A Cautionary Tale for Parents: Sometimes the Ends Do Not Justify the Means
I walked into my apartment after a long day at work. Again, I caught my daughter lounging on the couch in my living room. “Ugh,” I thought, “She still hasn’t found the firestick for the television in her room.” I thought it would have turned up by now, but I grew impatient as it had been some time since she lost it.
She knows how things work in the household: I enjoy watching TV in the living room, and she knows that she has a TV in her room so that she has a space to watch her shows.
Annoyed, I asked her, “did you even look for the remote control today?” She replied, “yes, mom, but it disappeared. I can’t find it.” Sarcastically, I said, “What? Oh, now remote controls have legs.” Irritated and powered with the “know it all mom ego,” I started searching. My daughter begged me to stop. She said, “why do you have to start this at 9:30 pm?” She knew while she slept, I would keep searching and scurrying around the apartment until I found the remote. I knew she had an excellent point; this wasn’t an urgent issue. I had worked all day, but I made it my mission to look for the remote.
Nevertheless, fueled with conviction, I wanted to show her that the remote was missing due to a lack of real effort and perseverance; not due to it simply going missing.
Through my search I cleaned and organized every closet in my home because I had trashed the place while rummaging through every room searching for the remote control. After hours of searching and cleaning, it resulted in me making a huge mistake. My daughter was getting ready for school the next morning and asked me, “Mommy, where is TA TA?” TA TA is her beloved childhood stuffed animal. With a loss of sleep, I realized it was hard for me to pin-point where I had last seen or placed the now-almost-like-family stuffed animal.
My daughter was right; it had been too late to start cleaning because she knew I would get tired and careless. I hate to admit it, but I can toss out money if I am not paying attention; nonetheless, I was determined to prove my point. But now at what cost?
“Mommy you tossed out TA TA!” I didn’t remember trashing her favorite stuffed animal from her childhood.
Sadly, I didn’t find the remote control, and in the process, I tossed her favorite teddy bear. Motives that inspire motivation and trust are rooted in caring about the people you serve and the quality of what you do. My actions are an example of how we lose sight of motives as many parents do sometimes. As I reflect on my behavior, I don’t want to come off as “I want to win at any cost.” That creates suspicion and distrust with children, and that’s not what I’m seeking in my relationship with my daughter. I suspect that is not what any parent intends to do.
As parents, we are confident that our ends justify our means, but if we don’t consider the effects of our actions, we are liable to cause damage. The dictionary defines intent as a “plan” or “purpose”, but I am convinced that before we set our plans in motion, we need to take a hard look at our motives. My plan for looking for the remote control was out of built up anger and I was ready to prove the point more than respecting my daughter’s bedtime. This experience has made it even more critical that motives matter.
Tiana Brown is the Assistant Director of the Norwalk Housing Authority Learning Centers