A teenager, a dreaded trip to the DMV, and a whiney 7 yr old... what could go wrong?
Straight up, I don't particularly enjoy shuttling kids around all the time. I have a feeling I'm not alone in this and I suspect it began to loose it's luster the more it took on the appearance a second full time job; with all three kids needing transport services to and from sports, malls, friends houses, birthday parties and other endless activities.
Sure there are the moments of car riding bliss when your people share a story that they may not have told you in the confines of the home, or when you can all agree on a song and gleefully sing it together at the top of your lungs with not a care in the world.
And then there are the struggles. The bickering, questioning and restlessness that rear their ugly head usually when the drive has passed the 10 minute mark. And I don't know about yours, but mine can come up with some really intense phobias of being touched in the car but miraculously these fears diminish in other circumstances.
This particular road trip was doomed from the start. Even though the thought of my daughter starting her journey toward drivers license bliss would surely relieve some of my taxi duties, there was one big problem- we had to go to the dreaded DMV. And it had been a doozy of a day to begin with but I was trying to clear my mind of all prior frustrations as I knew a slew of new ones would hit me as soon as I opened the door of purgatory. The other problem was it wasn't just my daughter and I going in; my 7 year old son had to join us for the ride and the thought of keeping him occupied for 2 hours in that hole was starting to sink in.
So there we were, 2 of my 3 kiddos heading out on our DMV adventure when it began. My daughter, who throughout the teenage years hasn't been overly tough to take, started hitting me with snide comments left and right. It was MY responsibility to get all the paperwork done for the DMV lords, and had I done it correct? It was MY fault that she wasn't passing her online permit practice tests because I made her watch her brothers the day before and she couldn't study. She was overly sassy when I asked her a question and downright rude when I reminded her she had to have her glasses for the eye exam (why didn't you tell me that sooner??!!).
I told her she had to stop; we were all a little tense and I was going out of my way to take her and was spending a lot of valuable time to help her. Of course I don't mind doing that for my daughter, but not when the attitude has reached epic levels.
I calmly reminded her that I do A LOT for her and she needs to stop this behavior now, and try to show some appreciation or I wasn't going to take her. I didn't think at that moment that I would actually turn around and go home- I wanted to get this over with as bad as she did and we were already half way there. But a last straw came in the form of her blurting out a rude word to her brother and proceeding to pick a fight; then accusing me of not doing enough to prepare her for all of this. WHAT???!!! What happened to personal responsibility??!!
So I did it. I turned the car around. I told her I wasn't taking her and she needed to really think about what she was saying and how she was saying it, and when she was ready to treat me the way I deserve to be treated, we could go. I was sharp and on the verge of yelling but it was all coming our pretty well and made total sense. I shocked myself (and probably the kids) with my eloquence under pressure .
She muttered sorry under her breath in a half hearted attempt and expected me to say ok and keep on. But I didn't. Something inside of me wouldn't relent and I had made up my mind (even though the easier option was to keep going) that I wasn't just gonna let it go. After all, I'm the adult here and there are still many lessons to teach about what is and isn't acceptable- behavior or otherwise.
We pulled in the driveway and she bolted out and slammed the door and walked in the house and I knew I wouldn't hear from her for awhile. My son on the other hand was overjoyed and went straight back to his tree fort in our backyard.
She began trying to sheepishly talk to me later that night and didn't exactly apologize but was trying to be cool and noticeably kind. We were back in our groove and then she said it-
"I'm glad you didn't take me".
She said she knew she was being difficult and she realized after I called her out on it all how rude she was being. But she didn't stop there; she apologized for not being prepared and for blaming me for everything and her negative attitude. She went on to say that if I hadn't turned the car around, she would have failed the test because there was a portion she forgot to review (those darn merging into a highway signs gave her a run for her money). So actually, my decision to follow through "saved" her that day. And maybe, I dare say, taught her something, too?
None of us are perfect and I am winging it at parenting with the best of 'em, but I do know one thing- teaching our children personal responsibility and demanding respect isn't just a novel idea; it's the only way we can raise kind, productive and responsible human beings in the world of entitlement that we live in.
I am reminding myself of this everyday. Threats are useless. They teach nothing and open the door to anything. So when you feel like something has to change, remind yourself like I do that following through isn't just an important skill to teach your children- it's very often imperative to your own mental sanity. And so when and if the time comes, I challenge you also to ...
Turn the car around.