Yesterday I had an interesting experience. I was giving a presentation at a winter blues group meeting, leaving my kids home to tend the baby (with movies and candy as well!) for a few hours. I told them I would be home at 3:30pm. Well, those who know me know that once I start chatting, it could be hours before I'm done. Because of that nature of mine (sigh!) I was an hour late getting home.
As I drove the 30 minutes to home I pondered on this fact. If I wanted my kids, as teenagers, to be home at 3:30, I would expect them home at 3:30. Didn't I owe them that same courtesy? I had followed the right proceeders of calling them a couple of times to tell them I would be later than expected, but I still felt like I needed to "come clean" so to speak. So, in my pensive mood I decided to lay it out to them and have them decide what my consequence should be for being late.
When I finally walked in the door, I was pleasantly surprised at what I found. It was almost like they didn't even notice or care. One was playing computer games, a couple of others were doing Wii karaoke, the baby was sound asleep in bed, and the others were somewhere else doing something peaceful. My first instinct was to just forget my thoughts, serve the pizza and get on with our night. But, I still couldn't help but think of my future teens in the same situation.
So at dinner I told them something very important happened. I was late! I explained that if they were late they would get a consequence. I plead my case by saying that I did call them & would expect the same courtesy from them. We then took a vote as to whether I "deserved" a consequence or not. The boys said, "No" and the girls said, "Yes." Let me rephrase that. One girl said no but said she knew there would be no other opportunity to ever give me a consequence again, so she wanted to say yes. :-)
Long story short, they all decided that I could just clean the kitchen without their help while they played Capture the Flag in the backyard. Fine by me...we used paper plates! :-)
The point(s): I think it is vitally important that we do teach by example. I could have pulled the parent card and said, "Tough. I was late." But, if I expect them to respect me and my time, I must do so for them. Now, maybe if they hadn't been watching the baby I wouldn't have been so concerned. That was a huge favor they were doing for me!
Another thought is that I want my children to understand that it's not always an "us against them" environment. Home should be the safest place to make mistakes. I made a mistake (whether the kids noticed or not) and I needed to apologize and be ready for the consequence. Now, I don't expect to go through this process with every mistake I make...don't want to give them too much power! But, for this particular instance it felt like the right thing to do.
As the kids were getting ready for bed my oldest said, "Today was a really fun day, Mom! Thanks." Maybe I should leave more often! :-)