When you become a parent there are many things you learn to accept. You learn to accept that toothpaste will always be crusted in globs all over the bathroom sink. You learn to accept that dirty clothes can be found everywhere in the house except the clothes hamper. But one thing that is hard to get used to is that no matter what happens in the house, nobody ever knows what happened or why.
For instance, I remember walking into the kitchen when my son was little and he was standing in the middle of the kitchen covered in powdered sugar that he had spilled on himself when he tried to get it out of the cabinet. I asked him what happened and as he stood there covered in white powder, he looked at me with big innocent eyes and said “nothing.”
“Nothing? How did you get covered in powdered sugar?”
“I don’t know”
“Am I supposed to believe that you were just standing here and it suddenly started raining powdered sugar in the kitchen?”
He shrugged in a way that was supposed to convey that this was definitely possible. If he thought I was going to buy that excuse, he was going to go with it.
Having kids is like playing a perpetual game of Clue. You have to figure out who did it, with what and where. You feel like you have to be Sherlock Holmes. You don’t want them to get away with anything but you don’t want to accuse them of something that they didn’t do.
It is always important that they understand that the things they do have consequences but at the same time you don’t want to go overboard either. It is important for them to know that they have boundaries, but it is important that the boundaries not be so tight that it seem like a cage to them. If they feel like the constraints are too tight they will try to rattle the bars and push back the boundaries. Even though they act like they want you to leave them alone, they also like the idea that there is someone there who is watching them to make sure they don’t stray too far off the path. They need to know that someone cares.
The temptation to get into trouble is always there. The kids who stray off the path can seem like they are having a lot of fun, it can be hard to not join them. If they know that their parents will catch them, will stop them and will punish them is often what keeps them from stepping over the line.
They will often deny what they did but they need to know that you will figure it out. After all, you know them better than anyone. You have always been able to figure out what they were doing before they need to know you will figure them out now.
Even though they are bigger and they bristle when you ask, it is more important than ever that you continue to play the game. Because who did it, with what and where they are doing it can have much bigger consequences than a messy kitchen. But when you want them to believe that you will get to the bottom of whatever they do, it started years ago in a kitchen with a little boy with sugar in his hair.
Dr. Celeste Lopez graduated cum laude from The University of Utah College of Medicine. In 2003 she moved her practice, Wishing Well Pediatrics, to Delphos and is located at 154 W. Third Street. She is the proud mother of a 14 year old son.