The truth is that he was mean. It was intentional, and it hurt his brother a lot. I told him so, and he felt bad. I told him there would be consequences and he felt more bad. I told him the consequences would have to be hard and he cried.
All afternoon we talked about it: acceptable behavior, acceptable consequences, fairness, sacrifices, showing that you are sorry. But he had a hard time getting past the part where he wouldn’t get what he wanted.
“What about your brother? He didn’t get what he wanted. You took it from him. And I think you need to give him something you want so you can make it right.”
He didn’t understand. There were more tears, a time out, threats he could never fulfill.
We tried to explain fairness. “Fair” is not getting what you want, it is getting what you earned, what you deserve.
He didn’t understand. “But how can it be fair when you all get something I don’t get?”
We wanted so badly for it to all end. For him to apologize sincerely. For him to accept the consequences. For him to see past himself. We wanted him to realize that his choices have consequences and that consequences are sometimes hard. And we wanted, also, for us to be able to eat our dinner in peace.
For my part, I wanted this to leave an impression. A big one. I wanted him to think about his brother, and to realize how much fun they have together. And, of course, for him to never ever ever do anything like that again.
In the end, I don’t know that we were successful. The consequence was paid, but it felt like it we paid it, not him. His brother offered his forgiveness, but he wasn’t sure what to do with it.
I will have to be content — and discontent — knowing that there will be plenty more opportunities to learn these lessons.
And that is the cold, hard truth and the consequence of raising children.