when your best parenting strategies go awry

Sometimes Ben has wardrobe malfunctions.

This is my child who came home from school wearing just his undershirt one day.  I asked him where his shirt was and he very matter-of-factly replied, "I lost it."  Like losing one's shirt is as ordinary as brushing your teeth in the morning.

Just this week, he came home sporting the most gaping knee hole I have ever seen in a pair of jeans.  I had noticed the tiny threadbare patch when I laid the clothes out the night before.  I'd found the jeans in a forgotten bag of hand-me-downs the night before, and I was elated.  I live for shorts season because no matter what size and how many pairs of pants I buy for my kids, they end up being high-waters, like, the next day.  I'm really, really trying not to have to buy anymore pants this winter.  I was hopeful that I could make it!  And with the discovery of two more pairs of slightly worn, but totally wearable jeans in the bag, I was positive we could.

Then he came home with the basketball sized hole and those hopes were dashed a bit.

I asked him (because I'm the queen of questions, just talk to my husband), "What's the deal with the jeans, Ben?  What happened?"  He replied very casually, as if talking about what color pencil he uses at school, "Oh.  I did that."  I asked another, "What does that mean - 'I did that'?"  He looked at me and said, "Well they already had a *little* hole in them."

That's when I got a little mad.

"So you have a little hole and just decide to destroy your pants?  Why would you do that?  We don't have an unlimited amount of pants available to us.  You have to take better care of your things!" -But they were kind of small.- "That doesn't mean you DESTROY them!  We could have shared them with someone smaller than you who has no pants at all." -blank stare-  All the while I was thinking about Generation Entitlement and that just made me angrier, as I imagined him thinking, "Big deal.  We'll just buy some more.  Cool it, lady."

Then I thought to myself, what is the appropriate "punishment" for tearing your jeans to pieces?  I could make him wear them to school like that, but he wouldn't care.  I couldn't make him go without pants altogether; not only is that not allowed, but he would probably love it.  I could take away his tv privileges, but that's not going to send him any kind of message about taking better care of his things.  I called Sam to ask what he thought and we discussed making him sew them back up.  It was decided.  That was PERFECT. 

When we pulled into the garage I told Ben to go inside, get the sewing basket, take his pants off, and meet me in the living room.  He was going to sew them back up.  "But I don't know hooowww to sew!"  Don't worry, kid, you're about to learn.

I didn't expect him to actually be able to fix the pants to the point of wearable.  (I'm pretty sure they were damaged beyond my mending abilities.)  I just wanted him to realize that in order to fix them, it would take a lot of work.  I wanted him to be a little bit miserable having to come home from school and sew.

I unloaded his sisters and met him in the living room where he was already trying to decide between thread colors for his sewing project.  That's when I realized he wasn't miserable.  He was looking forward to this.  I threaded the needle for him and showed him how to do a simple stitch.  He watched with enthusiasm and excitedly, but carefully, grabbed the needle from me.  It took him about 30 seconds to use up the entire length of thread I'd put on the needle, and we ended up with this:


He cut the needle free, packed up the sewing basket, and happily went pantsless the rest of the evening.  

So I will have to admit that "punishment" was less than PERFECT.  Guess I can't win them all.


Anonymous said...

Priceless... I love it!! I'm just not sure who to root for!! Life is so grand from a grandmother's view. :-)

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