About two years ago, during a camping trip, my then four year old ran a stone along our shiny black rental car. It was one of those heart-stopping, I’m-going-to-choke-on-my-own-vomit moments. Something that only other people’s kids do. Surely? Those unruly types that never get invited to play because quite frankly you can’t be arsed to deep clean your house afterwards. Not my kids. My angels. Surely not?!?
This work of car-art consisted of deep scratches across five panels of the car, from tyre to roof. I was (oh-so-slightly) livid. Yet, as I used my most menacing tone of voice and insane-woman eyes, my four year old just watched and listened. He didn’t respond. Instead, he just took it. No crying. No pleading for forgiveness. He might as well have shrugged his shoulders and said “fair enough”.
As punishment, he sat quietly on his own. He wasn’t allowed to play with the other children on the campsite. He wasn’t allowed to play crazy golf. We didn’t talk with him. Yet… There he just sat. Four years old, and he just took the punishment. He took the punishment like a (mini) man.
After one hour, we were impressed. “He certainly realises the severity of his actions” we nodded to each other. What good parents we were. We taught him a good lesson that day. He learnt by consequences. Let’s bring him back to the fold. He’d never do that again. “You can come back now darling”. He did. Quietly he moved from his ‘naughty spot’. He gradually acclimatised himself back into the family routine. Things slowly returned to normality. Then… One hour later… he took a stone to finish the job. He finished by scratching the other side of the fucking car.
To this day, I have no idea of the motivation behind his behaviour. I always thought I kind of understood my kids but this action left me stunned. Completely clueless. I just didn’t get it. I ran over options in my mind. Did he need attention? Or more love? Was my son being creative? Or vengeful? I just couldn’t figure it out and this made me crazy. Nut job crazy. A year and a bit later I asked him why. Why did you do it? And… His reply? His reasoning? “I just did” he replied and weirdly this response liberated me.
How many times, as women (mothers / friends / daughters / sisters), do we need that reason to accept a situation? That theory of another person’s motivation? Why did she say that shitty comment? Wear that colour? Not appreciate my work? Give me that look? Why. Why. WHY???? But maybe we need to hold back the analysis. Maybe there is no reason to uncover. Maybe she just did, like he just did, like they just did? No reason. No motivation. They just did it and that’s that. It’s time to let go of the rationale. Accept it, flick it off, move on.