I love love love the new Beauty and the Beast movie. One of the best parts, of course, is the Beast’s library, so I wrote “Belle Would Be Enchanted by These 10 Lovely Libraries in Hotels” for USA Today 10Best.Read All Entries
my proudest parenting moment
I’m off to visit my daughter in Portland today, and can’t wrap my head around the fact that she’s done with college and is now out on her own, ready to take on the world.
As I was packing for my trip, I started thinking about her as a little girl and was getting all teary about how fast time has gone, how can she be 22 years old already, blah blah blah.
Then I remembered the scene which turned out to be what I consider my greatest parenting moment. And I stopped crying and actually stood a little taller.
This story is worth sharing 1) as a public service announcement and 2) in case she’s telling a different version to some therapist somewhere.
Sara was probably in first or second grade, and we were standing in the kitchen after dinner. She kept talking about a Shih Tzu, only because she thought it was really cool that she had found a way to say “shit” without actually saying it.
After working “Shih Tzu” into the conversation a couple of dozen times, I couldn’t stand it any more.
Me: It was funny the first few times but that’s enough, okay? Stop.
Sara: Stop what? Stop saying “Shih Tzu?”
Me: Sara …
Sara: What? You want me to stop saying “Shih Tzu?”
Me: Sara, no more.
Sara: No more saying “Shih Tzu?”
Me: I’m not kidding. If you say it one more time, you’re going to bed at 8:30.
At this point, Alex, who’s two years older, started paying close attention.
Sara, laughing: You’re not going to make me go to bed at 8:30.
Alex’s eyes were getting bigger as the tension mounted.
Me: Yes, I am, Sara. Don’t test me.
Don’t test me, I was thinking, because I have failed this test many times before.
Sara: You mean don’t test you by saying “Shih Tzu” again?
Sara was practically dancing, Alex was eyeing me carefully and I was dripping sweat. I knew that neither of my kids believed I was actually going to make good on my threat. Quite honestly, I didn’t believe I would, either.
I did believe that all my years of parenting were going to come down to this moment. I was either going to teach my children that their actions had consequences and that my threats – and promises – were real, or I was going to chicken out, miss this opportunity and irresponsibly send them into adulthood believing they could get away with anything.
In that split second of self-analysis, I noticed Alex imperceptibly nod his head.
Me, matter-of-factly: That’s it. You’re going to bed at 8:30.
Sara, smiling: You don’t mean it. I won’t say it again.
Me, calmly: I do mean it. I gave you a lot of warnings and you chose to ignore them.
Sara, begging: I promise. I won’t say it again.
Me, smiling: Great. Start getting ready for bed. It’s almost 8:30.
Sara, bursting into tears and running out of the room: I can’t believe you’re making me go to bed at 8:30!
I glanced over at Alex, who was grinning from ear to ear. “Good job,” he said. “I didn’t think you’d actually do it.”
Wow. Schooled by a 9-year-old.
We all learned a valuable lesson that night – maybe me, most of all.
The irony of the whole thing is that Sara is now working with dogs. You can bet when I visit her and she starts telling me all about her job, she’ll be sure to go into great detail about one particular breed which she’ll feel compelled to mention over and over again for old times sake.
But that’s okay because, now, I’ll be the one going to bed at 8:30.