Parenting with Ambiguity, Or I Might Have Messed Up Today–Still Not Sure

Despite this week having a lot of hard bits in it, we had a major win for the Zoo Crew.  Cooter, who two years ago was in first grade and barely able to read Old Hat, New Hat, finished the fourth Harry Potter book.  All 752 pages.  He’s been working away at it for a while, but has really been intent on finishing it for the past ten days or so.  To the point where I find him curled up with the book on a couch or bed or floor when he should be doing his math or spelling or science, and I can’t find him.

He was so excited when he finished the last chapter yesterday.

So was I.

Just typing that he read that whole book brought the realization home–he really has learned to read.  And read well.

I am so thankful I cannot even fully express it in words.

Not all the day to dailies of parenting are like that though.  A clear-cut win or failure.  So many of my parenting moments are cloudy–I’m not sure where they fall until much later, if ever.

Like today.

One of our deals about Cooter reading the Harry Potter books has been that once he reads the book he can watch the corresponding movie.  That has gone well until this one, which is the first one rated PG-13.

Still, I was open to trying it with the crew.  Our Princess has read all of the books multiple times, and she has been waiting patiently to watch the movies after her brother finishes the books.  She has been a great encourager and cheerleader for her brother.  I am proud of her for that.  She so could have put on the pressure and made it a miserable experience for him.

I told my littles this morning that if they helped get the house in order, they could watch the movie this evening with their big sister home from college.  They were excited and eager to do so.

Until they forgot.

I was out running errands, having left them with instructions of what I expected them to do.  I even went so far as to say no electronics (aka “Minecraft”) until after I got back and approved the jobs they’d done.

Ahem.

So imagine my surprise (read: disappointment) when I came in and discovered that not only had they not finished their tasks, they were on their devices, having misinformed their sister of what their instructions had been.

Not cool.  Not cool at all.

So I now share my room with two devices which won’t see the light of day or my littles’ hands anytime soon.

Off they went.  Before lunch was ready and after–picking up, putting away, sorting, and tidying up.  Their “messes” had grown legs and traveled into more rooms than their own, so they had quite a bit to do.

From time to time or twelve, they lost their focus and started playing Legos or trying to put together their Halloween costumes or re-read the favorite parts of a book or two.

*sigh*  The struggle is real.  Focus is a lost art.

Mid-afternoon one of our Princess’ friends came over and asked if she could play.  This sweet friend came to the door with her infectious smile and bubbling over with stories from her day.  She is adorable and pretty much an answer to prayers.  She is a good friend to my middle child, and I’m thankful for her.  Princess came rushing to the door and begging me first with her eyes and then her words, “Please.  PLEASE?”

The weather here has been a mess the past several days.  Rainy, misty, and finally a little cooler to go with it yesterday and today.  It seemed rather nice, if not still a little damp out, this afternoon.  I KNOW my children need to run around and play outside and get fresh air, something they haven’t really been able to do the past few days.  Still, I wondered what kind of precedent I was setting by letting her go play when all of her picking up wasn’t done.

I let her go.

And I let Cooter go out and play too.

Their smiles and the laughter and the sounds of children’s imaginations coming up with all kinds of storylines to play out was music to my ears.  Which was good because what my eyes saw that was undone in this house was not making me very happy.

I called my two back in at supper.  I knew we were about to board the struggle bus, as I was going to have to dole out the consequences.  No movie tonight.  They hadn’t upheld their part of the bargain.  Instead of focusing and getting the odd jobs and picking up that I’d given them to do before watching the movie, they had dilly-dallied much of the day.  And then this afternoon and evening, they chose to continue playing outside instead of finishing their work.  I had even reminded them of the consequences if they kept playing.

But here’s where my heart was torn. They had chosen to PLAY OUTSIDE with their friends instead of coming in and doing what they needed to do to be able to watch the movie.

I have to say, that despite the untidy house, I’m kind of pleased that they chose outside and relationships over watching a movie.  Not happy about the house, but definitely pleased that they chose as they did.

Which doesn’t even make much sense, does it?

Well, the mess will still be here tomorrow, and I will supervise a little closer so they will stay focused.  I hope.  Together we will get it done.  And one day, probably not tomorrow, they will get to watch the movie.  And it will be spectacular.  But tonight what I’m celebrating is my children’s priorities.  Skewed as this may sound, I give thanks that they chose their friends over a movie.

And you know what else?  They didn’t really sound off much when I laid down the law and said “no” to the movie.  After the initial thirty-second pout by Cooter, they ate their supper talking about what they’d been playing with their friends and who said what, and it was wonderful.

Relationships.  People.  Every single time.

(and the house–I know.  But we will get to that tomorrow.)

I know that today wasn’t my shining moment as a parent, because I’m still confused if I handled things as I should have.  Perhaps I should have kept them locked inside until all the chores were done.  I don’t know.  Somehow it just felt wrong in that moment.

And goodness knows they sure fell asleep fast and well tonight, from all that playing and adventuring.

I might never know if any of my decisions were right, wrong, or otherwise.  All I can do, in the words of my Mama, “is the best I can with what I have in that moment.”

And that was today.

May we all choose people over the other stuff in this life.  Every single time.

Love to all.

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