...and some aren't!
Today is one of the latter kind of days. It started this morning when I had to cancel the playdate that we had scheduled (sorry again, Eileen and co.). I'd told Matthew yesterday that his buddies were coming over and he was wild with enthusiasm. But this morning, I told him that before they came, he needed to clean up a handful of his things from the family room, and then spend a bit of time cleaning up his bedroom. Well, you'd think I'd asked him to take a scrub brush to the interlocking bricks in the driveway, so extreme was his reaction. He dropped to the floor (yes, at age six) and announced at high volume that he was not going to be doing any work this morning. I tried to engage him in a rational discussion about it but it became clear very quickly that talking was not going to provide the desired outcome...any outcome, really. So I waited until he had calmed down and told him that I would give him five minutes to think about a decision that he needed to make: either he agreed to do the clean up that I'd asked him to do, with no further complaints; or I would phone up his friends to cancel their coming over. I added to this decision that if he refused to make the decision, I would make the decision for him and that it would be to cancel the playdate. I asked if he understood the choice and had him reiterate the options to make sure he got it. I then stayed in the room with him throughout those ear-piercing five minutes and then, at the end of it, I asked him if he'd decided. He said yes, that he'd decided that his friends were coming over but that he was not cleaning up his room because he was sure that their rooms got messy sometimes, too. I said that I didn't doubt that this was the case but that this wasn't the decision he'd had to make. He repeated that he refused to clean up. So, with the sound of his cries (screams, really) in the background, I sadly phoned and cancelled playtime for this morning.
And have felt crappy ever since. I felt like it was me being punished. We haven't seen these friends for several weeks and I'd really been looking forward to it...had even purchased some lovely chai tea for Eileen and me to drink this morning. And in addition to being deprived of their company for a few hours, I suddenly had to fill that time with Matthew while he continued to be in a bad mood for the next hour. A double punishment for me, I thought, in my state of self pity. An hour after making the phonecall, Matthew finally relaxed enough for us to have a conversation about it and, ultimately, he apologized and asked me to forgive him. In addition to not being allowed to have his friends over, he received a further consequence of no chocolate for the whole day (an equally devastating consequence, let me assure you, because he's a chocoholic who practically lives for that square of chocolate after dinner!) because of the unkind things he said about/to me when he was in his rage. Though visibly horrified at the consequence, Matthew actually said that he thought that was fair because of how mean he'd been during his tantrum. Hmm - well, that's some progress, I guess. We then talked about ways that he could have handled the situation differently, and more appropriate ways to express anger. Blah blah blah. The twenty-minute chat we had about it ended with hugs and kisses. And, after an hour of doing some reading and some school work, Matthew (shockingly) went upstairs without even telling me (or asking for help) and began to clean up his bedroom. So that was, logically, a good outcome, I think.
So why do I still feel lousy? I've been moping around the house all morning and into the afternoon, now, too, and it's wrecking my day. I think it's because I am wondering what I could have done differently. What did I do to contribute to the situation?? My sister thinks that I should have given a different consequence so that we still could have had the playtime, and maybe she's right, but I'm still stuck on thinking that the loss of his friends coming over was the natural consequence of his not being willing to clean up for them. But I really and truly don't know. I prayed about it in the moment, and that did help me to stay calm in the face of the situation, but I wish I'd been more effective in my in-the-moment parenting.
It's hard being a consistent, good mom, despite the best of intentions. I'm sure I've screwed this up a thousand times or more, and I worry about whether I'm causing a build-up of some awful-mommy baggage for Matthew when he gets older. I guess I really need to start saving already for his eighteenth birthday gift, which has already been determined - it's going to be money for psychotherapy, so that he can deal with all of his parent-related baggage and then move into adulthood with as few emotional encumbrances as possible.
* Thank you for your comments, guys - you've helped me feel like a not-so-horrible parent again!