Monday, July 07, 2008

Ammunition

As the boys get older, it has become increasingly harder to find meaningful punishments for them, other than the old standby, “Go to your room!” When they were little, the mere mention of, “If you keep that up, I will have to take away your Transformer” would cause whatever offending behavior was taking place to fly the coop. All I had to do was threaten an earlier bedtime, no Legos or taking their skateboards away and they would straighten up.

Unfortunately, they don’t stay young and impressionable (manipulatable) forever. It is harder to dole out consequences when they really aren’t into their boyish toys like they used to be. Say I told them I was going to take away their Hot Wheel cars, they would probably tell me, “Go ahead,” and then they’d find themselves in even more trouble than they started out in and I’d be searching fruitlessly for an even more applicable punishment, one that actually mattered to their tween minds.

As I sat and wracked my brain for meaningful consequences, reread the parenting manuals searching for the magic cure, and spoke to my own parents about what I should do, I was interrupted by the ringing phone.

“Hello,” I say.

“Hi, may I please speak to McRae?”

Oh, it’s a girl, I think to myself. I glance down at the caller id, confirming my suspicion and try harder than humanly possible to resist the urge not to listen in on their conversation. Although, from what I could tell from my son’s end, it wasn’t much of a conversation at all, unless you count “I’m bored” and “What are you doing?” as conversation.

I sat there; painful as it was, and waited the excruciatingly long fifteen minutes for his phone call to be over. Then, it occurred to me.

I wasn’t going to find the solution to my inability to find a consequence that mattered to my middle school bound son in any parenting book.

No magazine would have all the answers, and although my parents did a bang up job raising me, I was not my son, not by a long shot.

The answer was in the phone.

The phone, which had become, in the past few weeks, an object of great curiosity. The phone, whose inbound calls had increased so much so that I had to explain the finer points of answering call-waiting so that I would not miss a call while he was busy “conversing” with the girl in his 5th-grade class. The phone!

That’s it. That’s the magic bullet, the deliverer of truth and justice in this household. The phone is the ticket for my trip out of what-kind-of-consequence-will-matterdom. The phone it is!

A few days passed without any significant rule-breaking taking place. I was beginning to think that I’d never get the opportunity to wield my new superpower, that being the threat of losing phone privileges. Not that I was complaining about my kids being well-behaved, every mother knows that these brief moments when children get along with one another and go to bed without a tantrum are mere mutations in the usual daily grind of parenting.

Finally, the day had come. Some backtalk was thrown haphazardly from my son’s lips and no greater joy was found within my black, mean mommy heart. I’d finally get the much-anticipated chance to test out the new material.

“If you continue to speak to me in that tone of voice, you will lose your phone privileges for the rest of the week,” I delivered, trying my best to sound like a real grown-up.

His eyes got as big as saucers. His lips pursed, the sassiness trying like a caged bull to escape his mouth. I swear, I saw steam coming from his ears. . .

“Okay Mom,” was all he could say.

And I jumped leaps of joy and jubilation at hearing those words.

20 comments:

Sunshine said...

My oldest is going into 7th grade this fall. 6th grade was the worst year EVER.
The big punishment for my boys (the younger is going into 4th) is to take away their video games and for the older one, computer time. He's not a phone or "chat" or that kind of kid, but the video games are KILLER. And during the school year they are only allowed to play video games on the weekends, so once they get grounded, it's a pretty long spell between playing.

If last year was any evidence, middle school sucks just as much for boys as it does for girls...who knew? I didn't. I hope this year is an improvement.

Queen of the Mayhem said...

MOMMY 1.....McRae 0! WOO-HOO!


I wonder if my son will EVER be able to conquer his need for sassiness! We shall see!

Valarie said...

Isn't it great when you find something that works! Even if it might only be fleeting. :)

Lil Logan has taken up spitting, and I hate it. So now when I catch him doing that I give him a taste of Apple Cider Vinegar. Its remarkable how he pays attention to whether he is spitting or not in front of me know. :)

Carrie said...

this is awesome, and I think you may just be my new hero.

no, really.


anyways-- wanted to say thanks for stopping by! I do love Bob; used to be a regular in my car until my daughter switched to strictly broadway soundtracks. Not sure how you came across me, but again... I appreciate the Marley input!! I'll be doing a mix every week, so be sure to come back!

speaking of coming back; I've been reading your posts and enjoying them. I'll be sure to be back!

Christy said...

Brilliant! I need to use that one. I agree it's very hard to find effective consequences as they get older. Sometimes when I threaten to take something away, even my 8 year old will say, "that's okay. I don't really like that anyway." URGH! Although, she's not too much into the phone yet, but that'll definitely work on the 11year old.

LindaJ said...

There was a cheer of victory heard by mothers around the world.

Wait until he ha a cell phone too. watch your mouth or no texting.

Jen Rouse said...

Don't you love finding a punishment that perfectly fits the crime? I just recently started taking my daughter's toys away when she refuses to clean her room. If it's still on the floor when clean-up time is over, it goes in a garbage bag out in the garage, where she has to earn things back one at a time. I feel so triumphant (because I apparently have a black, mean, mama heart too) when I pull this trick out of the bag.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

One of the best reasons for giving them a cell phone is that you can take it away!

Carol said...

As thay get older your options expand, grounded from the phone, no computer, grounded for the weekend, hand over the cell phone now, the car is grounded, all the way to: do you want to go to college without your laptop?

your cousin said...

Are you as glad as I am that our parents never thought of that one?

Sandy C. said...

Oooh, you're good. Seriously, I'm taking notes here for later use ;)

I was the same way. Phone privileges is the ultimate threat!

Insane Mama said...

I have teenagers! need I say more? Sometimes the phone is my ONLY leverage.

flutter said...

that was AMAZING

painted maypole said...

i remember being 12 and calling boys...

;)

Kimmylyn said...

Ohhh.. that is good. I remember losing phone privileges when I was younger.. it was never fun.. score for mom!

Carol said...

Yay I love when the Mummy wins!

So satisfying.

Becky said...

SUCCESS!

Ann(ie) said...

HA! Do you feel the power!!? GO girlie!!!

alice c said...

When my son was bad I used to say "If you do that again you will be punished" and drop my voice to a very low and threatening level.

This was important because I could never think of a suitable punishment and I had to hope that his imagination would come up with something so dreadful that he wouldn't be naughty again.

Jen said...

Yay for finding your new mommy superpower. We are at the "I'm going to take away all video games for a week" stage over here. I can't even imagine the phone stage. Ugh!