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I Used To Be Perfect

I Used To Be Perfect

June 6, 2006

Remember my motivational speech to my children that I wrote about in my last post?

My oldest son hit his first homerun last night. He was thrilled. And I was $20 poorer.

The night before my 10 year old hit two doubles and a single. And I was $5 lighter in the wallet.

I’d like to think it was my incredibly motivating and inspirational talk with my sons, and not the lure of cold hard cash.

It’s funny, before I had children I though I would be one of those parents who didn’t bribe or punish. I strongly felt that the intrinsic value of doing something would be lost if I put an outside motivator on it. But my children were also going to be perfect and want to learn their multiplication tables for fun and spend their spare time composing original violin concertos to play on their weekly visits to the elderly. They would self discipline!

Before I had children, I was the perfect mother.

And so the other night after my motivational speech, when my 10 yr old asked, will you give me something if I hit the ball into the outfield? After negotiating we decided on $1 for a single, $2 for a double, etc. The kids has the best game of his short little life, probably because he was too busy mentally calculating his newly acquired cash and what he would buy with it,than feeling anxious.

The 11 yr old said, “That’s not fair.”

I answered, “Welcome to my life, dear.”

“What if I hit a homerun? Like out of the ballpark homerun? Will you give me $20?” he pressed on.

I calculated the odds of that happening. He has never hit a homerun. I figured my money was safe.

So under the guise of being magnanimous I answered, “Sure. Why not.”

At 8:00 pm last night I got a phone call from him on his father’s cell phone. He hit that homerun.
I wasn’t there.

“I wish you had seen it, Mom.”

I think I may have died a little.

He came home with the ball. A dirty, smudged ball, that someone had dug out of the woods and given it to him. He held it up proudly, for all of us to gaze upon it’s magnificence. He wanted me to write the date on it so he could save it.

I pulled out my trusted Sharpie, asked him to verify the date on the calendar, took a deep breath to steady my hand, and proceeded to write the wrong date. The wrong freaking date.

He cried. I scrubbed the little spot on the ball trying to get the marker off. In the end I was able to “fix” it in a way that was acceptable to him, and if you didn’t know any better you wouldn’t even notice. But you’ll always be able to see that little clean spot, where I tried to fix my mistake.

Every time I look at that little ball sitting on his shelf, I’ll remember this night, and my woefully inadequate self.

My kids might not be perfect, but I love them just the way they are. I hope they think the same about me.

$20 should buy a little forgiveness… right? right?

Posted by Chris @ 10:49 am  

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  1. Gwen says:

    I’ve decided that we’re all perfect parents, until we have children. And I’m sure your pep talk worked. Think of the money as a “bribe” to use your positive thinking method rather than a reward for how well they did at bat. I’m suree they both got up to that plate and thought, “I am a batter. I can do this.”

  2. Jessica says:

    I am right there with ya sista. My oldest hit a homerun this weekend. I was only out $5 because it was in the park. It does make your heart swell with pride when they accomplish something great.

  3. Carola says:

    Your kids are already behaving like professional baseball players! only later their homeruns will be worth way more than $20.

  4. moe says:

    Yep get em playing for cold hard cash right away. Someday that ball might pay for your retirement. Consider it an investment.

  5. novaks8 says:

    My son hit the metal sign on the fence last week.

    It made a loud noise and everyone was gasping because they thought for sure it was over.

    It missed by like 2 inches!

    I would gladly have paid $20 for that 2 inches!

  6. Lilly says:

    That’s incredible. It might be expensive but you might have found the key to your sons becoming star players! …Your son will grow to love the smudge on the ball someday because it’ll make him think of you.
    …And the smudge on the ball is not as bad as what I did with tomato sauce to my son’s carefully script written school report last night. Luckily I could scan it in, clean it up in photoshop and print it out again and it looks really good…

  7. InterstellarLass says:

    Fortunately my bribe only worked once. $5 for a soccer goal. The offer stands. And $5 for any basketball game where my son scores more than 5 points.

  8. meredith says:

    Thank God you’re not perfect, life is more fun this way.

  9. Tess says:

    if you were a perfect mother, I wouldn’t read your blog! :)

  10. Kristen says:

    One thing I’ve learned from having stepkids is that internal motivation doesn’t always come naturally OR at a certain age. I’ve also accepted that it’s okay to begin to foster that internal motivation with external “bribes” - once they experience the internal rewards AS WELL AS the external, the lesson becomes easier. I think the idea to pay them was actually great for those reasons!!

  11. nextcommercial says:

    So, he’s telling you the date. And, STILL you wrote it wrong?

  12. Kristine says:

    Now, I see the flaw in my plan….I asked my parents for money when I got A’s on my report card. My mother told me that she did not need to pay me for A’s because I would get them anyway…I should have been holding a little something back.

  13. Jennifer says:

    I love that you wrote the wrong date on the ball. This is probably one of those things that you will forget about until your kids bring it up years from now: “Remember the time you hit that homerun and Mom wrote the wrong date on the ball? HAHAHA!!!”

    And if you write that book, I’ll pay $25 for the hardcover instead of waiting for it to come out in paperback. How’s that for bribery?

  14. Katie says:

    That is so awesome! (The bribe and homerun, not the wrong day)

  15. Gigi says:

    I bribed my sons with a 2liter of diet soda that they could keep all for themselves. To them at that point, it was like gold. They just needed that little something to take away the anxiousness and doubt of hitting the ball. Once they did it, they knew they had that capability. Now those boys are 17, 19, and 21, and how I wish that a promise of a 2 liter bottle of soda could help build their confidence with more adult situations! Keep writing I love your blog:)

  16. Jess says:

    It’s not bribery, it’s just a little extra motivation. We tell the kids if they score a goal in soccer we’ll go out to lunch, and they can choose where (it doesn’t happen very often), and we give them $1 for each A on their report card.

    Money well spent, I say.

  17. stacey says:

    You know my theory is your only a perfect mother with perfect kids if you don’t have any. I know this cause I had the same kind of mindset and then the kids happened and out the window all that went. At least we all know we are not alone in this mothering thing.

  18. Libragirl (libragirl316@gmail.com) says:

    You are one of the most perfect moms I’ve ever “met” You adore your kids, they are happy and enjoy life and the older ones protect the younger ones and they love each other and they love you and the dad…the only perfect mom is mine and she ain’t that perfect.

  19. Maddy says:

    I really hope the date was not 06/06/06 ‘cos that’s that date we have all been hearing so much about!

    I suggested the mantra to my 10 year old last night on his way to training and he came home ecstatic that it worked. He said he chanted *I am a batter, I can hit the ball, I’m going to hit the ball* … and hey guess what, he did.

    Thanks again for being a great role model to all of us anti-perfect-mothers.

  20. Missy says:

    I just love reading your posts, esp. about baseball and little league. I think my son is around the age of your boys (he’s 10). Our “code” is “Buck a Base.” Kind of like what you had: $1 for single, $2 for double, and on and on. BUT, he gets $1 for a stolen base. And, since he’s a catcher, he gets $1 for each baserunner he throws out. When he starts getting down (which doesn’t seem too often, but it does happen), I just shout out “Buck a base, baby!” and he gets right back to playing hard. The other parents don’t “get” it or if they do, they don’t say anything. Then again, no one says ANYTHING to any kid, unless it is to criticize, so I really make up for it with a bit of eccentricity. (yeah. I have to dance the hokey-pokey on the pitcher mound after the game, because they all hit the ball one game.)

    Yes, your heart does sink when you aren’t there and they do something great. BUT, when they call you on the cell, or act it out when they get home, oh, it is just so exciting. (ok, after the tenth time they act it out, complete with sliding into the little sister, that gets a bit old, but the boys are just so excited!)

    So……..WHOO HOOOOOOO on him hitting the ball! Keep us updated with the little league happenings!

  21. Sleeping Mommy says:

    I’m having one of those days too. I’m glad I’m not alone.

  22. Junosmom says:

    Kids don’t need perfect parents - they’d never be able to live up to that anyway. Kids need imperfect parents that make mistakes, that model forgiveness, humility and being human. They need to see us handle regret, and say we’re sorry. That’s how they learn, because like the rest of us, they won’t be perfect either, and it’s not what happens in life, but how we handle it that counts.

  23. My Full Hands says:

    I am guilty of bribing one of my kids just to touch the ball in his soccer games. “I’ll give you five skittles every time you kick the ball” Needless to say, it just wasn’t his sport.

  24. Nohe 5 says:

    Congratulations to your son for hitting the homer. And congratulations for treating this accomplishment with the honor it deserves. Keeping that ball will mean so much to him when he is older.

  25. My float says:

    Weren’t we all perfect parents before we had children! No bribing? Ha! Sometimes a bribe is necessary to get my son out the front door! My pockets are never going to be the same. Good for your kids.

  26. Belinda says:

    Yes. All my best parenting was also done before I had children. I was BRILLIANT. Today, I threatened my 3-year-old with a certain consequence if she didn’t cease a certain behavior, and she laughed. LAUGHED. With genuine hilarity. At the very idea.