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Believe me it hurts me more than it hurts you!

Eli's poem 😦

Being a parent sucks! I’m serious. Why can’t we just love our kids, play with them and have fun? Instead we have to teach them lessons, watch them suffer, and worry about them every waking moment. It simply is not fair!

Today is a bad day. I open a big show tonight. It’s been a grueling few months. I’m tired, strung out and full of anxiety about the performance. So my adoring spouse decided to let me sleep in and drove the boys to school this morning. On any other morning I would have been thrilled. But when I awoke around 9am and stumbled into the kitchen for a much needed double espresso, I discovered a sight so horrific, I wanted to crawl back under the covers and never emerge again.

You see, there on the counter, all ready for transport, sat my 8 year old son Eli’s painstakingly created diorama and all the accoutrements of his poetry project that were due today. My heart sank. He has worked so hard on this project it’s unbelievable. This was an injustice I had to make right.

I threw on some clothes, grabbed the diorama and poems and ran out to the car to rescue him. But there was a hint of doubt filtering through my mind that I couldn’t quite shake. Of course I was doing the right thing by bringing him the project. Wasn’t I?

I called my husband at work. “Just wanted to check in on what went down this morning. It looks like with you driving the boys and the change in the routine, Eli forgot his poetry project and I know they’re presenting them today,” I could hear the guilt in my voice even as I tried to sound neutral. “So, I’m just gonna swing by and drop it off for him.”
Silence. “OK?” I added beseechingly.

The icy voice on the other end of the phone chilled me to the core. “No. Don’t bring him the project. He has to learn from this. If you go running to school to save him, this entire painful experience will have been for naught.”

“But it really isn’t his fault,” I clamored. “If I would have taken him, I would have made sure he brought the project. Don’t you think this is an extenuating circumstance?”

“No, I don’t,” my husband cooly replied. “Debra, this is a perfect lesson in taking and owning responsibility for himself. Don’t rob him of it.”

“But…but…but…” I couldn’t get the words out. “But he’s only 8! And he must be devastated,” I could hear my sobs backing up in my throat.

“But he wont forget his school work ever again if we let him learn this lesson,” my husband countered. “Besides, you don’t have to see his broken-hearted expression in your mind every day for the rest of your life. I do. It’s brutal.”

So I came back into the house, replaced the diorama on the counter alongside the poetry book, and tried not to feel like the worst parent on the planet. But it’s hard. I believe so firmly in the “Love and Logic” approach to parenting in which we are engaging. I see my friends with older kids, and I know that the lessons grow ever more complex and challenging as kids grow up. Learning personal responsibility today could very well save a child from making a really bad decision when he’s older; and the truth is that the stakes get incredibly high as kids get older.

I’ve asked most of my friends whether they think I did the right thing. Most of them say yes, but they add that they would never have done it themselves. That makes their tacit nod of approval feel like condemnation of the highest form. I guess we’ll just have to walk this path alone and stay true to the principles of natural consequence in which we believe.

But, just in case you feel compelled to comment and tell me that I did the right thing, feel free. It might help me sleep a bit easier tonight. But no pressure.

About gettrich

Debra Rich Gettleman is a professional actor, playwright and journalist living in Oklahoma City with her husband Mark and two amazing boys, Levi and Eli.

6 responses to “Believe me it hurts me more than it hurts you!

  1. Don’t worry! We use a lot of Bob Marley quotes around here. That is such a safe, harm-free way for him to learn responsibility. It’s not like he didn’t feed his dog and you let it die to teach him a lesson. See it as a positive- as mothers, we manage all their stuff- it is good when someone who doesn’t manage everything takes over for a bit so they get a feel for taking care of themselves.


  2. Lynn ⋅

    As a veteran 30 year teacher ( oh, and mother) YOU DID THE RIGHT THING! I know today sucked- and your son MAY try to blame you – but if you are the only reason why it would have been remembered- then this is the lesson that he NEEDED. Painful ? Yup- but you both were able to see something that needed tweaking! Better now than in high school, my friend!


  3. I’m sorry to disagree. I believe maturity levels play a huge part in this. I have three children and have run many books and projects to school. All three suddenly started to take full responsibility towards the end of grade 5. I fail to see the need to push our children while they are still little. Now in high school, the only thing I run is the occational lunch money which I was the one to forget to give them.


  4. Judy ⋅

    I would have taken the poem etc. to school for Eli! That’s what parents are for…to help their children when needed. He needed your help today!


  5. Marji S.

    You absolutely did the right thing. We had a similar experience with our 7-year-old son at the beginning of the current school-year. We were getting in the car, ready to leave. Knowing that his homework packet (that was due today) was sitting on our kitchen counter, I asked him twice if he was SURE he had everything he needed for school. The second time, I even said, “It’s FRIDAY, do you have everything you need for school on a FRIDAY?” Both times, he assured me he did. I came back inside, pointed to the homework on the counter and looked up at my husband and said, “I asked him twice if he had everything he needed.” My husband shrugged his shoulders. I walked to the garage and drove him to school homework-less. His teacher made him redo his entire homework packet at school that Friday during recess and specials. When he came home from school he told me the story and was really bummed. But, he hasn’t forgotten his homework packet since….not once, since this incident. After this event, his teacher told me about a time another student in class said, “My mom forgot to put my homework in my backpack.” Then my son said, “It’s not your mom’s homework, it’s yours, and it’s your responsibility to bring it to school.” Lesson learned…..and better while he is young, when the consequences are small. So, I applaud you, because to refrain from delivering a diorama and an important project is tougher than refraining from saving a homework packet! BTW, your hubby is our pediatrician, and he’s the BEST!


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