I have not been the best disciplinarian. Neither was my mom. My dad was away a lot, traveling for work. There were four of us rascals and only one of her, one end-all-be- all, mere mortal, mom. 

Growing up, I remember my three brothers and I blasting through the house like little Tasmanian devils leaving a storm of toys, food and general mayhem in our wake. My intense Italian father would come home on the weekends to an exhausted and overrun wife and scare the crap out of us. We toed the line on the weekend. Then he’d leave again and my mom was screwed. 

She was and is the most loving, patient, kind and present mother a child could ever want. She was the source of endless hugs, “I love yous” and warm security. But we took advantage of her softness, knowing she felt that if she was too hard on us, we might love her a little less. This, of course, was not true, but it allowed plenty of room for getting away with a lot without fearing any tangible consequences.

Here I am, 34 years old with a brood of my own, and just like my mom, I’m getting trampled. Self-pity, doubt and thoughts of “What am I doing wrong?” and “I don’t understand why they won’t listen” have always spun in my head. 

I’m realizing how important it is to set ground rules I actually stick to. How many times have I said, if you don’t do this or that, we’re not going to the party. Yet, we always go to the party, regardless of whether they actually listened. What if one time I actually do what I’ve threatened?  This is where things get especially tough for me. Having split custody, I now understand more than ever that feeling of wanting to give in to maintain my kids’ love — that’s my heart doing the thinking. The harsh truth is, they love me endlessly, but I’m not sure how much they respect me. And I know without question, the respect will come with guidelines that I not only expect, but demand be followed.  

Even before my split, I oftentimes (okay most times) found myself giving in because it just felt easier in the moment, and I know this sentiment rings true for both the carefree and strictest of parents. Because we’re tired, and kids are persistent, loud and, if anything like my 2-year-old, can partake in a Mexican-style standoff that will have you sweating and begging for mercy from a 30-pound human. 

It’s all about baby steps, but I’m finally starting to implement what I know in my head to be true: That a few hours of screaming, crying and sometimes not-so-nice words shot my way will be worth it in the long run. 

So whatever kind of disciplinarian you are, fight the good fight and stay strong. Buy some good earplugs, a nice bottle of wine and hold your ground. Let’s just say I’ve gone through a lot of wine.


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