The first year of my first son’s life, I felt like a great mom. I was completely in love with my son and everything in my world centered around him. I read all the parenting magazines, was uber protective, loved on him constantly and entertained him every waking hour. Once I had son # 2, who wouldn’t go to sleep in his own crib and had terrible skin rashes, and son # 1 was pooping his pull-up behind the couch instead of potty training, I felt my plans for awesome mother-hood slipping away. I was a full-time job, cluttered house, falling asleep at story time, struggling-to-keep-up mom. Then when they were old enough to start fighting over toys, turns, and well pretty much everything imaginable my frustration level soared, my temper grew even shorter than my patience, and I knew I was so far from a great-momsville I couldn’t even see it in my rearview mirror anymore. My husband tells me I yell too much (I know, I hate it), my kids tell me I’m mean (because I don’t let them stay up past bedtime to play video games) and the looks in others faces when I snap at my children tell me I am just too full of frustration (I know, you pay for therapy and I’ll go).
So I am not a kind, patient, always loving never harsh Mom like I had wanted to be.
(Me to my mom when I was fourteen: “When I grow up, I’ll never yell at my kids”. Well guess what, kids do stupid things and ignore their moms 4 out of every 5 sentences: sometimes they need yelled at.) Anyway, I am not quite the person or the parent I had wished to be when I was younger, BUT I am not a horrible mother. And here are some reasons why:
1. I don’t beat my children, lock them in closets or starve them. This should be a given, but with the way people are so crazy now days, just had to clarify, I’ve got to have the “I’m not a child abuser” on the list. I have spanked my kids before. But it really didn’t do any good so its not my go-to discipline. Actually hardly any method of discipline worked more than twice with them, it seems my kids see right through it. (Hence, my frustration levels.)
2. I have read to my boys every night before bed since they were six months old. I change the voices for the different characters, even going so far as read in a British accent two chapters at a time for Sadie in Rick Riordan’s Red Pyramid. And when they like a certain kind of book or series, I help them collect them all and we read them together.
3. Actually, I take an interest in most things they like. I snuggle on the couch with them and watch Phineas & Ferb and sing along with the songs. I’ve watched every single episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender multiple times. And when they beg me, I play Fergie’s “Lady Humps” for them in the car, even though it’s totally inappropriate, because I want them to like music and right now that is what they like. I do however draw the line at Pokemon and Beyblade shows, which I can’t stand, that’s when I leave the room. But I do enjoy taking them to the movies and exposing them to some of my favorite movies from when I was a kid.
4. I know them. I know their favorite colors, favorite shows, favorite toys, favorite friends, favorite foods, etc. I know their sense of humors. I know which one hates mayonnaise and gravy and which one hates tomatoes and mushrooms. I know whose clothes belong to whom when I put away laundry (unlike the husband). I know what gets them upset and what doesn’t work at calming them down (unlike the husband). How do I know these things? I listen to them, I spend time with them. We eat dinner together every night around the table and talk about our day.
5. I know and accept their strengths and weaknesses. I don’t expect them to be someone they are not. Son #1 is so smart and inventive, and although I wish he was less shy around other people and didn’t ignore the girl from his class when she says hi to him at the grocery store, I am not going to force him to become a performing socialite. He was clumsy and shy on the soccer field, he didn’t like it. I don’t force him to play soccer, I let him do karate instead, which he loves. And let me tell you Son #2 has such a natural ability with a ball, since he was one year old he can throw a football or baseball strait and well. He should play football or baseball to use that talent, and I would love it if he chose football because that is my favorite sport. But he tells me he doesn’t want to play football because he doesn’t want to get hurt. He is such a tender heart. So I don’t push. I’ll let him pick whatever activities he likes, even if it ends up being ballet.
6. We have the greatest talks when I put them to bed at night and I lay down next to them. They’ll ask questions about past presidents or dead grandparents, their birthday party nine months from now, share the new song they made up about farts, what is 1,234 plus 1,234, what is marijuana, guess what number I’m thinking of, is the tooth fairy real, what were you like when you were a kid mommy, what do you want to be when you grow up, what does ‘sexy’ mean, and all kinds of other random topics that pop up that I feel so honored they talk to me directly about. I answer them honestly, or at least most age-appropriately honestly I can. These are the discussions that give me great insight as to who my children are. And I know as they grow up there will be one person in front of their parents and perhaps another person with their friends, but I feel like we have an awesome base for a strong lasting relationship.
7. I want the very best for them. I want them to have safe happy childhoods, a great education, and a drive to do well in life. I want them to be healthy, eat well, and stay physically fit. I want them to do things they enjoy and feel confident in themselves. I want them to be respectful, well adjusted, compassionate, well educated, accepting of others, care about our environment and want to help others. And I want them to understand hard work and discipline, which is why we fight. They are kids, they want to take the lazy way out. I know that won’t take them far in life, I want them to learn how to set goals and work towards them and feel proud of themselves when they reach those goals.
8. I take the side of RIGHT instead of the side of my child simply because they are the fruit of my loins. If they were the bully, or they were in trouble at school, or they broke the neighbor’s window with a baseball – then they will pay the consequences of their actions. They will not be coddled as I yell at the teacher that she doesn’t know what she is talking about like some parents I’ve seen these days. Hell no! You do the crime, you pay the time. I care enough about them to try to do what is right now, even when it’s harder, than doing what is easy now to avoid the fight. I’d rather they go to detention in middle school than to jail in their twenties. I’d rather they know all about sex and condoms and saying no then to wind up a parent at sixteen. I would rather they see pictures of the hideous things meth does to people than to try it because a friend says its cool.
9. I plan fun, exciting family vacations to expose them to new places and experience all kinds of fun. They’ve already seen so many more things than I had my whole childhood. They’ve been to the Oregon Coast, Yellowstone, San Diego & Sea World, Lego Land, Las Vegas, camping, etc. They have traveled through Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington. With hopefully a lot more interesting places to come.
10. I have always made a big deal out of their birthdays, planning the theme party of their choice. I decorate, invite their friends, make their favorite foods or take them to their favorite restaurant – all to make them feel special on their special day.
So no, I am not the nicest, most beloved parent. And I am certainly not the most calm parent, but I think I am at least trying to do what is best in the long run. (Even if I lose my temper a little too often and might even let a cuss word slip here or there). Hey, its not as easy as it seems – they are ALWAYS here! Some days it would be so much easier to let the television baby-sit them (and that happens once in a while), or it would be easier to give in and say whatever, do what you want (and that happens on rare occasion too), but I wouldn’t be doing my children any favors by letting them walk all over me and have no boundaries. And trust me, I already feel like they don’t respect me enough and talk back too much, and that’s with me trying –- how bad would it be if I didn’t try? Son #1 once told me his friend Nick’s mom was the best mom in the world. It stung a little, but I didn’t argue. I know she is super sweet and kind and I can’t picture her ever raising her voice. So I agree that she could be the nicest mom in the world. But nicest and best are not always the same thing. And I’m their parent, it’s my job to be a little strict, to have rules, to say no sometimes. Parenting shouldn’t have to be like working in customer service -the customer is not always right – the parent is.
And so in closing, I know that my kids are not the most well mannered or minding children, they don’t listen well and their sibling rivalry drives me absolutely insane, but I am trying my best. They may seem like little shits now, but I have no doubt in the quality of people they will grow into. (As long as my screaming doesn’t ruin them for life right?)