I laid out the terms before he and Daddy left for the park. Daddy reinforced them both on the way to and the way home from the park several times over.
It was his choice. I had given him plenty of warning. I had given him plenty of opportunity. I had even invited him to come along side me and work together.
“No thanks mama. You can clean up my toys so I can earn them back,” he said. I couldn’t believe my ears, so I asked him several more times. The answer was always the same.
He didn’t think I’d go through with it. Which meant now I had to follow through. I set about tearing down the walls of his block city and throwing the pieces into a bag. I smiled at his creative use of a a sandwich bag box as a garage as I dumped the cars tucked away inside. And I paused for a second to admire his intricate craftsmanship of streets of his city and the way the street signs and people were placed just so.
Honestly, I didn’t want to pick it up either. This block city was beautiful and had taken him several days to create. If it was in his room, I would have left it up for a really long time. But it was right smack in the middle of our office, which is meant it was right smack in the middle of the shortest route between the living room and kitchen. And I was tired of nearly tripping over it all the time.
The gravity of his choice didn’t hit him right away. In fact, he was fine until bed time. That is when he discovered his most prized possession- a Matchbox car named Nightburner was in one of the four large garbage bags of toys stashed away in my closet.
I had called his bluff. I had to. The stakes were too high.
The sobbing in his bed nearly killed me. We are talking straight up wailing and gnashing of teeth style crying and mini fits of rage. I had to keep telling myself over and over, he is the one who made the decision. Not me. I have to teach him these hard lessons. That is part of my mama job. What I really wanted to do was to run in there and tell him he could have his toys back.
I did run in there to be with him as he cried. The emotions were so big I couldn’t bare the thought of him being alone to deal with them on his own. He crawled into my lap and cried. And cried and cried some more. When he settled down we talked about who made the choice and why we have to choose wisely. This was a big teachable moment. We worked out a plan on earning his toys back- if he picked up his toys properly tomorrow night, the next morning he could earn one bag back. Rinse. Lather. Repeat.
He’s earned all of his bags back now. And he’s been very diligent at picking up his toys every night after dinner.
At some point, most parents do something like this. My bag went straight out to the garbage can and I was devastated because Alphie the robot was in there. I know it probably killed my mom too because he was expensive! I still remember being heartbroken, which is why I wanted Malone to be able to earn his toys back.
Did it happen to you as a kid? What was in the bag? Or if you’re a parent, tell me how you’ve handled this in your house.
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This post is linked up with Shell at Things I Can’t Say. She’s lovely. Read her blog and prove me wrong. I dare you.