It is raining at 6:57 a.m. I know because I look out the window before giving Jack an update on the time. "6:57!" I call. Jack's bus comes every day at 7:02 a.m. He is supposed to leave at 6:57 to allow time to walk to the bus stop. Many days he sprints out the door at 7:01. If he misses the bus, he has to walk the mile to school. He hasn't missed the bus yet.
Until today. "Will you give me a ride?" he asks.
I stand firm. "Sorry, Jack. We have an agreement that you will walk to school if you miss the bus."
"But it's raining," he argues.
"Would you like an umbrella?" I suggest.
Jack retreats back into the house, presumably to retrieve an umbrella for our trek. He returns empty handed. "Dad said he'd give me a ride!"
Here's what I want to say to Paul at this moment: "Seriously? What happened to consistency? What happened to following through on consequences? What happened to us being on the same page in our parenting decisions? And why, if we're going to play good cop-bad cop roles, do I have to be the bad cop?" I don't say any of those things. I storm back into the house, grab an umbrella and thrust it into Jack's hands.
The first part of our walk is quiet, except for the gentle spatters of rain. Jack is angry and I am stubborn and we make quite a pair, the two of us. Bundled up in rain jackets, our hoods pulled tightly around our faces we walk silently side by side. Jack keeps the umbrella closed and it swings from his wrist as he moves. Tatum is with us, his soft, thick fur glistening with wetness. The rain begins to fall harder and Jack breaks the silence. "Why are you so mean?"
This is a good question and I mull it over. I don't try to be mean. What, exactly, have I done that is so mean? Is it mean to follow through on a consequence because the weather is not cooperating? Good parenting should always be consistent and reasonable. But what happens when you can't be both? I chose consistent. In hindsight, reasonable might have been the better option.
As we begin to climb the hill by school, we are in the middle of a torrential downpour. The sidewalk is flooding as the rain rushes back down the way we came. There is nowhere to walk except straight through. My pants are dragging with waterlogged weight and my socks and shoes are completely soaked.
"Jack, I'm sorry. I don't try to be mean. I love you and sometimes I think I know what's best for you. In this case, I think I made a mistake. We look like two drowned rats."
Now I am no longer feeling stubborn and Jack is no longer feeling angry. We both just feel cold and really wet. After dropping Jack off, I return home and pack dry clothes for him. Then I drive up to school to deliver the bag.
If I could have a "do-over" for the morning, I'm not sure what I would do. Give him a ride? Make him wear rainboots and use his umbrella? Wake him up 10 minutes earlier? Parenting decisions aren't often black and white. Sometimes adults make mistakes too. Maybe I wouldn't change our morning. Maybe the real lesson I taught Jack is this:
When you make a mistake, admit your error, say you're sorry and put on some dry socks.
In today's paper, I read an article about Wednesday's storm. "It was truly exceptional as a rain-producer...setting both daily and monthly rainfall records."
Remember, I didn't say anything to Paul before I left? When I returned home sopping, to his credit, he didn't say anything to me either.