Behavior & Discipline, Life in General, Motherhood

Can you get an F in Parenting?

Last week Thursday I got an F in parenting.

Completely and royally failed.

At least that’s how I interpreted the text message I received.

“Your boys are being extremely disrespectful; we need to talk about this.”

Oh.

Another adult was telling me that my boys were disrespectful. I got an F. I failed dismally.

My energetic and sometimes rowdy 8, 10 and 12 year old were being supervised and tested by their teacher who oversees our homeschool program and apparently it wasn’t going well.

They were outdoors in 90 degree weather, at 3pm, doing testing on laptops and as 3 brothers they feed off each other when it comes to all things; good behavior or otherwise.

And here it seemed to be the otherwise.

Is she blaming me?

So what does a mom do when another mom tells her that her kids are being extremely disrespectful and not cooperating?

Like is she really trying to say, you bad mother, you taught your kids to be rude to adults!

Does anyone think that mothers actually want their kids to act that way?

Do I apologize? Apologize for what?

One thing was certain, this adult was extremely frustrated, and as the mom, well I guess it was my fault.

Hence the F.

But here’s what I’ve discovered.

Parenting is not a gumball machine.

Gumball machines are straightforward; put in a coin, get a gumball. Every time. You put in what’s expected and you get what you expect.

I’d say parenting is more like the claw machine.

Y’know, the machine at every arcade place that taunts you and you convince yourself that you are going to beat it. And as it eats up coin after coin, you carefully and steadily maneuver that claw arm, never losing track of it, hyper focused on its every move and slowly lower it, so carefully and delicately aimed at just the item you want. You’re sweating from the intense labor and watch it slowly reaching your desired prize; it slowly grasps a corner, lifts it a fraction of an inch as you watch not breathing, and then drops it, delivering you nothing.

That’s parenting.

You sweat, you toil, you make intentional decisions and mindful choices; you give all you have, you give all that you know how to give … and most likely what you get in return is not what you envisioned.

But different than the claw machine, where you walk away with nothing; in parenting you don’t walk away empty handed.

You always get something beautiful and priceless, if you stop trying to limit the options. 

So my kids were disrespectful. So much so that the adult came complaining, which in my perception was blaming, and vented her frustration to me.

So do I say I’m sorry I’ve raised such rude children?

Do I say I’m sorry I told my kids to be disrespectful?

I chose something more neutral; I’m sorry you had to deal with that. I will speak to them about it.

Am I proud of them?

At that moment, I sure wasn’t.

Should I punish them? Consequences? Retribution? How dare my children behave like that to another adult!

So do I get an F? Is it that easy to fail?

Parenting isn’t a gumball machine but really it’s a lot better than a claw machine.

It’s the ultimate test of self; of patience to allow our children to grow and mature at their pace, through their stages and phases and ups and downs. Of being a guiding light and good example of what’s right and wrong. Of catching them when they fall but not shunning them when they fail. Of allowing each child to grow into their best self, not your version of best. Of loving each child even when another adult is annoyed.

So my fellow Annoyed Adult, I’m annoyed too. And to be honest, I’m sure it’ll happen again. And I’ll watch them grow into their own little people. But my kids are not gumballs and my kids are not my report card. There’s no such thing as an F in parenting.

Parenting is not about helping your kids be the best version of your dreams. It’s about helping them become the best version of themselves. And the path is a bumpy one.

The only F is if you expect it to work like a gumball machine.

Life in General

Good Advice…or is it?

“Wow, I’m the best mother ever! I’ve really got it all figured out!”

Said no mother, ever.

That’s just how it works; part of the gift of motherhood is the gift of doubt, guilt and second guessing.

And that’s where good advice comes in. The remedy for all this is good advice.

But not all advice is good, even if it has good intentions.

My personal two least favorite and least productive pieces of advice are these goodies;

“The days are long, but the years are short; before you blink they’ll be grown up, hold onto these times!”

“Little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems!”

I don’t know if they’re meant as cliches or advice, but I do know what they actually are; when delivered, it’s just another form of the big bad G – GUILT – albeit with fancy wrapping paper.

Continue reading “Good Advice…or is it?”
Motherhood

Not all advice is good advice!

writeonfridge1

I love reading Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I never subscribed to it, but for some reason they keep sending me the issues. I find that it’s a great place to get ideas that never work in real life. But I still enjoy looking at it; I enjoy seeing the colors, styles and decor of dream houses – that stay dreams.

And then there’s the practical tips page; the ones that promise you the easiest solutions to all your problems, guaranteed to work and fail proof.

I don’t know who writes them, but it’s certainly someone with little life experience.

Or someone who was never a mom.

So I was reading this must-try brilliant answer to all of life’s challenges, an easy way to get organized:

Post a dry erase board on the refrigerator and every time you remember something, run out of something or need something, just jot it down on the board and presto, at the end of the day your list is made and nothing is forgotten.

Great idea, no?

Well, I laughed out loud and couldn’t help imagining what would happen if I tried this in my house.

I’d start the day off with breakfast,  and we’d run out of cheerios. I’d quickly jot it down on the whiteboard.

The kids get dressed, and I notice 5 year old has yet another pair of pants with ripped knees; I quickly jot down to buy more size 5 pants..

I remember I need to make dentist appointments, and I quickly jot it down.

Ran out of mayo, no problem, it’s already on the list.

More tissues. There it goes, onto the whiteboard.

No more trying to remember things;  the white board is doing it for me!

Somewhere between supper and bedtime, one of my kids – don’t know if it’ll be 3, 5, or 7 year old, will notice the whiteboard. And the dry erase marker.

And there are fewer things more tempting to little hands than a dry erase board. I’d say it comes in at a tie to a Sharpie marker.

And in one little swift giggly move, gone would be my list. And the contents of my brain. And a whole days work. With no way of ever getting it back. And in it’s place would be some indecipherable modern art drawing, probably with Sharpies.

Yes, dear dry erase board and brilliant ideas writer in Better Homes and Gardens, please put a disclaimer with such ideas that for reasons of sanity, not to try it at home until the kids are married and have moved out.

Which reminds me of an important rule I follow when it comes to filtering all advice, especially the unsolicited type:

Not all advice is good advice, and not all good advice is good advice for everyone.

For me, my Little Yellow Notepad works. For some it’s Post It notes or a spiral notebook. Good old fashion ink-on-paper.

And even if little hands get hold of it and try to destroy any level of organization I’ve worked so hard on establishing, I can always get on my hands and knees, collect all the bits and pieces and tape them back together.

Trust me it works; I’ve tried it.

Motherhood

Mommy obsessions

mess

What is it with us moms that we never tire of hearing about other people’s kids’ crazy antics? There’s such a thrill and satisfaction in seeing someone else’s house covered in flour, marker on someone else’s white couch or even just toys strewn across the floor from wall to wall.

I can look at photos of such stuff and listen to people talk about it for hours on end.

And I know I’m not the only one!

And the truth is, I think I know why.

Because it validates me. Of course I know it can’t just be my kids and my house; but there’s nothing like seeing it to feel comforted.

And so hence the obsession.

Somethings are funny only when it’s not my own kids.

The other day I was at an event with some of my kids.

I was talking with some people near the food table, and out of the corner of my eye I noticed the table lifting upwards slightly. As a mom, that didn’t startle me. That’s a normal thing.

But I was sure I knew who was under the table, making it happen, and I could feel the annoyance at my kids rising for hiding under the table.

Ready to call my sons’ names and demand they come out, two little heads popped out from under the table.

And miracle of miracles, they did not belong to my family!

The annoyance was gone.

Actually, I thought it was funny. Cute. Whatever. It really wasn’t a big deal, didn’t disturb me in the slightest and totally didn’t matter.

But more than that, I was amazed. Where did the annoyance go? How’d that happen so quickly??

Why, if it was my own kids, would it bother me so greatly? And why, when I discovered I wasn’t related to the culprits, did I barely give it a second thought?

I filed that image in my mental mommy files, one to keep in mind when my kids are up to something like that the next time – other kids do that too. It’s OK!

And that goes back to the obsession; we so enjoy seeing other kids doing stuff like that.

Yesterday was a good example of a day that would have been funny if I was with someone else’s kids.  It was Wednesday, the no school day. It’s the day of the week that the four younger ones are home with me. And it’s always an action packed day.

7 and 5 year old found a wilting lulav branch in the garage; after fighting over it for ten minutes or so, they went out to the backyard to play some game that I decided not to see. But the winner of the game was apparently the neighbor, because that’s the backyard the lulav branch ended up landing in.

Great, just what I needed. Another reason for the neighbor to be annoyed at us.

Off they went, back to the garage, hunting for something else.

In they came with a big grin and a bottle of diet coke they had found hiding in the garage fridge, that one of our guests had left behind. They were ready to make a L’chaim and enjoy it, but I crashed the party and poured it out.

Back they went, looking for some more stuff.

And on it went.

They went to play in the backyard again; I had to make supper, it was getting late and we had to get to swimming lessons.

And then one year old came walking in, looking a lot dirtier than when he had gone out. The firepit and all its ashes had been “sprinkled” on him…

Pretty funny, if it was someone else’s kids.

And back to trying to finish up my quick dinner; but this time with the helpers indoors. And the salt contents poured on the floor once again, in a nice neat mountain.

And the love-hate relationship I had with the water dispenser on the kitchen door…well at that moment it was all hate, with ice shooting across the kitchen.

And three year old gave himself a nice beard with the new markers, a combination or orange and brown. To match the colors of his arms.

Five year old was pretty proud of his red marker “nail polish.”

And I noticed they moved their tic-tac-toe game to the couch, and I mean literally to the couch. There on the armrest was a nice tic-tac-toe board, that I hoped would come off with a clorox wipe. But I had no time to allow myself to be annoyed.

We had to get to swimming lessons – so off we went.

Three year old with a multi colored beard, and 1 year old looking like he came through the chimney..

Only after arriving, did I notice that no one had bothered taking their shoes with them.

And they were all as happy as can be.

And I used all my effort to imagine that this crew of adorable little wreckers were someone else’s kids, because then I’m sure, at that moment, I’d be happy too.

Life in General, Motherhood

I can’t sleep with the door open!

misc_bedtime

“I can only sleep with the door open, if you close it I’m never going to fall asleep!”

“I can’t fall asleep if the door is open, I’m so tired! I need the door closed!”

“No, it has to be open!”

“I finally got used to it closed!”

“No it needs to be open!”

“No it needs to be closed! The whole way!”

“It’s too dark!”

“It’s too light!”

I took a deep breath. I was done for the day.

Bedtime can do that to you.

They had all brushed their teeth so nicely as I watched so proudly, until my four year old made sure to autograph the mirror with the toothpaste. Something about the push down tab of the Aqua Fresh just begs for it…

Three year old had done his ritual of stepping into four year old’s negel vasser, and I made a mental note to email the French Twins and tell them I don’t appreciate their sense of humor.

“I need the door closed now!!”

I needed to get involved. My two big boys, 6 and 9 years old, were not going to figure this one out. And I needed them to go to sleep now!

I marched upstairs to their room, not quite sure how to resolve it. All I knew was that I was low on patience.

Who cares about the door? Just close your eyes and you won’t see if it’s open or closed! Stop driving each other crazy! You both woke up at 6 today and you need to go to sleep now! The next one to say a word will sleep on the couch tonight!

But I caught myself just before I launched into my mommy rhetoric.

I had a flashback. Me and my two sisters. We shared a room and we loved it. And we fought about the door. One wanted it wide open, one wanted it closed and I wanted it 3/4 closed. Not 1/2 way, it had to be 3/4, and I had a special way to measure.  And we argued. And we debated. For many, many nights. And despite all that, we are best friends.

I looked at my boy in amusement, still arguing about the door. How did they know that that’s what you’re supposed to argue about? Did they get the memo, bedtime rule #712: argue about the door until mom comes. Then continue arguing.

This wasn’t about them. This wasn’t about deliberately pushing my patience.

This was about the joys of siblings sharing a room.

It’s part of the growing experience. Part of the excitement of whispering at night to each other when you’re supposed to be sleeping, of waking up early and talking until it’s time to get out of bed. Of staring up at the ceiling and sharing your dreams of the night before.

It’s all part of the joys of siblings. And I didn’t want to steal it away from them.

So I used every last ounce of non existant energy to rationally resolve the issue.

And we came to a compromise. They were both happy. And so was I. Not because I came up with a clever solution, but because I had the presence of mind to see past the door.

I walked back downstairs, knowing full well that tomorrow night they’d have the same disagreement. And the next night. And the next. Just like I had done.

And I repeated to myself over and over again. It’s not them. They are doing nothing wrong.

It’s not the door.

It’s part of the childhood experience. Part of the learning to share and care for each other. Just like me and my sisters. 

In that context, I can hold on to my patience a few moments longer when I’m called in to referee.

I could hear them talking and laughing, making plans for the next day.

And I was relieved that I had caught myself in time.