Thursday, February 9, 2017

Raising Men

You know those forms they send home at school picture time? The ones where you fill out what pose you'd like the kid to be in and if there are any special instructions you want the photographer to know?  The note that photographer typically ignores because frankly, they're not paid enough to deal with Timmy not smiling when there are literally hundreds of kids that have to get their picture take that day too?  Yeah, that one.

I found that form in our "Wednesday folder" (the folder that gets sent home once a week - on Wednesdays - to share information and flyers from the school to the parents).  The same one, I had filled out, and put in the folder last week and told Bug to make sure he gives to the photographer, because I had a note.  A simple note. "Please make sure his tie is straight". And yet, here it was in his Wednesday Folder a week later and it clearly didn't make it to the photographer.

So, I called Bug on this.
     Me: Why is this still in here?
     Bug: I don't know.
     Me: I told you to make sure you gave it to the photographer.
     Bug: I thought Mrs. A would do it.
     Me: Did you at least make sure your tie was straight?
     And then fell the heavy silence, a huff, and a stream of angry excuses.

The morning of picture day, Bug did NOT want to wear the dress shirt and tie I picked out for him.  We argued even about it.  I get to pick out his clothes TWICE a year - once for Fall pictures and once for Spring pictures.  Twice a year, I expect him to just put on what I'm asking him to wear, so he can get a nice picture taken in an outfit of my choosing.  I even reminded him that I had compromised with him on the Fall photos for an outfit that wasn't dressy because I knew he loved his 'new outfit' so much.  So it was pretty clear to him on photo day, what my expectations were.  I even had him bring a shirt to change into so he wouldn't be stuck wearing dress clothes all day.  I'm not heartless, I just want a nice photo of my kid in a dress shirt and tie.

During Bug's tirade he said the following things:

  • I took off the tie because it was annoying me.
  • I forgot to put it back on.
  • I forgot to tell you, geez.
  • It wasn't my fault! 
  • It's no big deal mom, it's just a tie.
  • The world isn't going to end just because I didn't have a tie on.
  • I still looked presentable, why are you getting so mad?
  • What do you even DO with those pictures anyway?

It was like a punch in the gut.  I could just see my sweet boy, deflecting, minimizing his responsibility and minimizing the feelings of another person (a girlfriend? a wife?) 20 years from now and I was NOT. HAVING. IT.

I responded (not as calmly as I would have liked) with the following:

  • You are only 9, but 9 is old enough to be responsible for your own actions.
  • Trying to blame others is not okay.
  • Not owning up to what you did and sincerely apologizing is not okay.
  • Yelling at ME when you've done something wrong, is not okay.
  • You don't get to decide what's a big deal for me.  And I made it pretty clear that it was a big deal to me.
  • You don't get to minimize my feelings by telling me it's not a big deal.
  • You don't get to minimize my feelings by challenging what I do with those photos.  Even if I never shared them with another human being, they are MY photos, and that's enough of a reason.
  • It is not too much to ask for you to wear a tie twice a year on picture day.
  • Lies by omission are still lies - hiding it from me was not okay.
I know that it was "just a tie".  I know that it was "just picture day".  I also know that he was absolutely presentable in just his dress shirt and probably his adorable GQ self.  And I also know that I will love the pictures, tie or not.  But I can just as easily see how these behaviors can evolve when he's in relationships down the road.  And I can't just sit back and let it slide.  People have feelings, and you don't get to decide when you've hurt them.  And if you hurt them, even if it wasn't on purpose - maybe ESPECIALLY if it wasn't on purpose - you need to take responsibility for your actions and sincerely apologize.  I know he's only 9, but his age can't be used an excuse for bad behavior, because when does it stop? It's okay at 9, but not okay at 19 when he's had 10 years of ingraining this behavior into who he is? 

He may not have "gotten" it today.  He may, in his little 9 year old brain, really still think this was all about a tie.  But these words, these ideas, will sit in the back of his developing personality, and hopefully, have a positive impact later on.  And I'll keep calling him out on it, every time he does it, because I'm trying to raise a man in a world filled with over grown boys.  And that makes raising men hard but even more important.

Seriously.. Thoughts?


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