So this morning, on a rainy spring day when we rushed out of the house to get all the kids to school on time, for the thousandth time I promised, "if you don't get dressed, you will go to school naked." I had to follow through and teach the lesson.
I silently walked into his bedroom. Found warm clothing for the dreary day. I took his hand, found his lunch and his shoes. I picked up the four-year-old over my shoulder and carried him out the door through the rain. I plopped him in his overnight-cold car seat in only his underwear. I carefully buckled him, so as to not give his delicate skin a burn or pinch. I drove to school while he cried.
But this time the lesson wasn't just for the 4 year old, although he learned it well. The older kids said, "you actually did it. You are taking him to school naked." And I realized it was an opportunity. I said., "yes I am. I may not be perfect. I may loose my temper. But I do not lie." So I reminded them of all the seemingly-idle threats I make, 'if you hurt my child you will find another place to live', 'if you don't complete your chores you will miss your game', 'if you can't put your clothes away I will take them away'. Understanding dawned for the older kids. Mom means what she says. Then they all recited times in the recent past when I have followed through with threats. They remembered. They believe me.
Alexander is not scarred. He cried on the way to the big kids school. Then he apologized. His sincerity earned him the chance to dress quickly in the parking lot of his school. He will dress faster next time and he will remember.
But so will the big kids. They will remember that when I say, 'if you slam that door again you will lose the door' that I mean business.
4 year old: 0