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|Now Don't Ask
|“Now don’t ask about spending the night.”
It never failed. I would be headed to spend some time with a friend and my mother would warn me. Yet every time I would ask, “Can she spend the night?” Not only did I ask – I asked in front of my friend and her mother. Naturally that left every one staring at my mother for the answer. If she did not “cave”, boy would I get yelled at going home. I did it to her so many times. She would get so angry.
Inevitably my children do this. We warn them about things yet they charge right into what we asked them not to do. It has to be one of my biggest pet peeves with parenting. I can’t tell you how many times I have said those same words to my kids, yet how many times they’ve called, begged or pleaded in front of the other parent and child. It never helps that the other parent is always the cheerful parent that will accommodate any obstacle that you may have. The problem is – I said no from the get go. My child knows that. My child is trying to manipulate me and the other parent is now aiding and abetting the situation.
Yesterday, Son #2 was having a bit of trouble in the morning getting ready for school. Little bit of failure to take care of his “chores” and little bit of failure to control his smart mouth. The end result was my husband told him he would not be attending wrestling practice after football practice. My son then proceeded to tell my husband that he was definitely going. Great way to start the day.
I walk into the house after work at nearly 9 pm , 14 hours since I last saw Son #2, to hear the story of how my husband went into the wrestling room and removed my son from practice after a mere 5 minutes. (My oldest son is more than happy to chime in on the story as he was not the one in trouble this time.) They tell me that directly after football – Son #2 went upstairs to the wrestling room for off season Mat Club after his father had specifically used that as a punishment. (Son #2 loves nothing more than being in a wrestling room. This punishment was definitely on target.) Son #1 becomes the informant and my husband now has to make the decision. Leave him or go get him.
That wrestling room is going to be full of champion wrestlers, coaches and dads. My husband is a local wrestling coach so he knows these people, which doesn’t help the matter. He is either going to go up there and haul his butt out and embarrass both himself and Son #2 or he is going to cave and let the teenager’s rebellion win. It is so uncomfortable. Why do they have to push things so far? My husband walks in – opens the door – points across the room at my son and with his deep coaching voice says, “Let’s go!”
Clearly, every one turns to look. It is quite an interruption. Not to mention, there is recognition. Conversation begins. Now at this point rather than announcing to everyone there that his son had a smart mouth and is being punished so that he doesn’t humiliate him – he starts tap dancing a bit. Explaining that his wife is working and he is on his own with the kids and he needs to get Son #2 and leave. Now I completely understand why he chose that path. He was trying to diffuse. But what ends up happening is that various offers from parents and wrestlers begin to swirl. So many people are willing to give him a ride home , so he should just let him stay. At this point, my husband looks at Son #2 and says, “It’s up to you.” Now Son #2 already knows he did something really wrong. He’d best make the correct decision now. Luckily, he did and followed my husband out of that wrestling room. I’ll admit he probably looked pretty foolish for the whole escapade – but my husband was further upset that he had been put in that situation. When people offered to help and give him a ride home, it just added fuel to the fire.
While it was very kind of those people to offer the ride, my husband was there to pick up his child and take him home. They weren’t aware of the whole story and they were just trying to be kind. My husband was taking Son #2 home to think about his disrespectful behavior but I’m sure that those in the wrestling room must have thought the whole exchange quite bizarre.
While that time my husband was able to escape without explanation, other times it doesn’t work out that way. You know, we try to be nice but sometimes we make choices that our children can’t do something. Sometimes it is a birthday party, sleepover, a day with a friend…whatever. Our answer is no. Sometimes it isn’t for punishment. Sometimes it is just because we want a break. Sometimes we just don’t want to be involved in that particular activity at that time and as adults we can make that choice. Sometimes we don’t feel comfortable with the other child or family. So we warn our children…don’t ask again – the answer is no.
But it never fails. The scenario is set. We have told our child that they cannot attend that birthday party because we already have other plans. When the RSVP is given to the hostess, the “bombardment of fixes” begins. We’ve all been there. The parent that is willing to work this out so that the child can come to the party. (Make no mistake your child was banking on that parent to do that too!) The line of questioning begins – “Why can’t they come?” “Well, what do you have going on?” “I can pick them up.” “I can bring them home.”
Now I shouldn’t have to have this conversation. The answer was no. We were polite. “I’m sorry we aren’t going to be able to make it. We have some other things going on that day. Hope you have a great party.” That adult standing there questioning me makes me uncomfortable. I did not say, “We are unable to make it because she doesn’t have a ride.” If it were something like that I would have explained what the dilemma was. However, when there is no specific explanation it would seem to me the best thing to do is respect that response and not begin badgering for more information. Each time the words, “Mind your own business” start racing through my head. I hold my tongue. “Thank you, I appreciate that but we are not able to make the party. Maybe another time.” But it still isn’t over.
Not only is that parent going to continue to hound me for an explanation of my situation and then provide me with a solution that ensures that my child will be at their function – my child is going to join forces now. “Mom, pleeeeeeeaaaaase.” I warned that child NOT to do this. Yet here we are. Guess who is left standing there diffusing this? I tried to be polite. I tried to handle this discreetly. But each time – we arrive at the same place.
Is this when I get to say, “I told them they had to clean their room and they never did.” Or “We’ve got a couple of football games that day and I don’t need anything else on the calendar.” Welp, if I do that – then I am suddenly in a discussion, a debate or a problem solving scenario. But you see, I don’t have a problem. I made the decision. I am the parent. The decision was no.
I have thrown numerous parties. Hosted countless play dates. Supervised a barrage of activities. However, when a parent declines an invitation I don't like to ask them why. I take the cue from them. If it is offered then a conversation may ensue. But I don’t find ways to finagle. I don’t know what is truly going on in their home. Maybe they have decided that they don’t like me and don’t want their child under my supervision. They are entitled to that opinion and I certainly don’t want to be told to my face. I am thankful for social graces.
I actually had an encounter with another parent years ago. I was hosting the party and they were calling to decline attendance. They offered up their reason for declining immediately and their answer hurt my feelings. Right or wrong - it was how I felt. While I respected their choice, their reason and scenario made me feel badly. Sometimes less information is better.
Just food for thought: I don’t think we are going to change the behavior of the children. This scenario seems to be standing the test of time from generation to generation. Perhaps the best approach needs to come from the adults. We need to make sure that we are on the same team and avoid joining forces with the whining child. Maybe we could turn it into an unspoken understanding between parents.
“I’m sorry, we can’t do a sleepover tonight.”
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“That is my Final Answer.”
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