We are part of the newly-formed Marriage Prep team at church. The other night, we went to a lovely couple’s home for a dinner meeting. They were an awesome, fun couple who have four children – three boys, one girl – two of which (the youngest son and daughter) are still living at home and in high school. After some conversation, we learned that the daughter (who is the youngest) was adopted from Romania when she was four. The mom was telling us that during their home study visit, one of the young sons was asked by the social worker if there was anything else that he’d like to share about his family. The little three-ish-year-old thought for a moment and said, “Just that there’s a lot of love.”
The parents, still beaming with pride that’s lasted for thirteen years, say, “We didn’t even tell him to say that!” I smile and nod. Yes, that’s touching. Meanwhile, I’m wondering what little pearls of surprising, unexpected wisdom our boys will share with our adoption specialist. I hope it’s not anything like the conversation I overheard them having last week.
The boys had been told repeatedly to clean up the toys downstairs and then they’d get to watch a short show. Well, instead of cleaning, they were being all sorts of crazy and wild. (And yes, I realize that, here, they’re already having a good time and I’m telling them to clean up so they can sit and watch TV. Not cool parenting. Yeah. Yeah.) So, because the boys had been getting more and more wild, were not listening to me at all, and had already received a couple of warnings, I finally just said, “OK, no show, and you need to go get ready for bed.”
Matthew and Zach are in the bathroom, going potty and brushing teeth. Like two old men wallowing in their misery sitting at a bar, I hear Matthew grumble, “Do you feel like we’re in prison right now? I feel like we’re in prison.” Zach glumly agrees, “Yeah, we’re in prison.” Well, I realize that I had a choice; this could’ve gone a few ways. At least I didn’t jump straight to the ‘ol: Oh, you wanna see prison? I’ll show you prison alright! (I’m pretty sure saying stuff like that would not bode well for our fostering/adoption license process). So, I decided to be a really good mom and use this as a ‘teachable moment’ – an invitation to grow and learn.
I storm into the bathroom and say, “Would you like to see a prison?” The boys stop, mid-teeth-brushing and stare at me with saucer-big eyes. “We could go see a prison. If you’d like to know what a real prison looks like, we could take a field trip to one.” Matthew shakes his head as quickly as possible, eyeballs starting to flood with the potential onslaught of tear-release. Zach’s just standing there. You can tell his weighing his options, thinking: hmmm, that kinda sounds cool, but Matthew doesn’t think so; I’d better agree with him and vote no on this one.
“Well, I just want you to know,” I continue, “That our home is nothing like a prison. So, we could go to a real one if you need to see that.”
Matthew starts stuttering, “N-n-n-no, no I don’t want to go to prison!” I can see Matthew’s thought bubble: Please don’t make me go to prison. I’ll never say that this home is like a prison ever again. Just don’t make me go!!
Oh-uh. My little plan seems to be backfiring. I try to reassure my sensitive little boy, “I’m just trying to say that we could go to a prison, not that I’m going to make you go to one.”
“S-s-so we don’t have to go to prison?” He asks needing a little more reassurance.
“No, prison, Matthew. We’re not going to a prison,” I say, hugging him. Yeah. So, what I thought was this great, creative, teachable moment ended up being an excellent learning-lesson for me. DON’T THREATEN YOUR CHILDREN WITH FIELD TRIPS TO PRISON.