Friday, March 30, 2012

A Date & Lessons Learned (hopefully)

I love our kids' school. In February they hosted a Daddy Daughter Dance, which Matt and Snapper attended. Tonight they hosted a Mom & Son Night. I took Pepper. He was so excited to go on a date with me! We went to dinner at McDonald's--his choice--and then headed over for a night of fun, outdoor games.

While we were eating dinner, we talked a lot about school, friends, and the sports he wants to try when he turns 6. Kindergarten has been a little bit rocky. Pepper is very intelligent, and nothing at school has been a challenge for him. He has been bored all school year. His teacher is wonderful, and has tried her best to keep him challenged. However, Pepper resists any activities that are repetitive in any manner, so it has been a battle to get him to complete the necessary worksheets. All year it has been a battle when it comes to completing classwork. There was even a time when Pepper told Mrs. I that she could not make him do anything that he already knew how to do. Oops...

We finally got that situation under control. We put a dime in a jar for every day Pepper completed his classwork. On the days when he did not complete his work, he had to pay us two dimes. Pepper loves his money, and no way was he going to part with a precious dime! It worked on the first try. We are now at six weeks of completed classwork, and Pepper has earned $3.00 worth of dimes! How many of those dimes has he had to return to me? Not a one!

Tonight he said this to me:
Mrs. I is such a good teacher. I just figured out that she gives us work to help us learn and get ready for 1st grade. And you know that part where I didn't finish my work in class? I am SO OVER that phase of my life. Actually, I am kind of mad at myself about it. Just think how more smarter I would be if I had did my work all year!"
Glad he finally figured it out. I hope that lessons sticks!

The Mom & Son night at school tonight was lots of fun! The PTA had set up action games all over the campus. We received a game tracker card and collected a hole punch at every game. When all the games on the card were punched, we got to go get a piece of candy. All the games were competitive--mom against son.  My son is over-the-top competitive. He hates to lose, and makes everything in life a competition...even simple things like finishing dinner. He loves to win, and he H-A-T-E-S to lose. I don't believe that letting him win all the time is productive parenting. He needs not only to learn how to lose with grace, but also that it is okay not to win every time. I want him to be able to play for the pure fun of it, regardless of the outcome. Before we went and played any games, we sat down and had a talk about sportsmanship. I told him that I was going to play the games to win, and that he should do the same. We role played about how to respond to both winning and losing. We discussed consequences for unsportsmanlike conduct. And we agreed that win or lose, we would have fun playing the games together.

Pepper beat me soundly at skeeball and the ring toss. I smoked him at golf putting. I would have beat him in the sack race, but I kept having to stop to pull up my pants...LOL! I thought I deserved a prize just for finishing that game with my pants still on! He whipped me at the roller board race, and we tied on the obstacle course. And then came tether ball. We laughed a lot while we played. I went pretty easy on him to compensate for my strength and height. But then a line started to form, and I told Pepper we needed to finish quickly and let someone else have a turn. So I smacked the heck out of the ball, and it wound right up around the pole, making me the winner.

How dare you beat me, MOTHER! Don't you know I was supposed to win this game? YOU CHEATED!
Profusion of tears and wailing.
And then he punched my leg. 

Timeout! Time for a reminder about being a good sport and losing with grace...and controlling one's temper. He managed to shut the tears off pretty quickly. And he apologized to being a bad sport. And we agreed to move on to the next game. I also told him that another outburst of unsportsmanlike conduct would receive the penalty of ending our evening and heading home. 

We tied at corn hole, and he beat me at the ball drop. And then came bowling. He went first and knocked down 9 pins in his two turns. He did a victory dance and chanted, I beat you, I beat you! Neener, neener, neener! I am a winner and YOU ARE NOT!
Oh no you did not, you little stinker you! And I took my turn. And I knocked down 9 pins on my first turn. I took my second turn and knocked down the last pin. I wish I could have captured the look on that boy's face. He was incredulous. I reached over to give him a high five. It was like reading a cartoon, watching his face. You could see the decision-making process grinding out over his head. Clearly conflicted, he lifted his hand to high five me, and I inwardly breathed a sigh of relief. But at the last second, he dropped his hand, snarled, burst into tears, and kicked me in the shin.

And just like that our fun evening ended. I took him firmly and silently by the hand and headed out. About halfway across the parking lot, he stopped crying and started trying to turn the blame on me.
It's your fault that we have to leave, Mom! I wanted to win bowling so bad. you shouldn't have tried to beat me! You should have got a gutter ball! If you hadn't have beat me, I wouldn't have gotten mad, and I wouldn't have had to kick you. Then we wouldn't have to go home. It's all your fault, Mom. You ruined my night!
I stayed silent until we reached the car. I calmly put him into his booster seat and looked him right in the eyes. I put my hands on his hands and spoke.
Pepper, when we got here tonight, we talked about sportsmanship. I also told you there would be a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. You lost your temper after we played tether ball. I gave you a warning then. You lost your temper again after bowling. You hurt me by kicking me and punching me. I am disappointed that you chose not to control your temper, and sad that you hurt me. Leaving now is the penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. This was your choice.

And just like that his countenance changed. His eyes dropped and the defiance melted. He sorrowfully whispered a heartfelt apology. I accepted, and we headed home. He was quiet the whole way. I hated having to leave early, cutting our date short. But what else could I do? He needs to learn now to control his temper and to display proper sportsmanship so that he doesn't have to learn when he is older and his habits are more set. And he definitely needs to learn that it is never okay to hurt others.
Sometimes it is hard to be a mom.

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