Before my story begins, let me preface by saying this: I believe kids ought to adapt to their parents’ lifestyles and schedules, not the other way around.
It is 4pm and I’ve been chauffeuring three of my kids around, plus the neighbor’s duo, since the school bell rang at 2pm. I’m rushed to get home and begin the late afternoon homework, bathing, dinner ritual.
My last stop is the local YMCA. My two youngest attend preschool there. I decide to let all five children step out of the car for “fifteen minutes.” After being cooped up all day, I figure they’ll want to shoot a few hoops, play a quick round of ping-pong, or simply unwind twirling around the common areas.
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My eldest, a ten year-old girl in the throes of pre-pubescence, goes straight to the basketball court. I escape to the Ladies Room. Just as I’m about to emerge from the stall I hear a familiar sound: my daughter’s melodic whine.
“What’s wrong?” I ask. She groans about a bad call.
She expresses her embarrassment over the incident and is determined to “never leave the locker room.” Forever the victim---yes, this is something we’re working on because it doesn’t jive well with her matter-of-fact, pick-yourself-up-and-dust-yourself-off parents---I take her hand, and encourage her to exit with me.
“Hold your head high!” I cheer. “Worst case scenario,” I reason, “if the call was indeed bad, just move on. It all evens out in the end. The important thing is to keep practicing and having fun.”
But she doesn’t relent. And I know my kid; no amount of coddling or consoling will derail her. She’s found the perfect gateway to lose control; she’s on a mission. And right in front of me, she locks herself in one the tall lockers, refusing to come out.
“I’m never leaving here. I don’t want to see their faces again. Ever!”
“Please, sweetheart, I know you feel humiliated. I get it. But I peeked outside and nobody seems to have noticed anything,” I continue. “Now, it’s time to go. We can talk more about it later. Surely it was an honest mistake.”
She wails with increased passion.
“Just leave!” she dares.
“OK, then. I’m outta here; everyone’s starved and has lots to do.”
Nevertheless, I round up the other six and they climb into the car. My other children ask for their big sis, each one insisting that they can convince her to come out. So in a last ditch effort, I let each child go back in, one by one. Nothing. Each returns looking defeated and deflated.
“That’s it,” I declare coolly, turning on the ignition.
My kids cry out while the neighbors beg me not to leave her. But I mean business and I promised to have the others home already. Just as I round the corner and enter into our development, my cell phone rings. It’s the front desk at the Y.
“Mrs. Zeledon, you have a dau…” I cut the woman off mid-sentence.
“Yes, yes, thank you. That’s my daughter and I’m a few blocks away. No worries; I’ll be there in a few minutes. I needed to teach her a lesson. She was flagrantly disobedient.”
“Understood, but according to our policies, you cannot…”
“I know,” I interrupt again, not letting her finish, “I’m so sorry; it won’t happen again.”
You may think I was wrong, or outright cruel, for leaving her. Noted. But, let’s be honest: I didn’t abandon her at a freaky roadside motel or a shady gas station in downtown Miami or leave her deserted at Sawgrass Mills. I left her at a family center for crying out loud, a place we frequent daily, where we know everyone and where my little ones attend preschool.
Look, sometimes as parents we have to seize opportunities to make a statement, teach a lesson and command respect.
And right or wrong, I’ll tell you this: Not only did my girl learn that Mommy means what she says, but all the other kids, including the neighbor’s pair, now hop to it each time I shout, “Time to go.”
Find me @thewarriormom