My boys love awards. They love medals. They love trophies. Our house is full of “awards.” We have the cheap plastic ones that they walk around the house wearing on odd dress-up occasions. We have the “everyone’s a winner” medals from doing the Junior Great Race in Pittsburgh. We have medals won in competition by hard work and 3-times-a-week gymnastics practice. We have trophies for completing a season and for being the best. We have “Student of the Week” awards and “Clean Desk” awards (but I don’t believe that one at all….given the status of said child’s room). In fact, the boys like medals so much that they give them out to each other sometimes.
And many of these recognitions are fine and good, but I would like the boys to actually earn some of them.
So I’ve decided that here are the Top Ten Trophies to be Awarded to Boys under Ten (at least in my house….in this season of life):
10. The “Thank you for saying Thank You” Award.
9. The “Just Try One Bite without a Fuss” prize.
8. The “Getting off the brother you are sitting on the first time I ask you” Medal of Honor.
7. The “You went in to use the bathroom ….and came out ….without leaving a puddle at the base of the toilet!” Most High Praise
6. The “Most Costly Child” Honor (in terms of total cost of two 42-inch plasma TVs, countless light bulbs, numerous chairs including the portable camp chair I just purchased yesterday for soccer! and so much more)
5. The “You gave the toy back after grabbing it out of your brother’s hands” Certificate.
4. The “Stopped when asked to stop before running in the parking lot” Award for Safety.
3. The “You actually washed your hands after using the bathroom….with soap!?” Amazement Award.
2. The “Wow – your little brother just hit you and you DIDN’T punch him back!” Trophy
1. Bronze – “You got dressed without being asked.”
Silver – “You got dressed AND brushed your teeth?!”
And the Gold Medal goes for – “You put on underwear!!” – The crowd cheers!!
Some possible future awards….not yet attained:
• Put the toilet seat down award.
• Ate something green on your own initiative certificate.
• Woke up and didn’t whine within the first five minutes winner (oh, that might not ever happen)
These thoughts ran through my head this week as I thought about the “stars” I write on pieces of scrap paper magnetted to the fridge. When the boys earn twenty, they earn a prize. It’s been a good system for a bit of time. But sometimes there doesn’t appear to be anything that alters their behavior.
This was particularly the case in church this morning. “The talk” was provided before we got out of the car. Reminders were sprinkled over the course of the first few minutes. The five year old was removed to the parking lot for a few minutes for a more intense reminder. But by the time the 7-year-old had racked up an hour of time-out for making noise during the service, the 3-year-old entered screaming for communion and the 5-year-old was playing in the baptism fount…..All three were unceremoniously removed to the car.
My head exploded. My blood pressure shot. My face was red as a torrent of admonitions flowed in anger…..a diatribe reviewing the “inappropriate” behavior and noise during church. That was it. Grounded for the day – 5 year old banished to the third floor and 7 year old restricted to the second. I handed them bagels and bananas and left….zombie-like to the door of the back porch where I sat and cried. Embarrassment makes me angry. Anger makes me sad. Parenting makes me exhausted. Emotions make me clean the house for two hours…..and weed the garden… and send boys back upstairs over and over all day……and realize that with all the awards that I dole out and the stars I reward and the praise and the high-fives, the real award goes to me. Me.
The Bounce Back Award goes to me and every other parent who hits the end of their limits. Who let themselves embrace the hardship of parenting. Who sit and cry at how overwhelming the responsibility is sometimes. Who have learned to forgive their children and forgive themselves. Who get up again and brush off the dirt and say – Here I am. I love you and will never give up. Ever.
….just as you treasure those who cause you to earn it.