I loaded the bags, boxes and bulky items into the trunk and slammed it shut. I was angry. I knew it, my kids knew it and the neighbors who were standing in the yard watching the drama unfold knew it. My 8-year-old son was screaming loud enough for the rest of the world to figure out something wasn’t going well in our house that day. He stood at the edge of the garage, clutching a cardboard box that held a few precious toys and stuffed animals.
Every other toy he owned was in the trunk of my car, on its way to Goodwill.
I can’t honestly tell you what we had been fighting about. I’m pretty sure that the original cause was something really insignificant. Somehow, that small issue blossomed into a huge fight filled with disrespect and disobedience. I’m a pretty stubborn person and so is my husband. You can imagine the extent of the “gift” of stubbornness our son has inherited. I can still feel the frustration and indignant rage that bubbled up the longer we each insisted on proving our point. Backing down, admitting defeat or walking away — neither of us was about to do any of that.
There was no way I was losing this one. So I blurted out the first threat that popped into my brain. Only this time, it went past the threat stage — I actually did it.
I grabbed a random empty box and instructed him to put what he wanted to keep in it. Whatever didn’t fit in the box was going to be given away, to someone who would appreciate it more, to some child who didn’t fight with his mother and feel the need to push the limits 1,000 times a day.
He wasn’t happy about it, which is an understatement. He was sad and angry, desperately contrite, shocked and furious all over again.
To this day, I am stunned that I followed through with my threat. I’ve made a zillion threats ten zillion times. I even follow through with a lot of them, but never a threat on this scale, a threat that could potentially skew his childhood permanently.
It was probably not my finest mothering moment.
As I returned from dropping everything off at the donation center down the road, I sobbed. What had I just done? Had I undermined the foundation of safety and security that made our house a home? Would my son ever look at me again? Speak to me again? Would he be in counseling 20 years from now, struggling with the after effects of the day his mother got rid of all his toys?
There was nothing I needed more than to hug my precious, hardheaded, trembling little boy when I got home. There weren’t many words. A mumbled Mom always loves you. A quiet I know.
The subject never really came up again. It’s not that we avoided talking about it. It’s more that we both silently agreed to move past it. Yes, there were times when he mourned the loss of a particular item, but one day he even mentioned he hoped another child was enjoying his toys, and that he didn’t really miss them.
It’s been almost eight years since that day. I still think about it occasionally, and I wonder if he ever does. We still talk, we still hug and we still butt heads constantly.
Maybe it did more good than harm or maybe it will come back to haunt us. Maybe we would have a completely different relationship if I had never taken all of his toys away. Still, I love him, he loves me and we are learning how to choose to win the relationship instead of the battle.
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