kids and I’m blessed to have been able to stay with them for so long. On the other hand, not being able to get a ‘real’ job and maintain some semblance of a career hampered me later when I was the only one able to support them. Turns out no-one cares if you built a business from the ground up and made it successful when you are job hunting – or if they do care, they count it against you because they assume you won’t be able to take orders.

  3. Admiral William McRaven gave a graduation speech at the University of Texas in 2014. Part of that speech was the “make your bed” section. (if you’ve not seen (youtube) or read it.)
    “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. If, by chance, you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that’s made. That you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”

    1. Tammie, I think you and I are at a similar stage in life. I know you don’t have the time to read/comment much, so it’s nice to see when you take the time to read my blog. And hopefully I can help a bit with the day in and day out of life – even if it’s just that we share problems! I know for me at least, it’s good to not feel alone.

Comments are closed.