It’s the kind of day where you want to beat your head against a brick wall, where even the deepest sigh can’t express the discouragement you feel.
I knew this parenting stuff would be hard, but up until this year, its mostly taken a physical toll. Newborn feedings, sick children, nights of steam showers, night terrors, energetic toddlers, dancing and running, and on and on. Pure exhaustion resulting from lack of sleep and then trying to keep up with the Littles throughout the day. These early years have been physically hard.
And now we’ve entered the emotionally and psychologically hard years. I’d mentioned in Devyn’s birthday post that I’d never really envisioned her past kindergarten. I’d never really given much thought to shaping and molding a person with character, faith, values, and integrity. You mean to tell me that these kinds of people don’t just appear?! That helping create this kind of person takes work?!
Well, we’re learning. And we’re learning fast.
Jon and I’ve always agreed that building character and integrity is far more important to us than academic, athletic, or any other kind of success. That we would rather have a child who’s recognized for their character than any other award. I don’t care if my child brings home a “C” as long as we knew their best effort was put forth. I WILL care if my child brings home a B+ and is capable of an A but didn’t try.
Character. Integrity. Strong words, deep meaning. Hard work.
Devyn is one of our easiest, there is little we have to get on her about, but she’s not perfect. And lately, Devyn has been struggling with lying. Its usually to avoid getting out of trouble (isn’t that the root of most lies) and we’ve tried everything in our bag of magic tricks to help her learn this valuable lesson in life. We’ve done spankings** and groundings. We’ve taken away privileges and toys. We’ve discussed and reasoned until we’re blue in the face. Nothing has worked.
And then today. The dreaded email from school.
Long story short. Devyn signed my initials to her reading log and when the teacher confronted her on it, she pretended to forget who had signed the initials. While I grew flustered at the email, embarrassed that my child had been caught red-handed, I was more concerned with the character issue that was at the root of this problem.
A quick call to Jon alerted him to the issue that was brewing at home. And then I turned to Twitter. Because I needed a new idea, some new arsenal for our bag of tricks. And boy did Twitter deliver. (Thank you, thank you, thank you!) Idea after idea rolled in, and within the hour I had a good idea of a sufficient punishment. And after discussing it with Jon, agreeing that this was worth the try, we called Devyn into our room.
The moment I asked to see her reading log, she knew. I could hear the whimper in her voice, the dread in her steps. And when she returned to our room, her eyes flooded with tears. We asked her if she knew what this was about, and she immediately started crying and apologizing simultaneously. And let me tell you, its hard to remain removed from the situation. That’s my baby who’s blubbering and apologizing over there. My baby girl who is obviously sorry, and scared, and embarrassed. One side begged to comfort and cuddle her, assuring her that it was all ok. But I managed to remain stoic, determined that she learn this lesson now. When the consequences aren’t so dire.
So we sat there. Her dad, Devyn, and I. We discussed the situation, we explained the consequences (both physical and emotional, ie, the lack of trust), and though she cried through most of it, we were resolute in our determination to see this through. She knew that she’d be required to read double the time that is usually required from her homework. She understood that she and I would be going to her teacher in the morning, before school started, so she could apologize to her in front of me. And once again, we discussed why this was such an important issue to God, Jon, and myself. I’m hoping it sticks this time.
And then we moved to the kitchen for the final part of her punishment.
As I poured a spoonful of T*basco sauce, I explained she didn’t need to swallow this. But she would be required to keep it in her mouth until we said she was done. “Devyn,” I explained. “I want you to remember this the next time you want to tell a lie. I want you to remember how this burned and how it tasted horrible. My hope is that telling lies will soon burn your mouth, your lips, like this sauce does. That this will make you think twice before the lie ever leaves your lips.”
I shot a look a Jon, twin expressions of dread filled both our eyes. Neither of us wanted to do this, neither of us wanted to be in this position. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But unfortunately, it had become necessary.
After a few seconds, I held a cup so she could spit it out. It hurt. It burned her mouth, her tongue, her lips. And as I sat with her on her bed while she cried, I told her that it was my hope that soon lies would taste just like this. She nodded and placed her head in my lap; spent from the long evening of discussions, tears, and discipline. And unfortunately, she’s even more embarrassed to have to talk to her teacher tomorrow morning.
I don’t know if it’ll work. I hope it does. I don’t want to do this again. But heaven knows I have three more children to go and a number of life lessons to teach. I’m continuing to pray for guidance, wisdom, and yes, other unconventional methods of discipline***. Anything that will teach these character issues to my Littles. Its exhausting work.
* I’m taking advantage of this last moments of talking about Devyn. She’s soon reaching an age where she’ll get a choice of what is shared on the blog, and I’ll have to respect that.
** Yes, we are spankers. And I’m more than willing to discuss that with anyone who can maintain a respectful conversation via private email. We also do timeouts, groundings, loss of privileges, and anything else that will teach a lesson. Each child has responded to different methods.
*** For instance, when a tantrum is thrown and stomping is involved, our Littles will stomp up and down our stairs for a set amount of time. We tell them to get their stomping out now. Its usually by the third or fourth time stomping upstairs that they’re saying they’re sorry.