The Heartbreak of Follow Through
Follow through. You hear this term a lot as a parent. Especially when it comes to disciplining your children. Don’t start anything you don’t want to continue and always follow through on your threats and your promises. I have found this to be extremely effective and not overly difficult. I will not hesitate to leave a playground early if my child is misbehaving. I will not think twice to take away a privilege if his behaviour warrants it. I do not worry what other parents or kids will think. Even when the grandparents are around and think I’m being too strict- I will not cave. I’ve always felt fine about it. Until today. Today was the ultimate testament to how we sometimes say things without thinking and also to how strong my will to follow through really is, and how heartbreaking this concept can be.
It was the last official day of preschool today (my twins are 4). It was pyjama day and they each got to bring a special stuffed toy along with wearing their pyjamas.
On a separate note- we have a very strict “no hitting” rule at home but we have been having some issues with one of them being a little aggressive with the other. The last 3 days he has lost a toy or a privilege each day for an act of aggression. He was told that the next time he acted this way- he would lose his prized possession: his blanket monkey “stuffy”.
So there we were, ready to leave the house for preschool, and it happened. Twin A let out a scream and started to cry. Twin B had hit him. I was so furious and in utter disappointment that this had happened AGAIN. In adult terms- I was PISSED. Before I could stop myself, I went into his knapsack, removed his precious stuffy, and announced “you cannot take blanket monkey to school with you today”. As I was saying these words I was processing them. In the milliseconds that followed I toyed with whether I would allow him to take a DIFFERENT stuffy and I decided that no, I would not. He immediately started to cry and asked me “can I take a different stuffy?”. In that moment my heart broke. But instead I said “no. You cannot”.
To add drama to this story- I will now add my mother- stage left. If you follow me- you know my dad passed away a few months ago- and my mom is fragile. She is now here for the holidays and I know she thinks I’m too strict with my kids already. I could almost see her tears as my son sobbed and apologized and BEGGED to please take a different stuffy. I turned away from her and ordered my kids into the car. We were now late. As we pulled out of the garage I said “you should be mad at yourself for being mean to your brother and when all the other kids have their stuffies you can explain why you don’t have yours”.
Once we got to the school (he cried the whole way and I reiterated over and over why I did this), I ran into the principal who asked what was wrong. I quietly explained the situation. She whispered in my ear “the kids will be going around at circle time introducing their stuffies- make sure you let the teachers know”. I had a quick vision of turning around and running home to grab that damn monkey. But I stayed put.
We got to the classroom where the rest of the kids had already settled into circle time with their pyjamas and their prized cuddle toys. Twin B was still crying. As they took off their coats and boots I filled in both teachers on exactly what had happened. Finally I got some comfort. Each of them said “good for you for following through”. They both confirmed how important it is at this age to stick to your guns, and they told me they understood how hard this must have been for me. The main teacher assured me that when it came to his turn to introduce his stuffy- that she would ensure he was able to at least tell his friends about it. He was still upset when I left, but I knew it would be ok.
The 3 hours they were in school I felt a surge of emotions. Guilty. Sad. Mean. Horrible. Proud of sticking to my guns but for what? Would it really have been a big deal had I caved? Did I need to be so strict TODAY? But then I remembered what the teachers said. What I did was the right thing. They understood and they were supportive. I needed to stop beating myself up.
I showed up earlier than usual to pick them up. I couldn’t wait. I needed to see how he was doing. He bounced out of class like Tigger. He was happy and smiling and the teacher winked and said “he was a little sad but he got over it”. I buckled them into the car and I got in the driver’s seat and I turned to him and said “you had a big privilege taken away today. How did that make you feel?”. He said “it made me feel sad”. I asked him if he understood why I had done that. He said yes and reiterated why. I then asked him to tell me what he did when it was his turn to share his stuffy at circle time. He said that he just described blanket monkey and told his friends what he looks like. And then he said “but mom?…. you said all the kids were bringing their stuffies today but they didn’t. Some of them forgot. So… you were wrong. Not everyone had them”. He said it casually. To let me know that he wasn’t the only one that didn’t have one. I had to turn away so I could laugh. Before we left the house He was BEGGING me to change my mind but suddenly he was pointing out that he wasn’t the only one without one. Was he mocking me???!
I guess I’ll never truly know if my follow through had any impact.
But I do know what my limits are and how I feel when I’ve really tested them. I can stick to my guns but still feel shitty. There will be days where others will tell me I did the right thing but I’ll never really know for sure. As heartbreaking as it was to see him beg me for a second chance, it was also amazing to see him 3 hours later, back to happy. It was a rollercoaster. I guess no one said it would be easy. They just said it would be worth it. And for all the lessons I learned today, It was. Have you ever followed through on something you really didn’t want to? Were you glad you did? Or are still in the dark, like me?