Tuesday, January 24, 2012

This Post Should Have a Really Catchy Title About Parenting, But It Doesn't

Today I got a call from a friend, asking me for parenting advice. Apparently her child has been disrespectful and refuses to follow the rules. She doesn't know what the problem is, she's counting to 3 like the books say and then putting her in time out, what could be the issue?? So I have to step in and say, "The issue is that you're following a book, dear."

Don't get me wrong, I love books, and when I say love, I mean LOVE. I have literally thousands and I collect first editions and classics. I read books over and over again until the covers fall off and I'll read anything you put in front of me, anything- Harlequin novels, WWII history books, self help, religious texts, mysteries, true life crime, college text books (for fun!), I even own the report of the Warren Commission, and, yes, even parenting books- anything and everything. I don't think I'd live without books, and I'd probably save them in a fire before ever thinking to check on my hubby. I love, love, love them, BUT, they are not the be all, end all, and they do not contain the answers to all of life's mysteries. Do you know why? Because each book contains one person's point of view, and one person alone does not have all of the answers. Kind of a no-brainer, huh?

Does that mean I'm the type of parent who flies by the seat of my pants and makes shit up as I go? Absolutely not! I am not nearly that brave- I need a plan, a schedule. I have taken tons of classes, read hundreds of books, and I've learned one thing. Nothing is right all the time. Parenting requires a tool box and each and every "tool" you pick up goes in that box. Some jobs call for the hammer, some for the screwdriver, but none of them will work in all situations, none are suited for all jobs. (By the way, that last part there, I stole it from a Love and Logic course I took last year.) And now I'm all side-tracked...

Back to my friend. She calls today and asks me what she should do with her unruly daughter. Keep in mind, this woman has watched me parent for years, she may not know all the ins and outs of how I do it, but she must have the general idea, you'd think that nothing I would realistically say at this point would come as a shock. You'd be wrong, as was I. I told her that what she needed to do was stop with the chances. Stop counting. Stop warning the child and not doing anything. How scary does this sound? "That is your number one. You can throw that toy at me two more times, but then you're going to be punished." Do you think how you should immediately straighten up? I bet not. Hell, even I start thinking how awesome it is that I get one more freebie! No parent actually says those words verbatim, but let's just assume that our children aren't complete morons and can figure out the basics of 1, 2, 3, shall we?

Here's how that scenario would play out in my house: The child throws a toy at me. I immediately tell said child to march to time out while I think of a punishment. The child sits there until I ask this question, "Are you ready to talk about it yet?" They always say yes, we discuss, and a punishment is handed out. Typical punishments in this house include, but are not limited to, extra chores, early bed time, loss of tv, being grounded to your room, losing game privileges, and the punishment changes according to child. My son would die without tv but doesn't care about being grounded to his room. My oldest enjoys extra chores but can't stand being in her room. My youngest hates going to bed but can live without games. You have to hit them where it hurts, NOT literally, if you want them to make any changes. They're short people, not stupid people. Am I motivated by someone telling me that if I say that again I won't be allowed to do laundry anymore? Nope. In fact, that kinda makes me want to make up a song using nothing but whatever offensive word I've said. (In all honesty, it was probably 'motherfucker' or 'little pussy bitch'. Any song writers here?)

Anyway- Yes, my children will go to time out on their own without dragging their feet and without being yelled at and will sit there quietly until I tell them to get up. That in and of itself was borne from many times being carried to time out kicking and screaming and having time start over repeatedly if they weren't quiet and still. I wasn't handed well behaved children, I worked for them. And for about 18 months I worked really, really hard and I was spit at, kicked, hit, called names, battered and bruised,.. you name it, my kids did it. However, since my kids aren't idiots, they caught on and learned that it's easier and quicker to do as you're told the first time, cause what happens when mom has to tell you more than once is that mom gets angry, and when mom's angry, the punishments get sooo much worse.

So I tell her that that's what I would do and she is shocked. Genuinely shocked. And she says, "Wow. That sounds really mean. I don't think I could be that mean to my daughter." That kinda knocked me back a bit. Am I being mean to my kids or am I holding them to higher standards? Am I crossing a line or showing them where it is? I felt like she had kicked me in the stomach and I started to worry. After all, what's the difference between 'mean' and 'controlling and domineering'? I would prefer to think that my kids make their own decisions about their behavior and I'm just motivating them to make good ones, but am I wrong?

I sat on the couch for about 20 minutes thinking this over, at one point with teary eyes, when suddenly it occurred to me. The difference between my friend and I is that I am not looking for more friends, and she desperately wants them. She wants to be the fun mom, the one who never says no, she wants to be a friend, and I don't think that there is anything inherently wrong with that. I enjoy having fun with my kids, but really I don't care about any of that friend crap. I have the rest of their lives to be friends with them, and if history is any indicator, we'll become friends only after they move out anyway, so right now what I need to do is be their parent. I can't parent them and direct their decisions when they're my age and out on their own because that's my time to be a friend. Right now I can't be a friend because it's the time to direct so that when they're my age and out on their own making decisions they won't need a parent.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that different things work for different kids. My parenting style works in my house, but apparently wouldn't in her house. If I took on her parenting style in this house, I'd be a sitting duck. Just because something isn't going to work in your house doesn't mean you shouldn't listen. You never know how you could modify someone else's idea to work for you. Besides, listening is just plain respectful and modeling correct behavior to your kids is just as important, if not more so, than telling them what the expectations are. Parenting.... Tool Boxes... make sure yours is filled with lots and lots of stuff so that you'll never be in a situation that you don't have a tool for. And THAT last part came right out of the mouth of my father.

(See, Dad, you were right after all!!)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

In retrospect, I may have over-reacted. I'm admitting that here because I will never actually say it to them.

Tomorrow starts another half-year of homeschooling in this house. sigh. Part of me is really looking forward to having the teacher role again. I love coming up with all the fun activities, playing, and getting dirty with my kids. Less excited about giving up my afternoons alone.

Last Wednesday I got a call from my aunt at 12:45 pm. The school had called her looking for me cause my child had a fever over 101. Here are a few points I'd like to make about that.
    ~ School starts at 12:30. The bus comes at 12:05. They were not sick when they left. I am NOT a parent that sends sick kids to school. Sick kids do not leave this house. Period.
    ~ Both my husband and myself were home that day. Nobody called our house or either one of our cell phones, or even my in-laws who live in this city. Instead they call my aunt and my mother, who live in the next county over.
So, I'm fairly pissy before I even get there.

Now, the original message was that my youngest has a fever. When I get there however they inform me that I'll be taking my son home as well. No, nothing is wrong with him, but ya know, why have any kids in the classroom if you don't have to? Ugh.

While I was there I went to the office to ask why I didn't get a call. The office bitch jumps down my throat about how irresponsible it is of me to leave my kids there with no way for anyone to get ahold of me. She had called me repeatedly.. or at least as repeatedly as you can call someone within 15 minutes of school starting. What if there had been an emergency? Here again, I am NOT a parent that engages in this behavior. I demanded that she show me which number I gave her. She pulls out our file and what do I see? My house phone, cell phone, and my hubby's cell phone all written on the card- complete, legible, and labeled, just as I knew they would be. Grr.

I am getting very, very pissed off at this point, but I have a sick kid that needs my attention so I take my kids home. Once home I whip out the thermometers, four of them to be exact, and do you know what? Neither of my kids has a damn fever!! This is the second time, frickin second time!, that my children have been sent home with a mysterious, disappearing fever this year. I called the office for a few reasons- to ask if the kids had been given Tylenol or something that would help the fever (of course they hadn't been, I knew that) AND to report that once again those damn people sent my kids home for no apparent reason. While on the phone with the office bitch she puts me on hold and I overhear this- the office bitch saying to someone, "This bitch is pissed!" and then the questioning of the teacher. According to the teacher what had happened is my youngest didn't like what was being served for lunch and she wanted to lay on the bean bag chair instead. I know my youngest pretty well and I am certain that it didn't go that nicely, she probably was throwing a fit and stomping her feet and just generally acting like someone who just turned 3. I'm guessing that the teacher didn't want to handle her tantrum and sent her home instead. 

When the office bitch, which is what I called her out loud since she felt free to call me a bitch, got back on the phone I offered to bring my kids and all 4 of my thermometers to the school and test them against the one in the classroom, which had since been cleared so I could see no reading on it whatsoever from my child. The ob, office bitch get it?, told me that it would be unfair to take away from the rest of the kids and spend time on that. Then she said that they had decided at the school that my kids wouldn't be allowed back in school on Thursday either, I'd have to keep them home til Monday cause there is no school on Fridays. WTF!!? That is when I told her, "I'm all done talking to an illiterate office bitch. I want a superintendent or a director on this phone immediately." Come to find out my children's school apparently doesn't have anyone in either of those roles. How is that ok? Don't the teachers need someone to direct them, tell them what the new state guidelines are..someone to do whatever the hell directors and superintendents do??

Had that been the only problem I might have just bit my lip and let it slide, but there is more to the story than that. My son has come home from school twice this year with nasty rashes/welts and I have taken him to the med center. The most recent time was Monday, two days before all this happened. The very first time I had to bring him, in October, he was diagnosed with hives and given anti-histamines, and we went home. No big deal, and I didn't address it with anyone. Shit happens, right? The second time, on Monday, when I brought him he was diagnosed with bug bites. I was told to go home and search our beds looking for bug casings and to check the dog for fleas. I was kinda hoping for chicken pox to be honest. Bugs make me sick, but I went home and did as I was asked, complete with magnifying glass, and there are no bugs here. Not anywhere. He didn't have them when he left for school that day, but was covered in them when he returned. 

SOOO.. this school causes my children to break out in hives, is having some sort of bug infestation, and my children fall mysteriously ill and the only thing that fixes them is walking into my home?? I am not ok with that. I find that unacceptable and thus, starting tomorrow, I now homeschool. Ahh, life, what a joker. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

My Daughter is Perfect and Where The Hell Does That Come From?!

    I don't often publicly sing the praises of my children, but today I'm going to do just that. Well, at least for one of them, because I am seriously the luckiest mom ever and someone just HAS to know about it. And maybe cause secretly I think you should all be just a little jealous. I'm joking, probably.
    My oldest child is the most perfect child on the planet and I'm not just saying this cause I'm biased, although I definitely am. Her teachers, bus drivers, friends' parents, neighbors, etc. all tell me so. She's years ahead academically, her behavior is flawless, she's sweet, giving, thoughtful, she's everything that everyone wants in a kid.
    I never have to yell at her. I do occasionally have to speak to her about her choices, and by occasionally I mean once every two months or so, but I just say that she didn't make a very good choice and I'm disappointed and we're good to go for awhile. Even her "bad choices" are trivial, ridiculous things. Like she picked up all the toys in the play room but forgot the Barbie in her bedroom or she didn't put the toothpaste in the medicine cabinet, instead it's behind the sink. Nothing major and they happen so rarely that I hate to even say anything to the child at all, but then I start to feel guilty cause I'm yelling at her little brother and sister constantly.. constantly!.. and I don't want them to feel bad cause I never have to say anything to her.
    She's sweetness and light and everything right with the world. The only thing that ever upsets her is when she can't help me around the house. She begs to fold laundry, literally cheers when I tell her she has chores, enjoys cleaning, wants to help in the kitchen, and if I don't have anything for her to do at the moment she gets upset. It's the only time her smile fades.
    She dotes on her younger siblings. You can commonly find her curled up on the couch and reading books to them, or breaking up an argument, or helping them with buttons and zippers, reminding them to use their manners, the child is amazing. If she's playing with something and someone walks up to her and wants it, she walks away and finds something else to do. No tears, no whining, no arguing, just walks away from it.
    I spent years trying to teach that girl to stand up for herself, open her mouth, don't back down.. basically trying to turn her into me, and do you know what happened? She was kicked out of school for not being emotionally ready, she was painfully shy, she couldn't interact comfortably with her peers, she was a mess.  

    About a year ago I decided that what I needed to do was build her confidence. So I stopped pressuring and reminding her to be more like me and just let her be herself and what has happened has been beautiful. She has blossomed into the most wonderful human being I've ever met. She even volunteers to be in front of the class and she has more friends than I can keep straight. Her teacher is head over heels in love, which is a completely mutual emotion.

    The problem I had in parenting my first one was that I thought I had control. Silly me! I control nothing. About the best I can do is suggest things, stand back, and hope for the best. In the end they're gonna do exactly what they were meant to do, be who they were meant to be, and nothing I can do/say/believe/think/force is going to influence any of that. I'm glad that I've learned to step back and let them blossom, and I'm even more thankful that I live with a walking, talking reminder to do so, cause sometimes I really need the reminder. Who woulda thought that the moment that I chose to relinquish control would be the moment that everything fell into place? There's probably a lesson in there somewhere that I can use in the rest of my life... Nah, probably not.