It’s the day our son has been waiting for. The big dance is tonight. He has made plans with multiple friends, and even scouted out transportation for the way there. He has talked about this for a month or so, both to us and others. He is pumped. Except, we have to tell him he isn’t going anymore.

We sat him down the morning of and explained that because of some of the choices he had been making lately, we didn’t feel safe letting him go. We had too many fears and thought it would be easier to take it away than to let one of fears come true and be full of regret.

The night before the dance we made the decision. “He’s going to be devastated. I feel awful,” my husband said.

“I hear you. I guess this is real parenting,” was my retort. I remember when I thought labor was the hard work.

He’s our oldest and, as we like to joke, our trial run. We’ve never had a kid his age and we’re always trying to make sure we set the right precedent for the siblings who follow, even when it means we have to be the bad guys.

The morning came, and we explained that he couldn’t go; we told him why multiple times. We said we loved him, and we knew he was capable of better behavior and that hopefully he could go to the next dance. And the whole conversation fell on a kid who was hating his choices, hating his consequences, and hating us.

“This is the worst news of my entire life,” he lamented. Yikes.

He left for school and I could see the sadness in my husband’s eyes. “You’re feeling pretty crappy, aren’t you?” I asked. I already knew the answer, because I felt the same.

We reminded ourselves again and again that we made the right decision. We realized this is just the start of being the awful, evil doing parents who put boundaries in place to protect their kids.

I honestly don’t know how we’re going to survive this over and over. It seems to be getting harder as he grows. Gone are the days of “don’t touch that” or “put that back” and now we enter the phase of life where behaviours have serious and very real consequences.

We realized this must be our norm now. We must get stronger about processing this, and we have to stay united in our decision-making process for our kids.

Why? Because we set a goal of raising healthy, responsible children that will grow into equipped adults someday. We have got to try our best to live up to that goal! So that means saying no, taking away things that don’t make us feel comfortable, resisting the urge to allow our kids to do whatever the status quo is doing, and it means we have to live with this awful parental sorrow again and again. I think we were both just shocked at how hard it is to be the mean parents. How brutally hard it is!

It sucks being the mean parents. It was so tempting for us to be like, “Oh, never mind. We see how deeply this affects you. Why don’t you go—but you’re on thin ice!” We both wanted to so badly.

But then the time of the dance came and went and the following morning I woke up without regret. I knew we had made the right choice and I was glad that we didn’t give in, however tempting. We stayed firm and we all survived it. Hallelujah!

The son who got “the worst news of his life” seemed to survive the night and still appears to love us, maybe a smidge less now, but he still loves us. I’m sure he will forgive us someday, right?

Now, we will focus on our goal of not having to do this again when the next dance comes around and encouraging him to make the choices we know he is capable of. That parenting, although still hard, is a lot better than being the mean parents who say no and squash hopes.

Someday, I hope he realizes we were on his team all along, even when it didn’t feel like it.

It’s not easy to be the mean parents. It will be worth it in the long run, though.

And here I was thinking the days of teething were torturous . . . 

Leslie Deane-Mountjoy

Leslie Deane-Mountjoy is trying hard to persue Jesus more and more everyday. She loves her husband and four kids, writing, and chocolate. She has overcome a lot of pain and wants desperately to encourage others to grow in their faith, and accept the healing God offers.