There’s a local holiday event I look forward to every year. I wait for the schedule to be released, and it’s the first thing on the busy holiday schedule. I buy the not-inexpensive tickets and start mentally preparing myself. Because every year, my hopes are dashed, and instead of enjoying the beautiful trees that I go for, I end up following my children through the kids’ corner, paying additional money for craft stations, treats and rides on small carousels. We get a few glances at the trees, and as we leave, my husband and I remind ourselves to get a sitter next year.
I’m sure like many of you, I parent through deal making, pleading, and empty threats more often than I like. This year, headed to church before the event, we offered a few “we won’t go ifs” and managed to get on our way to the event before actually threatening to cancel. My husband dropped my kiddos and me off, and we had a rough few minutes while we waited to meet back up. One didn’t want to be there, one was so hot and thirsty he wasn’t going to make it another minute, and the third was just whining because his brother and sister were.
Once my husband arrived, we decided to lay down the law.
“We’re here to look at trees, and THEN we will do the kid stuff. So please don’t ask if we can do the activities – we will, but AFTER the trees.” To say their reaction wasn’t pleasant is a bit of an understatement, so we worked our way up the parenting ladder to a brief timeout, telling them we weren’t heading inside until they calmed down and got into the holiday spirit (yes, I realize how ridiculous that sounds). Things deteriorated fairly immediately, and I found myself saying, “That’s it, we’re leaving.”
Being completely honest here: generally I’d turn to leave, make it a few feet, and then once a sweet voice apologized, back down and get back to the plan. But for some reason, my backbone was feeling particularly made of steel, and I just kept walking. My husband and kids struggled to catch up with me, and apologies started flying. But when I handed our tickets to a family walking into the event, they all realized I meant it.
Mom had issued a threat AND FOLLOWED THROUGH.
Instead of heading home, we headed to the store. I took out the cash I had on hand to cover the kid activities, and asked them to figure out how much food they could purchase with it. We talked through options (what would taste good, how far the money could stretch) and filled the cart for a food drive that was being held in the parking lot. Then we came home, and purposefully left the kids to the own devices, while my husband and I decompressed by hanging the Christmas lights outside (ha.)