I admit it—I’ve never been good at disciplining kids. As a parent, I was a pushover and if I had to do it over again, I’d try much harder to be consistent and stricter. Now that I’m a grandparent I find there are times when I need to discipline, and here I go again—I hate saying “no.”
But today, I knew I had to tell my five year old granddaughter, Juliet, “no,” to show her that her behavior was not acceptable. And it broke my heart. For the past week she has had a bad cough and had to stay home from kindergarten. She has been calling me everyday for a story. Ever since her little sister, Amelia, was born two years ago, Juliet and I have had a phone ritual. She calls me for a storah—our made up word for story. Sometimes we’ll be on the phone for 45 minutes while she listens to me make up a new story. It’s my way of spending time with her long-distance.
Most of the time I can stop what I’m doing and sit with her. Her enthusiasm for my stories always inspires me and sometimes I’m amazed that I can come up with yet another new story. She always thanks me when we’re done. Today when she called, I had just walked in the door and my other phone was ringing. I told her I’d call her back.
A half hour later I had two phone messages from her: “Baba, you didn’t call me back! You’re dumb!” followed by: “Baba, I’m sorry I called you dumb!”
I called her back and told her I appreciated her apology. I understood she was having a hard time waiting for me to call back. “What were you feeling when you called me the first time?” I asked. She replied, “I was mad that you didn’t call me.”
I told her I felt sad when she called me dumb. I asked her how she could have said it differently. She thought for a minute and said: “I’m waiting for you to call me and I’m angry you’re taking so long.”
After we resolved the problem, I told Juliet that I would not tell her a story today because of her phone message. It was a difficult decision for me and I could feel my heart breaking. But I followed through and we said goodbye.