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Every day when Big Girl brings home her backpack I feel compelled to start my own betting pool. What will be missing? Will her glasses be left at school? Or at home so I have to make a trip to school and drop them off? Maybe it will be her green dot notebook. Could it be the hat? Big Girl, you see, has inherited her Daddy’s habit of leaving stuff behind. (I can’t tell you how many things were left on the top of his car this summer and got flung off on the side of the road. The worst thing: one of Little Girl’s blankies!) He’s also lost keys, shirts, remotes, and glasses. Lots and lots of eye glasses. (I overlook these things because of his other awesomeness. Besides, he deals with me on a daily basis, so that’s punishment in itself.)

Over the past few weeks I would have been on a winning streak if I bet on the water bottle. Yes, the expensive stainless steel water bottle that I paid $25 for because it had butterflies on the outside of it. It was lost and found and lost and found again. And now it’s lost completely. It’s been gone for about two weeks. During that time Big Girl used one of my gym bottles. And she lost it multiple times! So this week I told her no water bottle until she brought home the one that’s missing. Pretty harsh, I know. Maybe too harsh. Maybe a little mean? (Much like my friend Denise Schipani, who calls herself a Mean Mommy, something that I have always called myself, too.)

I think I learned this “skill” from my upbringing. When I was little my mother pretty much let me sink or swim. She didn’t help with homework. She wouldn’t make excuses for me. If I got in trouble, so be it. If I was late to school, I had to suffer the consequences. (I was a frequent guest in Room 104, the detention room; Mr. Coffey knew me well.) I can remember one time where I forgot about a project until the night before it was due. My brother offered to take me to his university’s library so I could work on it. Uh-uh. My mom said my project would be late, and that the next time maybe I would remember to do it. I hated it, but looking back I’m sort of glad she was such a hard ass.

Because you know what? She was right. I was a kid who didn’t have to study to make 100s, so I coasted a lot. It was only after I failed a bunch of classes due to lateness and missing homework that I realized I had to do the work, too. Getting 100 on a test was only half the grade. This learning process followed me when I started working, too, waitressing at 14. I learned pretty quickly that I had to be on time to work and hey, I’d better figure out how to get there on time. And so I developed a work ethic, and learned the value of putting the time in. I learned to take responsibility for my actions. I learned to apologize when I was wrong. (She wasn’t ALL right, of course. She also told me repeatedly that no one was going to pay me to sit in my house and work in my sweats. HA! She was wrong on that account!)

And so what does this have to do with water bottles? Well, by being the kid without a drink this week Big Girl learned she is going to have to make a decision: Either she’s going to start being more responsible for her property or she’s going to go thirsty. We’ll see if she learns more quickly than I did. Since I’m not completely heartless I told her that between now and Christmas break she could take one of my water bottles to school with her. If she brings it back every single day, I will buy her a replacement bottle since, alas, I think the butterfly bottle is gone forever. In the meantime, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my gym bottle makes it home in one piece. And the glasses? We’ll learn that lesson next month.

Am I being too mean? Is it nicer to do gentle reminders, or am I doing a disservice by picking up assignments and glasses after hours? I’d like to know.

2 Responses to “Losing It or Why I am a Mean Mommy”

  1. Elizabeth says:

    NOPE. I think its great! Experience is the best teacher! I don’t think parents are helping their kids out by doing everything for them. I see the results of this all the time and its very unfortunate. My step-sister is 18 years old and she doesn’t know how to even pack her own lunch. It amazes me. I was cooking meals, doing laundry, and turning in all my own homework at twelve by my own choosing!

    Then again, maybe I am a mean mom too. I don’t say “Be careful’s” and I figure that if he falls maybe he will be more careful next time. Guess what? He’s a lot more careful now and he’s learned that at fourteen months :)

    Good luck and I am really enjoying reading your blog. I linked to it through Hobo mama. :)

  2. What you said sounds reasonable to me.
    Sometimes we all just need a little more encouragement to learn our lessons for life. You’re not doing it because you’re mean. You see this as a vital lesson and you teach it out of love.

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