When I Say Stop, I Mean Stop!

On Saturday, my oldest and I spent the morning volunteering at a triathlon. The Seattle rain splattered us as we directed the cyclists which way to go.

We also directed traffic. To instruct the cars to make way for riders, I threw my hand forward and yelled, “Stop!” The bicyclist’s safety depended on whether the cars chose to obey my command, so I really used all my body language. You should’ve seen my mean “Stop!” glare, and my forceful stomp.

In many ways, my kids’ lives also depend on them stopping when I say stop. When they’re little, their safety literally does. I remember a time in a grocery store parking lot when all four kids and I stood in a row ready to cross the “street” to reach the door. It was dark out and raining (of course) and just when I was about to lead them across, a black truck with the music blaring raced in front of us, inches from my sweet babies. “STOP!” I screamed from the depths of my soul. Thank goodness the kids obeyed me. (You should’ve seen me shake my fist and holler at that truck as it rushed away!)

I learned that if they don’t obey me when there’s not danger, they won’t obey me when they really need to. So if I tell Abigail to pick up her Little Mermaid socks from the kitchen floor (how socks end up in the kitchen, I don’t know!), and she fails to, I must follow through with discipline. When Christian “forgets” to stop playing Wii and take out the trash, I can’t just let that go—even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal. Obeying must be a habit. Even if it means no Wii for a day. Gasp!

And now that my oldest is in his pre-teen years, I realize the concrete lessons of obeying simple demands are morphing into an investment in his character. If his heart that used to cherish me as his dear mama now spews disrespect, it means something.

It means he’s going down an unsafe road. And I have a job. I must throw myself in the way. Like I did with the cars at the triathlon. “STOP! You’re going to get hurt!” I may even have to make my mean face.

His safety is my responsibility, and that means dolling out consequences for ungodly behavior. I don’t always like this part of parenting. And I know the kids never like it. But I love them, and I’ll do whatever I can to keep them safe.

And by the way, Ben and I had a blast together—laughing, dancing, singing. He even dared me to yell, “May the force be with you!” to the cyclists.

So, sometimes, the investments pay off.

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Ocieanna Fleiss