Life in General

Have you failed parenting?

Supermom

Last month marked ten years that I’m in the parenting business. Unlike any other professions where at the ten year mark you’ve mastered the skills and are ready for  a promotion and a raise…the rules of the parenting business is different. Can’t say the skills are mastered…or that there’s any raise coming…or a promotion from changing diapers…but I CAN say that I’ve finally discovered just what skills parenting requires!

Everyone has read a parenting book or two…gone to a workshop…ever wondered what it is we are trying to master, what is the key to successful parenting?

To be a perfect parent? I’m sure we all have a different definition of perfect…

Perfect parent = clean house?

Perfect mom = 3 inch heels?

Perfect mom = immaculately dressed?

Perfect mom = cookies and milk waiting at the table just as the school bus pulls up (in my imagination, at least) or to only buy organic free range eggs at $6 a dozen and non GMO gluten free biscuits?

It only took about 4 days into motherhood to realize I had to make adjustments to what I assumed was perfect parenting!

Is it raising perfect kids?

Kids who get straight A’s, eat with a fork and knife and always wear their socks?

Kids whose PJ shirt and pants need to match?

Kids who keep their toothbrushes properly stowed and never dunk them in the toilet?

Kids who only use the amount of toilet paper needed and never just pull a whole roll for fun?

By the time my oldest turned 2, my perfect child list was quickly shrinking…

Either I failed the parenting test or I had to redefine parenting.

And so I opted for redefining, figuring it would be more motivating that way.

And after many years of trial and error, I figured out the definition of parenting. No, I have not mastered it, but at least I now know what I need to master.

Parenting is not about perfecting my  kids.

Parenting is not about perfecting my house.

Parenting is not about perfecting my husband.

Parenting is not about perfecting myself.

It is about working on myself.  Working on myself to accept that I am not perfect.

Accepting my kids for who they are.

Accepting my mess for what it is.

Accepting my husband for who is.

Accepting myself for who I am.

Becoming more patient.

Becoming more flexible.

Becoming more persistent.

Becoming more consistent.

Letting go of my misconceptions of perfect parents.

Letting go of my misconceptions of perfect kids.

Letting go of my misconceptions of perfect housekeeping.

Embracing my shortcomings.

Embracing my kids shortcomings.

I haven’t failed parenting because my kids talk back.

I haven’t failed parenting because they dump their laundry on the floor.

I haven’t failed parenting because they break each others’ lego.

My kids are not perfect. They will never be perfect. My house won’t be perfect and neither will I.

And parenting is the ability to accept that, embrace it and work on becoming more understanding. Letting go of things that don’t work as planned. Letting my kids be who they want to be, and not project on them what I want them to be. Letting them choose their own interests, not necessarily the same as mine. Their own talents, not necessarily the same as mine.

Accepting them as their own little people.

Parenting is not about being perfect.

On the contrary, it’s about being imperfect. And loving every minute of it.

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Motherhood

Parenting; it’s just like skateboarding

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I’ve never skateboarded in my life. And truth be told, I probably never will. I’m a very feet-on-ground person, as opposed to a feet-on-wood-with-wheels type. But this avid skateboarder was explaining to me the simple technique of skateboarding; you just ride it out. So if you’re going down a steep incline and you feel out of control, you just ride it out, let the skateboard do the driving.

I couldn’t help but envision myself zooming down some slope, screaming and flailing my arms and jumping overboard half way down. Like I said, it’s not my type of thing.

But that line kept repeating itself in my mind; it’s so simple, you just ride it out.

Because it’s so similar to parenting.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the tantrums and chaos of the moment when living amongst kids. There’s always something going on, unless they are all asleep. And it’s so easy to lose myself in the details; and it doesn’t end. It doesn’t solve the tantrum. It doesn’t solve the chaos, the cries or the havoc. It only fuels it; the more negotiating and threats, the more the havoc rages.

Because when I stop to think about it, the solution really is; just ride it out.

Ride out the tantrums. Ride out the brawls. Right out the chaos. Without getting caught up in the details.

Like this morning.

My husband does the early-early shift at 6am. I take the late morning shift, at the not-as-early-but-still-early time of 7:30am. But being that my bedroom is above the kitchen, I can hear lots of the morning fun. But that’s ok, because I don’t have to deal with it.

So at 6:50 there was my five year old crying at the top of his lungs that he wanted the curly spoon.

I knew exactly what was going on. My set of cutlery comes with a small spoon with indentations; I honestly have no idea what it is for. But I do know that somewhere along the lines one of the kids named it the curly spoon, and I also know it’s accountable for many morning tantrums in my house.

And there it was; 3 year old was using it, five year old wanted it and all I heard was the repetitive ear splitting cries of “I want the curly spoon!”

And on it went. I heard my husband calmly tell the boys to work out how to take turns. Five year old wouldn’t hear of it. His idea of dealing with it was to whack three year old. Well, curly spoon became three year old’s breakfast spoon.

And five year old kept crying.

And I knew there was only way this tantrum would end; ride it out.

And so I listened from the safety of my bed.

My husband calmly reminded him he can use it next, but he had to wait. And continued on with his morning stuff.

And the crying continued.

It took a while. But no threats and no long-winded rationalizing conversations. That would have been like jumping off the skateboard mid ride. There was nothing rational to discuss, nothing of sense to be explained.

And so my husband was just riding it out.

And then three year old brightly said, “I’m done, you’re turn!” and five year old happily started his cereal.

Just like that, the havoc was over (till the next incident…).

When I got downstairs at 7:30, you’d never know anyone had an unhappy start for the morning.

My initial instinct was; I am throwing that curly spoon in the garbage! Now! It’s caused enough chaos in this house!

But the truth is, that wouldn’t solve it. They’d find something else to fight over.

The main thing was how to deal with it.

It IS like skateboarding; sometimes the only way to deal with the situation is by riding it out.

Life in General, Motherhood

Mommy Survival Rule #3,721

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“Fight? Why would my kids fight? No, they don’t fight.”

Oh.

I kind of half smiled, sure it was a joke.

It wasn’t.

I was catching up with an old friend, a rare occasion considering where I live.

And like all good moms who catch up, we inevitably were talking about our kids.

And my comment about kids fighting obviously didn’t resonate with  my dear friend.

It was a light comment, a mix of mommy frustration and some humor. Nothing major, the type of thing moms groan about good naturedly and move on. The type where all you are looking for is a friendly “Oh yeah, I know what you mean!”

But apparently, her kids didn’t fight.

And my kids did.

They fight. They argue. They take things away from each other. They yell at each other. They tell on each other. They even call each other names.

And just when things are heated and I finally intervene and send them to two far opposite corners of the house indefinitely, they put up a fuss that they want to play together!

 Huh? Did I miss something? You guys were fighting! Remember, he wasn’t nice to you! What’s going on?

But they really do play so nicely together. They share their stuff with each other. They make wish lists together. They make shows together. They make plays together. They compliment each other. They cover for each other. They read each other books.

And I know they love each other. Only they express it differently at different times. Not always the way I would express it.

And in the rare occasion one isn’t home, the others kind of hang around, waiting for their missing sibling to return. They don’t want to start anything without each other.

But they do fight. And my friend’s kids don’t.

And then it struck me.

We’re all moms; we have a lot in common, but we sure have a lot of differences. Our kids are not all the same. Our schedules are not the same. Our stresses are not the same.

I thought about my life.

Given my homeschooling system, my kids are together 24/7.

Every day and every night.

They don’t each go off to their own classes each day, not see each other from 9-4.

They sit in the same room together even during school time. They have lunch together. They have recess together. They have snack together. They are ALWAYS together. They love it. And they have lots of opportunity to fight, too.

And my friend’s kids – they are away from each other from 8 – 5, and finally spend some time together from dinner to bedtime. Less hours, less fighting opportunity?

Either way, I learned an important lesson.

First, I established Mommy Survival Rule #3,721: Stop and think before starting a conversation with a fellow mom.

Think: Is this a good topic? Do I want validation or a different opinion? And if there’s a chance I won’t get what I need from the conversation, then switch topics before starting!

Don’t assume we all have the same approach! Don’t assume our kids are all the same!

And then I made a commitment.

A commitment to all my fellow moms out there: Before answering a question about kids, I will give a quick thought as to why the mom is asking it.

If she wants validation, I will find a way to give it! If she wants a different opinion, I’ll give it!

But I will not answer on a whim. It’s not always necessary to answer with what my kids do.

Like a recent conversation I had.

“My son is three, and he refuses to be toilet trained!”

Instinctive reaction: “Really? My kids were all toilet trained by two!” (Pat on the back supermom!)

After a moment’s thought: “It’s totally normal. I’ve heard of lots of kids who aren’t toilet trained till after 3!”

And if you’re kids don’t fight, well then, this post is not for you :).

 

 

 

Motherhood

The freezer repair guy

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I knew I had to call the freezer repair guy.

I knew it for 6 months. When I plugged in the freezer back in November and it made this monstrous, horrific buzzing sound, I knew something was wrong.

But I did what comes to mind when you discover an appliance is broken – I plugged it in again.

Same noise.

So I did the next knee jerk reaction; I started Googling “buzzing sound when I turn on my freezer.”

What do you know, apparently I wasn’t alone with this! People from all walks of life had similar issues; I narrowed it down to the fan. Certainly the fan.

Now what? Call the repair guy.

But it’s my spare freezer. I didn’t need it working in November anyway, so I made due with the other two freezers I have.

And I pushed it off.

Checked in on it in February, plugged it in, hoping it had fixed itself. No, it hadn’t.

I pushed it off again.

Until finally, I needed the freezer and needed a repair guy now.

With Pesach quickly approaching, and 3 cases of chicken and dozens of milk being delivered next week; this was serious.

I tracked down a decent company, made an appointment and for only $79, I would know what was wrong. No, that wouldn’t fix it. This was just the initial visit.

And the guy came.

Plugged in the freezer. Monstrous noise. I smiled a little, as if to say, see, I was right, it IS broken.

He looked around.

Plugged it in again. Unplugged it.

Looked at the bottom ledge, where the light is. And apparently a small black switch sits there too. And he flipped the switch.

And the noise was gone.

That was it.

$79 to flip the switch.

Apparently this smart freezer has a temperature alarm that sounds if the degrees goes down to low. The alarm had been turned to the on position. So when the freezer was plugged in, this smart freezer sounded the alarm to let me know that the temperature was too low. You can’t get a smarter freezer than that!

I tried to negotiate, “C’mon, this was your easiest call today. Do I get a discount?” Nope, no discount.

I paid. He kinda felt bad, I felt rather stupid and my freezer, well, it felt great! It hummed to life.

At least that’s all it was. You didn’t want it to be broken! Better than having to buy a new one. At least it was so simple to fix. 

And those were all true! But I still didn’t like the idea of spending close to 100 bucks on something I could have done myself!

Moms sure have lots in common with these appliance repair guys.

We also carry around a multi purpose bag of tools and tricks. Only repair guys get more time to assess the damage before pulling  out the right tools. Moms don’t always have the luxury; we have to reach inside our bag and grab one quick!

Sometimes we look for big solutions, and there’s really a simple answer right in front of our eyes.

At times I explore new, complicated ideas; yet it’s the simple ones that work best.

Like what happened two weeks ago.

It was one of those days. My son was having trouble sitting at his computer during class. As I’ve mentioned, the unique schooling my children attend is online;  class, teacher, friends and all, with a webcam and mic. This comes along with unique benefits (I can send the kids to class in PJ’s if they’re late) and disadvantages (having to make sure they sit in their seat!)

And this was being a tough day. He was bouncing. He was bothering his siblings. He was sharpening pencils all over the place. He was doing everything other than sitting in class.

I took a deep breath. Reached deep into my “tool bag” of tricks. And started to formulate some chart I would put together and some system I’d establish to get his behavior back under control. Started to launch into how many warnings he would get and what consequences he would deserve. I was ready to be patient. And firm. And get him to sit in his seat and do what he was supposed to do.

And then, for a fleeting moment, I thought out of the box. Like a light bulb went on.

Ditch the systems and charts. Forget the lists of broken rules.

“Follow me!”

And he did. Eager for a reason to leave class, of course.

We went outside. “Alright, I’m setting my timer. Let’s see if you can make it to the corner and back in 20 seconds.”

And off he went. No questions. No negotiating. No complaints. He ran and ran. And then tried to beat his time. And beat it a third time. And we got it to 15 seconds.

And he was out of breath. Cheeks flushed. The type of flush that is full of life and exuberance, excited and challenged. And the type when a kid looks pleased with himself.

And we went back inside. Him to class, me to continue what I was doing. That was it. It worked.

He didn’t need any complex behavior chart. He just needed help switching gears.

I just needed to flip the switch. He had the wrong one on, and thankfully, at that moment, I was able to realize that.

But I can’t say I always do.

So many times I harp on the same things. trying the same route again and again, thinking it’ll change things, when it doesn’t.

Sometimes I look for complex and time consuming solutions, and that’s not it either.

Like with my freezer. If I would’ve just looked at it, instead of all around it,  about it, and Googling it, I could have saved myself a couple dollars.

Same with my kids. I need to make sure to stop and do that more often.

To stop looking around at what they are doing, saying, going, playing, destroying, bothering, wrecking; and instead look at them.

Because more often than not,  I know that’s where I can find the solution.

Behavior & Discipline

I can’t control my kids. (And I won’t.)

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Whose kids are they anyway?

I catch my husband’s eye and sigh in annoyance; can’t someone control these guys?

My husband gives me a knowing look and nods, sharing my frustration. Where are the parents?

But I look around at the crowd and see that it’s pretty obvious; the secret is out, and I can’t pretend much longer. After all, they kinda do look like their father.

It’s our monthly community dinner and it’s apparent that everyone, my  kids included, are enjoying themselves. One is lounging under the table, one is eating chummus with his fingers, oblivious to the guy sitting near him. Hmm, I notice his seatmate leaning as far away from him as possible…I don’t blame him, looks like his suit is dry clean only. Brothers 3&4 are in middle of a game of who-can-finish-all-the-soda-in-this-room-first. Thankfully the two little ones are home with the babysitter!

Yes, they’re mine, and I’ll take care of it.

Can I control them?

Actually, no, I can’t control them. More accurately, I don’t want to control them.

I want to teach them.
Guide them.
Discipline them.
Love them.
Reprimand them.
Praise them.
Kiss them.
Hug them.
Influence them.
Motivate them.

Be a good role model for them.
Listen to them.
Talk to them.

But I won’t control them. I won’t control my kids.

There are many things in my life I do control; like my laptop. When it’s acting impudent or pushing my patience, I control it. With a click of
the lid, I snap it shut and I win. I control it.

When my oven starts overdoing my food, I just hit cancel and ta da, its off. I’m in full control.

When my phone rings and I’m not talkable, I swipe the decline icon and just like that, I control my phone.

I have higher expectations for my kids; I want them to be successful, passionate adults. I don’t want them to grow up and be little gadgets or robots; ones you can control by switching them on and off.

I want them to thrive. I want them to be people.

And so I won’t control them.

But I will continue to teach them to eat chummus with a spoon.