My folly this time is that after four children and seven and a half years of parenting, I am still completely clueless as a parent. It's actually worse than that, after four children and seven and a half years of parenting, I'm more clueless than I was when I started.
Sometimes, my children decide to do special things for me (most of these special things end up in my other blog "Kate's Treasures"). Last Sunday, Nicole woke me up about half an hour before I needed to get up and get ready for church. It started with a whisper, "Mom, I have a surprise for you." Then a slightly louder, "Mom, you need to come out to the kitchen. There is a surprise for you." Followed by, "Come on, Mom. Come see your surprises in the kitchen and family room." I rolled out of bed and stumbled down the hall, wishing that, for once, my surprise could be being allowed to stay in bed as long as I want. When I got down to the family room, I found that Austin and Erika were still in their "sleep out" beds, but Nicole had picked her bed up and put it away without being asked. In the kitchen, I found that the table had been set, complete with knives, forks, and spoons. With a big smile, Nicole asked how I liked my surprise. I looked lovingly into my child's face, and lied. I told her that it was the best surprise ever, that I had never had such a marvelous start to a Sunday Morning. I really was glad that she had put her bed away, but I prefer to have the family eat cold cereal on Sunday as it makes the morning go a little smoother. Plates, cups, knives, forks, and spoons were a little unnecessary for my plans. However, being up a half hour early had given me more time to make breakfast.
As I started making breakfast, being careful to make something that would require the use of all of the dishes set out on the table, Nicole asked if she had been good enough to earn the stuffed frog. The Stuffed Frog? Sudden clarity rushed in. On occasion, when the children have gone above and beyond the call of duty, I have allowed them to pick a surprise out of the Surprise Bucket. This usually requires an act of extraordinary kindness or doing extra work without being asked. Austin was the last person to be able to pick a surprise and he had to pick between the stuffed frog and the stuffed snake (my kids like reptile type things), since he picked the snake, the frog must still be there. How do I get out of this mess? I do love rewarding good behavior, but I don't want to teach the children that every good deed comes with a monetary reward. I felt that I had to tell Nicole that, although I loved my surprise and was so thankful for her thoughtfulness, I couldn't let her pick out of the Surprise Bucket. I explained, what I have explained before, that the one rule of the Surprise Bucket is that Mom chooses the moment when it will be opening and that moment is not at a time when we are expecting it.
Many tears were shed at this example of Mom's lack of appreciation. As I held my sobbing little girl, I was reminded once again that motherhood is like walking a tight rope. Where is the balance between good deeds getting you nowhere and good deeds being only for profit? I tried to help Nicole understand that doing all of that work for me and then asking for a reward kind of lessened the love behind her actions. She assured me that she had done the work because she loved me. And, in spite of my lack of feeling, she seems to love me still. Hopefully, that love will get me through the other pitfalls of motherhood and we will all survive.