When we bought this house two years ago, it was after careful screening of potential neighborhoods. One of CareerMom’s criteria was that it have sidewalks, which this one does. When it gets cooler, one of my favorite things to do in the evening is to take one (or both) of the boys on a walk with me after dinner. It’s usually a 20-25 minute affair, but it settles my meal and gets everyone away from whiney MLE for a bit.
Last night both boys wanted to go and since CareerMom needed to pack for her weeklong extravaganza (read: sucky business trip in Phoenix), MLI donned his Spider man PJ’s and crocks while I put MLE in the stroller so I could push him. Despite having shown severe signs of tiredness previously, MLI revived himself and proved time and time again that, “I’m faster than you daddy” by running pell-mell up the street, only stopping to do a victory dance at the next street corner.
I wasn’t quite ready to head home at the usual turn-around spot, so I suggested we stroll along the busy road just outside our neighborhood. Normally, MLI would balk at doing something with so much noise going on, but after suggesting it, he surprised me again with, “But, I like loud noises!” News to me…
We turned the corner on the street and as the oncoming cars raced towards us, MLI took off running down the sidewalk. In my head, I envisioned him tripping on his crocks and tumbling head over heels into oncoming traffic, so I yelled my warning, which he either didn’t hear or ignored. But I caught up with him at the next stop sign and warned him about getting too far ahead. We turned around and started heading home and he took off running again.
I let him get about 60 yards ahead of me and then I started jogging with MLE and the stroller. This stroller isn’t one of those big wheeled affairs that rolls easily, so I couldn’t go as fast as I wanted, but I nearly caught up with MLI as he rounded the corner into the neighborhood. Though part of me was laughing hysterically at the site of this four year old running like a madman in his SpiderMan PJ’s, the parental part of me was hollering at him NOT to get too far ahead.
As I crested the top of the hill, I spied him–still running–and I lost him in the bend of the road where the trees obscured my vision. Knowing that he would be nearing the street crossing again–the one where the teenage girls come flying through yapping on their cell phones with their little friends, paying no mind to what else is going on out in the world–I yelled at the top of my lungs, “ETHAN! DO NOT CROSS THE STREET!”
Not hearing anything in response, I picked up the pace and when I was finally able to see around the bend, there was nothing there to see. Which presented a problem because he could have gone either A) across the street and back home or B) on down the hill towards the park. In either case, he was in trouble, but the “amount” of trouble was yet to be seen depending on his direction.
Luckily, another walker came towards me and said, “You do realize your son just ran right past me back towards your house?” Biting back a snotty retort, I simply responded with a “Thank you” and headed on home.
Five minutes later I walked into the house, already formulating how much anger to inject into my voice and what kind of punishment to give him. I went upstairs and found him lying in our bed watching cartoons in preparation for bedtime. I shut off the TV and told him to go to his room, as CareerMom asked, “I take it you didn’t tell him he could run ahead of you?”
Oh, the understatement of the year. I explained to her what happened and even as I explained it, I felt bad about the pending punishment because I know he was just having a grand old time. I can envision me as a kid doing the same thing. The freedom of running away from your parents like that…seeing how fast you can run until your legs, or lungs, give out. I felt him, I really did; but, some things–like crossing the street without me–simply can’t go unpunished. For safety’s sake and all…you know.
In the end, he got away with just having to go to bed early, which wasn’t much of a punishment since we’d planned on putting him to bed early anyway (faking him out using the early darkness as a trick), but at least I kept my calm and didn’t yell. Yeah, a big WIN for me.
But it’s tough balancing letting kids have fun, and disciplining them. Though I’m good with “when” to draw the line, the “how” of it, still eludes me.