Have you ever, in your parenting, said something you wished you could take back as soon as the words left your lips? Have you ever given an ultimatum you wish you hadn’t? I did, and it put a damper on a family vacation.
It was the Fourth of July, 1996 on Kiawah Island, South Carolina. My nine month-old nephew was napping in the condo after lunch while my two children, aged five and seven, were playing nearby. They were getting rowdier by the minute.
“Guys, settle down, your cousin is taking a nap”.
“I’m serious, do NOT wake your cousin up”.
“If you wake your cousin up, you will not be allowed to go to the fireworks tonight”.
Surely the threat of missing the fireworks would result in immediate compliance. Right?
Thirty seconds later from the next room — “Waaaaaaahhhhhhhh”
“That’s it! No fireworks for you”!
Fast forward about eight hours; time to go to the waterfront to watch the fireworks. My husband said to me “I will watch the kids while you go watch the fireworks with your parents”.
“Wait, what? We’re not all going”.
“No, remember what you said? You told the kids if they woke their cousin up from his nap, they would not be allowed to go to the fireworks”.
“Yeah, but it’s the 4th of July”!
“But you gave them an ultimatum”.
Rats, as much as I didn’t want to admit it, my husband was right.
I had given them an ultimatum, made the rule, laid down the law. If I had not carried through and done what I said, they would have learned “Mom doesn’t really mean what she says. We can do as we wish because she won’t do what she says”.
My brother and I walked to the moonlit beach with our parents. I was quiet; tears streamed down my face as I watched the colorful fireworks from a distance. I missed a fun memory with my children, I stole a memory from my husband and spoiled a fun time with my parents. They would have enjoyed the time with their grandchildren.
In hindsight, I am thankful for my husband’s wisdom. It was a much less traumatic lesson for a five and seven year-old than it would have been if they were older. I shudder to think what our lives would have been like if as teenagers they believed their parents did not mean what they said. Hard to backpedal on that one.
I learned an important lesson that year. It is imperative to enforce the rules you make so be certain you are willing to carry out the consequences. I wish I had re-directed their noisy behavior before they broke the rule and woke up their baby cousin. Something to think about.
How about you? Have you ever said something you wish you could take back as soon as you said it? Did you ever give your child an ultimatum you regret?