I have a secret, and if my children ever figure it out, I'll be totally screwed. Here it is: I am generous to a fault with those who are appreciative of my efforts. There. I said it.
If they are fighting, screaming, name-calling and avoiding their homework, they will lose dessert, electronics and any loving tone in my voice. But if they behave well, do as I ask without my having to nag or yell, if they hug me and say "thank you Mom," or "I love you, Mom" or--dare I dream it?--"You are the best Mom in the whole world!" I am then inclined to give them a pony, Ferrari, trip to Disney or anything else they might ask for.
It's not just my children who make me behave this way. This is why I am a perpetual student, excelling for the appreciative teacher, and a chronic volunteer, ready to give 40 hours a week (even at the expense of my children and husband) to those who are truly grateful for my efforts.
But today I may have crossed the line. My husband and oldest son are away camping for the weekend with the Boy Scouts, and Ben and I have a chance for some quality time alone together. Did he want to watch a movie last night under the electric blanket? No. Help me with my jigsaw puzzle? No. Did he love building a marble tower with me for an hour, so much so that he took a shower and went to bed when asked, with a huge smile on his face and a lingering hug for me? Please.
The old me, the tough-love Mommy, would have said, "to heck with you. Go entertain yourself tomorrow; I'm going to read the paper unless you can change your attitude." So what did Mushy-Mom do this morning? After listening to his whiny greeting of, "Mom, WHERE'S THE DS???" followed by "I don't WANT to get dressed! I don't WANT to go out to breakfast! JUST TELL ME WHERE THE DS IS!" I got dressed, walked the dogs and then told Ben he could play with the DS only if he got dressed and came out to breakfast with me.
I know. But wait. There's more.
After a yummy meal of pancakes and bacon (which definitely helped minimize the whinies), we headed to Toys 'R' Us to use up a small gift certificate balance left over from his birthday. And maybe I matched the balance so he could buy a new Bey Blade. And maybe I also sprung for a $30 LEGO set because he reeeeeeally wanted it and it was sooooo cool.
Yes, OK. I admit it. I spent the morning buying my way into the heart and stomach of my child, turning somersaults to get him to appreciate me. I know I have a problem. But when you really aren't liking someone at the moment, you have to do something, right? In the case of an adult behaving badly, I would tell them what I think of their behavior and walk away. But with Ben, ultimatums like that cause him to dig in his heels. If he is starting to consider that maybe I'm right, that maybe he just needs to eat something and he will feel more amiable, telling him to adjust his attitude and then walking away just turns him around so he can argue his point with me. And often, it seems he is willing to argue to the death.
But you know what? For the past hour, after thanking me "times a million", he has been playing with that LEGO set like it's the only toy he'll ever want in his life. He just came upstairs for a snack, and is smiling. And right now, I'm liking him a lot better than when I woke up, and he is appreciating me a lot more than before breakfast.
Since Ben was born, he has challenged every fiber of my being. My emotions, nerves, patience, peace and reasoning have all but gone out the window pretty regularly for the last eight years. Of course I love him. But raising Jacob taught me nothing about how to raise his brother. So if occasionally bribing Ben helps me gain some appreciation and peace, I'm afraid to say I'm not above it. I'm hoping eventually we'll both outgrow it. Preferably before he or Jacob figures out my secret.