Tuesday, May 24, 2016

When your kid makes the bad choice

We talk a lot about bad behavior and when a child is treated poorly we are all appalled and rightfully so.  We also talk a lot of crap about parental response.  After all we have become increasingly judgmental in the age of social media as we tell our children not to be judgmental in the age of social media.

BC (before children) when I and pretty much most people I know can tell you exactly what we will and will not do and how our future offspring will be the next perfectly behaved child with endless talents, we are all perfect parents.   Before children we of course will know how we will parent and will never use "because I said so", let them eat cookies in the supermarket, ever cave to making separate meals to accommodate their lack of wanting to eat what the adults are eating and will never lose our shit with them (in private or public).   Ha! We may try to do these things but in the end this mom is very comfortable with admitting I have lost my shit privately and publicly while yelling at a child eating extra cookies in the supermarket, box that I opened to placate, while shopping for food to make meals for them that are not same ones we will be eating.  I do not parent perfectly nor do I want to anymore.

I am admitting that I too have often thought, ok and said,when I hear a child behaved poorly what the hell are those parents going to do about it.  I still believe that parents (whatever that is defined as for your family) are the biggest influence for kids.  Yes I know it seems they quote everyone from a commercial to a YouTube guy and never you as the parent but you are by far the biggest driving force.  You are just not going to get credit until they are adults and mostly when they become parents.

I am grateful for my boys and even when they aggravate me it is because they are kids and sometimes they just need to poke one another, fight over imaginary slights and just you know be kids.   However, I take great pride in the people they are.  So how could my kid have been the one at a sleepover to make the bad choice I asked myself?

I do not like sleepovers and they only are limited for my kids to a very select few people because I just do not see the need to have you stay at someplace where I do not know the family very, very well.   Yet there are a few birthday parties where the number of boys sleeping over seems to have grown to beyond 10 - I did it myself last year with 13 boys of about 9-11.  It was exhausting, they don't sleep, they are all over the place.  I have a normal sized house, read not giant space one, and I was thrilled they and we survived.  However, let's face it as the lights go down, the sugar kicks in, the devices are out with games and then there is the ones that fall asleep vs the ones that don't you know the temptation to do something that you may not have without group think grows exponentially.  So it was my kid with the egging on, but hey he made the choice here to listen and be the one to do it, that decided to draw on another kid.  Something not appropriate - something that rhymes with Dennis.  Yeah ...that's right that is what he drew, on another kid.

Apologies he made aside I was annoyed with him - mad that he had done this thing but even more upset because he did not do it to a larger child who could have biffed him upside his head but one that just got upset and then very kindly forgave him.   That is bad choice.  The other part well it's stupid stuff that I can attribute to hormones and tween lack of maturity.  The fact that he did it to someone who is mild mannered made it a choice that had consequences.  At first my son didn't quite see why I and then his father were so upset with him about - after all it washed off I believe was his line of reasoning.  After all the other boys thought it was funny.  After all others were drawn on, albeit nothing that was that wrong.  

I went for a drive because my parent self wanted to shake the kid and the annoyed look he was giving us off his face.   I came home calmer and decided this was it - this is that thing we all get so judgmental about.  That moment when we want the parent to take charge  -- I was the parent.  I sat and spoke to my son about what I saw as wrong - the fact that he did not think about his actions, that he did to be "cool" in front of the others who only talked about doing it, to doing it to the person who was least likely to frankly kick his ass for doing it.   I asked him when choices are coming at him like drugs, or stealing, or bullying or doing something with a girl because others are egging him on does he want to be in control or be controlled?  He broke down, this was not about me and my anger it was about him and his choices.  

It was a great teachable moment.  There will be other choices he will make and some will be really poor but picking on another kid is unlikely to be one of them.  I wanted him to know that there were consequences and that I was not wrong in being mad but that even at my maddest I still was there for him, that he had a place to come to and we would work out how to address whatever happened and hopefully how to not repeat it.  

I learned from this lesson - in my opinion it is still the parents who can change behavior but we do not need to add to the pressure of being one by shaming them, much like we should not shame our children we should teach them how to make better decisions.  We can parent better when we support one another and I am so grateful for my good friend Kris who really helped me through my own anger as I went for my cool down.   Kids - sigh, eye roll - we can protect them and help them protect themselves from becoming people that they would not like.  



Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Bad Moms - bring it

It was just Mother's Day in the States - a lovely holiday celebrating our mothers, or being mothers.  We ooh and ahh at the home made gifts and hope for a little pampering.  The cards can get you teary and the big hugs and kisses from the kiddies = well they are priceless.

In the midst of all of this one or more media outlets always does a poll .. what does mom really want for Mother's Day?  In the past few years the number one answer is  - wait for it - a day or weekend alone and not reachable.  No it is not sponsored by travel or hotel companies.

I get it - this year in my town, a place where moms are super involved and we are all front and center for everything we are planning a movie outing to see "Bad Moms".  I have to digress while it is good that we support our children there is a part of me that thinks that we have gone completely nuts about this.  I mean they will be ok if you do not go to every game, especially at 11 and 9 - baseball is purgatory for this mom.  I have to smile, cheer and this all from a person who faked asthma for a few moths in high school so as not to have to even watch a game or participate then.  In my defense changing from prep school dress code and stockings to get sweaty was not exactly a draw.  I do not want to do this every weekend, and some week nights, but I do because somehow this is the new norm.

We have to be at everything - there is the expectation to be some uber mom too.  In my town I have to say there is very little of the work outside the home vs the stay at home battle but I see it in other places and I have had it aimed at me.  I work because I like the work I do, I like the paycheck and my independence with it, the fact that I pursued an education and a career is not a fail in my mothering ability it is actually part of the reason I am a better mother.  I focus better when I am with them because I am not with them all the time.  I support any mom who chooses to stay home but it is not for me.  No guilt at all... well ok there is guilt but it is self imposed.... and sustained by the media.

Along comes a movie called "Bad Moms" and we find our local town Mom FB page abuzz with how do we rent a theater and go as a group .. a big group.  It was bound to happen we are seeing a bit of mom rebellion. The movie trailer unleashed something we may share with a select few but find that we try not say too much out loud.  We are tired of the overly high expectations set by a few.  Of baking not buying the cupcakes.  Of breastfeeding until they go to middle school as if formula is crack not just the 2nd choice for feeding a child.  The my child is special and the "parent" diagnosed allergies to things like food color #10 (no this is not aimed at the kids that really have an allergy but you parents of these kids should be even more pissed because these attention allergy seekers are not your friends).   We are moms who do our best but sometimes the mac and cheese is not made from wheat grown in our sustainable backyard compost garden but from a box, not even a recycled box.  We are moms who buy organic and it sits along with the Doritos.  We are moms who make inappropriate jokes at those baseball games rather than sitting rapt at attention.  We are moms who know our wee geniuses do the stupidest things and need some serious talking to and no the school is not always wrong.  We are moms who worry about bullies including some of those in the shape of other moms.

We like the idea of this movie that says no my coffee mug is not BPH free and I do my best for the environment but sorry I cannot afford the Tesla you have.  We want to still get crazy, have shots and once in a while just be the crazy girls we were not the perfect moms - the ones that say "oh for fuck's sake" after a child just dropped the juice when you told him at least 3 times that he was going to if he didn't pay attention.

It was Mother's Day and we are tired - and we love our children and want to be the best for them but I do not want my children to be perfect, I want them to be messy, make mistakes and love life in all it's imperfection.  I want them to learn to be good people without judgement and that extends to me for the day that I read the stupid lunch menu wrong and they had to eat a bagel because the choice for the day was not something they liked.

I cannot wait to see "Bad Moms" with a bunch of awesome, funny, sexy ladies who will appreciate the effort we all put in and raise a nice big middle finger to anyone who feels they can judge us for not always shopping at Whole Foods.  I want to celebrate women who choose not to have children because there is nothing wrong with them they just made a different choice, Jennifer Aniston you have my sympathy your not having a child has had you pregnant for at least 6 years and countless crap stories, you owe no one an explanation ladies if you chose to not have one, cannot have one, adopted one or are raising one alone.  We are all bad moms at times and we are absolutely rock stars at others - I enjoy the time with my kids, the time away from my kids and being a mother is a big part of who I am but I am also so many other parts you just have to be lucky enough if you get to see them!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Hormones and other adventures in middle school parenting

I have a list of irrational fears for my kids, that are not totally impossible to imagine but that add to the anxiety known as motherhood.  These have somewhat changed as they have aged but many remain.

Some of these are, in no particular order;

Children being kidnapped - one to many episodes of Criminal Minds or my new obsession The Family at fault here.   Statistically hasn't changed much in 30 or so years, most still are familial disputes I still cannot stop myself from fearing this and telling my kids about this danger.

Children being molested - the transgender bathroom law did not make me think that public bathrooms could be unsafe.  I have always thought public restrooms harbor potential for danger (and grossness) and to the best of my knowledge it is not the transgendered I fear since statistically speaking it is heterosexual males who are predators. I will walk inside a men's room with no issue if my mom sense tells me to.  I fear this from strangers and from anyone because unfortunately these things more often than not happen with people kids know.  I tell my kids about this danger and love our school's discussion on good and bad touches.

Children taking drugs - the kind that get them addicted or dead

Children being bullied - and beaten or threatened or just plain hurt emotionally or physically, or both.

I have others but they are minor.   This need to protect my kids is pretty strong.  So far we have been lucky but middle school is harder to navigate.  I cannot tell if my child is hormonal so moody because of it or he doesn't sometimes want to go to school because something is going on.  Does he not want to ride the bus in the morning for the reasons he tells me (Likes the time we spend together driving to school, hates the loudness and detailed sex talk on the bus - took me a bit to not cringe when he told me some of the things they are saying in 6th grade) or is there another reason the morning bus has become a place he avoids.  Is it spring fever, I remember it well in school, or does not enjoy school as much now because something is going on.   This is what keeps me up at night.   The idea that I cannot protect him coupled with the idea that I need to let him be who he is and stand up for himself if needed.   I am that mom that says you do not hit first, you try and work it out but hey sometimes you got to hit last and hit hard.  

My child is pretty popular but now there are girls involved - girls who will not like him more than a friend - friend zone him as they say these days.   That breaks me too but I know that it is so part of who we all need to be at certain ages... I still remember my crushes that turned into nothing because hey I was their "buddy" (but I did not want buddy zone, I wanted hand holding like me back zone) in middle school, hell even later.  My ability to be friends with boys is one of my favorite things but at times I liked their friendship but in the words of recently departed Prince I also wanted their "kiss".

You worry about children from the minute they scream hello at birth but your anxiety increases the less you can control the bubble wrap you want to put around them.  You know they need to learn to deal with bad people, bad situations but hope none of the ones I listed as a fear are the situations they encounter.  I am not sure my brain and stomach will live through high school when already there seems to be so much drama in middle school. You cannot child proof the world. 

As hormones rage and kids rage and the world rages it is not easy to help our children but we do it because we hope our fears are mostly that - just our fears.  I never stop reminding my boys that I am there for them, and even when I may not like what I hear, I will always try and help them through it with words of encouragement, with dealing with situations and even Astoria style attitude if needed.I think back on my own middle school days and realize there were people who were mean to me and I survived because I was lucky to have friends, there were times when the mundane seemed sooo important and like life would end but it did not.  I did not have to deal with social media, cause at worst someone wrote something in a bathroom or passed a note about you during my childhood, which can follow you home and boy would I open a can of whoop ass if you try that with my kid.  

We hear the old adage little kids little problems big kids big problems ... I am grateful for the best friends I have who help me survive and thrive as a mom.  May all our kids know we have their best interests in mind and their backs if they ever need it.