By Keegan, #4

Being raised by a stay-at-home mom, there was an interesting difference between being disciplined by my mom and being disciplined by my dad.

My mom already talked about the excitement we kids felt when dad would finally come home from a long day of work…but there was another side to this. If we had the nerve to misbehave during our waking hours, we knew that our offenses would not stay with just Mom. We would be tried by a pair of judges…who happened to be on the exact same page and knew what we needed to grow, learn, and improve. Occasionally Mom would discipline us for our ‘obstruction of justice’, notify Dad, and that would generally be the end of it. In other cases of insubordination, we would follow our mom, tail between our legs, to the house phone and wait while she dialed Dad’s work phone. With each ring, our guilt rose and our hope for quick redemption sank.

I’ll back up a little bit…

We kids knew, if nothing else, that Dad, like many fathers, worked his tail off to provide for us. His passion for work and providing for us mirrored his love and protection for his wife and her emotions. He knew she worked very hard as well at home, taking care of laundry, educating the kids, cooking meals, etc.

We also knew that we brought great joy to our father and that is why when we screwed up at home and upset Mom, he took it very seriously. Also, especially for a kid like me who was always finding new ways to get in trouble, Mom’s reprimands could sometimes lose their terror. She was with us 24/7, unlike Dad, who had to travel a bit for his two jobs. For the ten-year-old version of me, being reprimanded by Dad was code for, “you really screwed up this time”.

“Yes, I have Keegan here. He has something he needs to tell you,” Mom would say and hand the phone to me.

With shaking hands and teary eyes, I’d take the phone, dreading the conversation ahead of me. I would then choke out my offense while Dad listened. I could hear his breathing. He would pause briefly when I finished and then go into a succinct lecture that always packed a punch. He would talk about how upset I had made my mother. He would list out all the things she does for me on a daily basis and how misbehaving for her was inexcusable. We would talk more when he gets home.

You get the picture.

After talking and slowly breaking down into tears as Dad explained the implications of my actions, I would hand the phone back to Mom and she would hang up…the chastising wasn’t over. She would reciprocate Dad’s words by then telling me how busy Dad is working and providing for us, but he had to stop what he was doing to deal with me. How Dad worked long hours and when he came home, the last thing he wanted was to be disappointed with his kids.

And so I would walk away from the phone, thinking about how I most definitely wouldn’t make that same mistake again.

The lesson here is that when you’re parents are on the same page and use their pristine communication to double team your misbehavior, the lessons are invaluable. There was no good cop/bad cop routine. They both understood what we needed to be the best kids we could be.

 

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