An Unexpected Teachable Moment in the Midst of Covid 19. Coronavirus Update - Day 45 and Counting...
So we finally had our Come to Jesus family meeting yesterday afternoon, regarding the stove/playing with fire/almost burning the house down incident, that I discreetly mentioned in my post from the three days ago (Marooned on Gilligan's Island and so Grateful!). When it happened, I swore I would never mention to anyone, much less post it on my blog. I felt embarrassed and ashamed, not to mention mortified, that MY kids would engage in such reckless behavior. As a parent, you try to hit all the marks with your kids, especially when it comes to their safety and well-being. You think you've done a good job, until you realize one day, that you missed a mark. A few hours after I returned with Miles, from a walk, this past week, Catherine casually mentioned that Garin and Graham had gathered sticks and leaves outside, brought them in, and had been lighting them on fire, on the stove. When she first told me, I couldn't process what she saying. I immediately asked the boys about it and they admitted she was telling the truth. I immediately grabbed my phone and we all sat down together to look at the video footage on my Nest Camera app. I got those cameras, when we first moved in, to catch unmotivated housekeepers and irresponsible babysitters (of which I have found more than I'd care to think about), not my children. But, last week, when this all went down, I was certainly grateful I had them. I will spare you the details of what I witnessed but suffice it to say, it was really scary. My emotions were swinging wildly between shock, disappointment, sadness, and pure rage. I couldn't help but fixate on what could have happened, had things gone differently. After we finished reviewing the camera footage, I was left to decide what to do. Each of the three had been culpable at a different level (as I could see on the video footage). Garin, the oldest, not surprisingly, was the ringleader. Graham only seemed to develop a conscience toward the very end of the escapade, threatening Garin that if he didn't stop, he would call me immediately. Catherine, only participated at the very end because apparently, she was too perusing earrings on the Kohl's website to be bothered burning down the house. She also was the one that tattled on them once I got home so that surely had to count for something, right? I wasn't sure what the appropriate consequences should be for nearly setting a house on fire? I had never dealt with anything that serious before, especially involving three of my kids. We discussed the incident and what could have happened, but didn't, by the grace of God, for at nearly 30 minutes. There were a lot of tears and apologies, but nothing in that moment could fix, for me, what had transpired. I told them that all privileges would be taken away until further notice, including sleeping in Mommy's room and dessert, both of which I knew would seriously sting. From there, we embarked on five long days of the imposed sentence. Trust me, in the middle of COVID 19, punishing your kids is the last thing you want to be doing. To their credit, during those 5 days, they never complained when Miles and I had dessert, nor when Miles would bring his sleeping bag to my room for a mini-slumber party. They seemed to genuinely understand the gravity of their actions and accept the consequences. So yesterday I asked them each to write me a letter explaining how they felt about what they had done, what they had learned from the experience, etc. We read each letter at the kitchen table and as we did, discussed again, what had transpired that fateful day, why it was wrong, how much worse it could have turned out, and why they would (hopefully) never repeat that, or any other reckless and dangerous behavior again. There were tears (again) and a lot of regret. I explained to them about that little feeling you get in your chest, when you are doing something wrong or bad. Even if there is no one there (namely Mommy) to tell you to stop, you need to be able to stop yourself. Garin said that he had that "clenching feeling" (as he put it), in his chest that day, but ignored it. He had reflected on the incident and felt that perhaps he had engaged in this reckless behavior because he, and all of them really, had been so bored, being stuck in the house for so long. They were looking for a little fun and an adrenaline rush, he seemed to think and made poor choices as a result. He went on to tell me that as it was happening, he always felt he had the situation under control, although in hindsight, he realized that was a fallacy. Nonetheless, I appreciated that he had reflected on what he had done and tried to make sense of it. After we were done reading the letters and reviewing the events of that day once again, we decided to move on, as a family. As painful as it was for all of us, I felt that we had all learned something important and grown closer together as a family, for having had this unfortunate experience. For their first night out of prison, I made vanilla pudding for dessert with an extra big helping of whipped cream on top. They gobbled that down. And later in the evening, I had a full house of campers in my room for a slumber party. Tonight, I am just grateful that God was here watching out over them when I could not be.
Poor Catherine really missed her desserts and sleeping with Mommy.
Graham really took this to heart, being the sensitive boy that he is. He explained that after it happened he was calling himself bad names because he was so disappointed in himself. Of course, I reassured him that he is not a horrible person, nor should he ever call himself bad names. We all mistakes in life and have to learn from them.
Garin's letter was terser than the others' letters but was a feat in design, including a handmaid mailbox that he delivered it in (not pictured here -- typical Garin style.