Wednesday, March 02, 2011

I Need to Stop Breaking My Children, Too

Yesterday, after picking up #4 from preschool, I noticed my neighbor across the street and shouted "Happy Late Birthday!" She proceeded to cross over to talk with me; #4 was at my side, holding his backpack. Our conversation drifted to her son's broken arm (roller skating accident) and as we continued speaking, #4 kept saying "Mom! Mom! Mom!" and I asked him to shush (several times) so I could finish speaking. Teaching the children respect and patience is important, right?

Well, after we said good-bye, I said, "What did you need, #4?" and he said, "My friend in preschool broke his arm, too!"

And I realized he was just wanting to contribute to the conversation. It hadn't even occurred to me that a four-year-old might actually be able to add to the discussion. I felt immediate regret for not hearing what he had to say; my neighbor would have actually enjoyed it, too.

Then I read my friend's comment from my post yesterday where she linked to this post (of another mutual friend). She told me I would love it, and she was so very, very right. It kind of punched me in the gut.

This morning, I read an old post by Single Dad Laughing. It was written for dads, but I replaced all the "dads" and put "moms" and it fit like a glove.

[Read both posts, dear reader. You will be glad you did, I promise.]

We live in a world with very contradictory statements/actions regarding parenthood. On the one hand, our parents were raised by the iron-fisted generation; discipline was key. Hoping to lessen the grip (and hopefully eradicated domestic abuse in many cases), the next generation (or two) tended to swing the pendulum to spoiling the offspring, thus creating the world we see of enabled, self-entitled young adults and teenagers. At the same time, there is a heavy-handed group of people who are enraged at this lacksidasial parenting and they see it as their duty to make sure their kids grow up working hard!

This spectrum runs the gamut --it crosses all socio-economic paths and is not exclusive to gender, race, ethnicity, or religion. I honestly believe that the average majority of parents, however, are not in the "either, or" camp --most of us try hard to be good parents. We straddle between severe punishment/abuse and spoilage/entitlement. I think most of us are in the middle. However, and but --being raised in a strong Mormon home with strong morals and strong rules, I find myself wondering how it's affected my own parenting.

I'm easily embarrassed if my kids act out or misbehave. I take it as a personal failure. If my children are too loud in church, can't sit still at dinner, won't get ready for school on time, refuse to brush their teeth, etc., I figure it's because I suck as a mom. Yesterday's post, weighing heavily on my mind as I'm thinking about all of these things, is proof that my self-realization about my motherhood is coming up for air. Why do I behave the way I do? Why do I expect more, but give less? Where do I combine love and forgiveness with hard work and discipline?

I do believe that I'm not the worst mother out there. I know it. But I also know I have a million ways to improve. I don't think it's wrong to talk about it, either. I'm okay with airing out my psyche in the name of improved motherhood. It may sound like I'm always down on myself, but it's not true --I'm just searching for ways to be better, and writing about it seems to help a lot.

Single Dad's post has me thinking deeply about where I have let the expectations of other people (family, friends, random strangers) dictate how I feel about my children's behavior and how I treat them in public and in the privacy of my home. People see the outside; they don't realize the inside. My yelling has improved, but it hasn't stopped. Being a "single" mother right now has made me lose almost all control of my children's behavior. I have used words and said/done things I swore I never would. I'm constantly on my knees asking for forgiveness. I feel like I'm constantly losing control and asking my kids for forgiveness. I'm not sure how to stop it all, but I know I need to. The easy way out would be to say, "well, Brandon graduates soon, then you'll be okay!" but that's a crappy cop-out. Yes, it's hard. YES. But so what? It doesn't give ANYONE the right to hurt their kids emotionally or physically. I don't care if it's hard --I need to suck it up and work it out. And I'm beginning to realize that for now, allowing them more freedom and offering more love is a much better alternative to hunkering down and being two parents in one. Because I don't have to be. Unlike real single mothers, I have a choice (and my heart goes out to those single mothers; not pity, just love).

This morning, I played Candyland with #4. We also did some puzzles and read a book. I tried a new method to get #2 to drink her green smoothie without a fight (which seemed to work), and I even let #1 borrow money to buy a recorder for school (she didn't want to borrow her sister's recorder, and they are super cheap). I feel like it was a good start. But then at lunch #4 was yelling bad words during the prayer and I lost it. After the prayer. Because that's the way to teach reverence and spirituality, right? Getting angry at your four-year-old for using the evil term "stupid." Sigh.

I'm grateful for the examples of others, though. And your comments in the previous post. You have me some good ideas and reminders. I appreciate it!

My new mantra: They're children. They are CHILDREN. Kids. Babies. CHIL. DREN. Do not expect adult behavior from children!


Mother of the Wild Boys said...

Good mantra, I like it.

Dacia said...

Thank you Cheryl for reminding me of what my children are. I have to be reminded that they are children of our Heavenly Father who are just on loan to me. Thank you for your inciteful(spelling) look at your children, it has reminded me to do the same. Love ya!