When the kids were little, I was known for making threats that would be difficult, inconvenient or downright impossible to carry out.
Mostly, this consisted of vowing to deposit a passenger or two on the side of the road if they didn’t stop arguing, or to “turn this car around” when we all knew wherever it was we were headed was someplace I particularly wanted to be.
I loved the whole “natural consequences” idea the Love and Logic practitioners touted. I gave it a good, college try for a while.
I rarely got it right, though. Somehow “I’m sorry your inability to clean your room has resulted in your being late to the birthday party because you can’t find your shoes,” always morphed as it was coming out of my pie hole.
What my kids ended up with was usually more like: “I’m sorry you can’t find your shoes, jeez, what HAPPENED to your ROOM? Oh MOTHER OF ALL THINGS HOLY WHAT WOULD IT TAKE TO BE ON TIME FOR ONCE?”
Like that … but with more profanity.
This was usually followed by: “Stop it. Stop crying. Here. Wear your swim shoes. They look fine. I know it’s November, we’ll be inside, they’ll probably make you take them off anyway, just PLEASE GET INTO FREAKING CAR. GET INTO THE …. Alright one …. TWOOOO ……”
Better-Parenting-Through-Screaming-and-Yelling. And counting. That was my thing.
Now, fully ensnared in the teenage years as we are, I have bone to pick with the whole concept of natural consequences. Back in the day, natural consequences might mean you get your butt dragged out of Target without the snack you were promised at check out because of the whole tantrum-on-the-floor thing and mommy-being-embarrassed-by-people-staring thing.
Today’s natural consequences are so much more … consequential. It comes with the teen territory. Given that, I’m finding my over the top threats may have been just the thing to prepare our children for the total shit-show that can happen by virtue of a one, stupid mistake. An instant of bad judgment.
Take, for example, a sixteen year old whose brain has yet to develop past the stage where he thinks things like speed limits were designated for no better reason than because the sign maker had a mad power trip.
And stop lights? What’s up with those? Completely necessary? Or someone’s random idea about how to move traffic from one side of town to the other, threading half ton heaps of scrap metal full of flammable liquid through a maze of other moving death buckets piloted by slightly distracted soccer moms, aggressive rednecks, hormonal adolescents, and whoever else has been granted license?
What I mean to say is sometimes natural consequences for a teen (or an adult, really) bear a lot more resemblance to my unenforceable, inconvenient or impossible threats than I would ever have guessed. Then again, sometimes, natural consequences mean you get away with something you shouldn’t have, or maybe with just a honk and a hand gesture. It happens all the time.
Sometimes, though, natural consequences mean the universe is going to smoosh you under its thumb, and keep smooshing with things like citations and court dates and loans owed to your parents who don’t have all that much to loan in the first place.
Sometimes natural consequences mean that freedom and cache you had for all of six weeks of your junior year in high school are gone in a flash because a combination of distraction and assholery on your part cause a pretty big mess.
Yes, this happened Thursday, via my precious prodgeny, who only just received his license last year, and shortly thereafter his own vehicle. And thank God, no one was hurt.
And now someone had to be driven to school Friday morning, and probably for all mornings in the foreseeable future, and will have to get reacquainted with daily begging for transportation in order to get to work, or go pretty much anywhere on his own.
And someone’s going to be getting a near daily lecture on how he should thank his lucky stars his momentary distraction didn’t result in something far worse, natural consequences being of a naturally douchey nature.
And someone’s parents are going to be feeling pretty sorry for themselves as they make their way back to the world of unpaid chaufferery (which spell check is telling me is not even a word, and I’m thinking WAY TO KICK A GIRL WHEN SHE’S DOWN SPELL CHECK, but spell check didn’t even recognize douchey, or assholery, so maybe they’re still working out the bugs), and probably have more than a few insomnia attacks as they replay events of the day in their heads and imagine what if?
And all of this is a great big natural consequence of a young couple that once had an idea that procreating would be a good thing, because if they turned out okay, what’s to say they wouldn’t make more just like them? Forgetting, of course, that between day one and year 30 or so, there was a whole lot of crap they put their own parents through.
… And forgetting that natural consequences and karma are the very bestest of friends.
(This post originally ran on Manic Mumbling.)
About the author: Beth Markley is a 40-something mother of two boys who blogs at Manic Mumbling | Musings of a Mostly Mediocre Mom about parenting, traveling and running long distances very slowly. She consistently overestimates her abilities as a chef. She shouldn’t be allowed to dye her own hair or pick out living room furniture, and she can’t figure out the television remote. If she could choose any superpower, it would be the ability to read in a moving vehicle without getting woozy. Find her on Facebook or Twitter.