My mother did not get her revenge…
Growing up, I was a high-maintenance, wild all day, willful girl. I definitely challenged my mother and made parenthood not very easy for her. I’m sure she couldn’t wait for the day when I would become a parent myself, and deal with a difficult child like myself — a taste of my own medicine — especially when we found out I was expecting a daughter of my own.
Yet somehow I ended up with a mild mannered, well-behaved child … and I’m certain it is because of my mother and the lessons she taught me growing up that prepared me for raising my own daughter. My mother taught me many things about being a parent and how to handle difficult situations (thanks to yours truly), and although her tactics didn’t seem like they worked on me at the time, she embedded in me the skills I would need to be a parent myself.
Let me share a story of one of the most important lessons I learned from Mama…
I was only four or five-years old, but I remember the day very clearly. It was Good Friday and we were going to the store before we went home to start getting ready for Easter (a huge celebration at our house … we dressed up, hunted eggs and had a big dinner, complete with an Easter Bunny cake … the whole 9 yards)
The store that day was full of beautiful dresses. Being so young, I was entranced by all the lace, ribbons and puffy taffeta fabric as we walked down the aisles on our way to get a new tablecloth. (I had spilled red Kool-Aid on the old one.) Mom stopped by the most beautiful vision of a blue dress with petticoats and a hat to match. “This one’s really pretty, Lori Ann.” Oh, and she was right. I loved it.
The tantrum that ensued because we left the store without that dress was epic.
To be honest, on the way home, I was surprised that I had not received a good whoopin’ right there in that store. I should have known something was up. When I walked into my room, with my mom right on my heels, I saw it. Laid out on my bed was “that” dress. There were shoes, hat and my own patent-leather purse to go with it. I was over-the-moon thrilled, but not for long. With tears streaming down her face and without a word, my mother packed all of it back up. She returned it.
“Girls who do not act pretty, do not have pretty things,” she explained later. I was crushed. I had showed out, as they say, and I was getting what comes from bad behavior. No whoopin’ needed. As I look back on it, the punishment fit the crime. It was brilliant parenting, even though it truly hurt her more than I could imagine at the time.
This lesson hid in my memories for years. It made a huge impression. I would like to say that I never threw a tantrum again, but that would be a lie. I did however internalize an important concept. Making a fool of yourself, even if you think it is for a good reason, does not get you anywhere. Patience and clear thinking will get you everything you need, and much of what you want. I wanted that dress, more than anything, at the time. In hindsight, I do remember that Mom had tried to reason with me. She had said we don’t have time right now, maybe tomorrow. I obviously did not listen. If I just had been patient and trusted my mom, that beautiful blue dress and all the trimmings would have been mine.
As a parent, when I reflect on this pivotal event in my life, I know that my mother was not only teaching a life lesson, but also a lesson on being a mother. Children, whether they were wild like I was, or more like my easy-going daughter Caroline, need to know there are boundaries. I truly believe that if she had spanked me, the lesson would not have been as important. As it was, she made it very clear that there were boundaries and limits to what was acceptable behavior.
I would grow out of my hard to manage behavior thanks to her creative consequences and she would continue to shine a light for me in this journey called parenthood for years to come.