You know that old saying, "This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you"? Yes,... well, I'm feelin' the pain.
Let me rewind a little with some backstory. The three youngest in our family are extremely high-spirited boys. Lovely, smart, funny, energetic boys. They are also competitive boys. And, sometimes, angry boys. When the latter happens (mostly with Jack and Charlie, the two 9-year-olds), I've discovered we're now in the troubled waters of actual physical fighting. But it isn't limited to a little nudge or slap here or there. We're talking full-on mortal combat -- it usually begins with a verbal altercation, followed by chasing. When the chaser catches up with the chasee ... all holy hell breaks loose. We're talking headlocks, clinches, fistfuls of hair being pulled, scratching, etc. It's disgusting and it completely breaks my heart as I see my two precious babies beat each other silly. I used to routinely step in and literally pull them apart, thus stopping the fight. Now, as they are growing stronger and taller, it isn't quite that easy. Case in point: last Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. The kids had the day off school, so I was being all Suzie Homemaker and thought I'd scramble eggs for breakfast. In the 45-seconds between leaving them in the den and going to the kitchen to begin cooking some sort of problem erupted. Before I knew what was happening, they had completed one lap around the first floor (the chase, remember?) and ended their parade, literally, at my feet in the kitchen. It was a blur of grunting, punching and tumbling to the floor. I instinctively stepped in, grabbed the first child I could lay my hands on and pulled. Nothing. I pulled harder. Still nothing. At some point, I found a weak spot and managed to get the boys separated. In the process, managed to injure myself. Throughout the day, one of my fingers proceeded to swell and ache. By 10pm, I was convinced it was broken. Nice. See what I get for trying to keep my kids from injuring each other? And being six months pregnant, it now seems a bit more dangerous to put myself between them as they roll around like bear cubs.
Then, like clockwork, we had a similar altercation within the week. I'd had it. Once again, I managed to break up the fight, but I'd had it. I consulted my husband (who happened to be working at the time) on the situation and possible punishments. We came up with a one-day mega grounding: yesterday, when the boys came home from school, one went to their bedroom and the other to the den. There they sat quietly reading for about two hours until dinner. After eating, they were allowed to swap spots, and quietly read for another 45 minutes until we went to church for Advent service. Following our arrival home, they immediately took showers and went to their beds. Any remaining time before lights out (about 30 min.) was spent -- you guessed it -- quietly reading. There was no television, xBox, GameBoys, puzzles, drawing, etc. Just sitting and reading. Granted there may be some parents who feel this is a bit extreme. And there may be others who think it was too "cushy." Whatever. I'm not looking for approval. The point of the matter is that they hated it. These boys are very social creatures, and the constant reminder of their punishment as their younger brother strolled at will about the house, watched SpongeBob Squarepants and even went next door to play with a friend was enough.
The new rule: If you physically fight and hit anyone in any way, shape or form, you WILL be sequestered to the house to do absolutely nothing (except read, if you wish) for a day.
So, going back to the old phrase, how exactly does this hurt me? I hate punishing the kids. Plain and simple. Yes, life would be much easier and pleasant if I didn't have to be handing out punishments for breaches in civil behavior. But, as our much-loved pediatrician pointed out, "Children do not need a friend at this age... they need a parent. You have the rest of their lives to be their friend." It is truly sage advice that I've repeated to myself over and over again, after disciplining one of the kids and hearing them voice their displeasure. I even told the boys last night how much I absolutely hate (and we don't use that word often) punishing them. I told them flat out that I hate it because then we can't go do fun things if they're grounded. (They lost out on "Waffle Cone Wednesday" at TCBY last night because of their punishment.) And if they're in the house serving time, I have to be there to monitor them, unless I'm OK with the child nearest the den sneaking into the pantry to snack at will -- and I'm not OK with that.
Unfortunately, we're repeating the mega-grounding again today. This time it's Jack and Sam. Seems there was a slight problem getting buckled in the car last night, resulting in Sam hitting Jack and Jack returning the favor with a powerful slug to Sam's arm.
Ugh. This Christmas, if we can't have peace on Earth, I'd settle for peace in our house. :)