I am so happy to welcome Natalie from boingerhead.
I found Natalie months ago and have been hooked since then. She writes about her children, her job, and social issues with wisdom and wit. I will laugh my butt off one day and ponder her powerful words for hours on end the next day. She provides a great balance between light and deep posts.
I know you will enjoy this thought-provoking piece (and hilarious cartoon) as much as I did (do).
being the change
I once told my mother that my goal as a mother was to give my children better than I’d had. She didn’t speak to me for a month.
I haven’t had a good chance to share my Golden Rule of Parenting: When in doubt, do unto your children as you would have foster parents do. It can be a life-saving mantra to repeat during critical situations or an ego-saving one during emotionally charged situations. The ego and life being that of the child, by the way.
Scene: After I spend an hour trying to motivate six people to get out the door, Hippie Child says she is ready to go Downtown. She is wearing orange and black striped arm warmers, a red hoodie tank top with a gigantic monkey on it, blue leggings, no socks, and sparkly sketchers a size too large. Her hair was in a half ponytail, half dred thing. It is December; it is bitterly cold.
WW[iw]FPWD? What Would [I wish] Foster Parents Would Do?
Scene: The twins are up all night after pooping an array of colors Crayola would envy, and one of then jack-knifes back in to my face. I am sure my nose and glasses are broken. The little imp turns and gives me a huge smile as if to say, “wasn’t that the best ever? Let’s do it again!”
Scene: I discover a brand new box of confectioner’s sugar, mostly empty, in the back of the someone’s closet after a slumber party. Also missing: my ability to not throw up at the thought of eating an entire box of confectioner’s sugar.
My contention is that parenting comes in fractions. There is the parent I thought I would be before I became a mother, and then there is the parent I actually am. Half again is the parenting style I developed after I had a second child and the parenting style I’ve settled into after the twins. Half again is the parenting decisions that keep me up at night. It’s crazy.
Sometimes I have to stop myself and consider – what would I wish someone else would do in my shoes, with my child, in this situation? Not just a stranger in their lives for a moment, but someone other than me or their dad tasked with shaping and molding them into a productive, happy citizen of the world?
Why do I need an acronym to be a better parent? Shouldn’t just looking at the faces of my angels be enough to inspire me to Donna Reed levels of perfection? The truth is that sometimes that’s just not enough. Sometimes, I need a little more than that. Sometimes I need my husband to check me or to push me, and sometimes I need to resort to making up ridiculous acronyms in my head just so I can sleep at night over the decisions I have made.
Scene: Full-Disclosure Child is watching me make cereal for the babies. I added a little formula and a little cinnamon to the mixed oats with banana, and she said something I will never forget. “When I grow up and have babies, that’s just how I am going to make their cereal.”
My children, and my children’s friends, are learning from all of the adults around them. The words that come out of my mouth influence these children in ways I can’t think of; the choices I make impact their lives on every level. The truth is, it doesn’t really matter what tools I use to be a better mother. The point is that I am trying to be a better mother all the time.
What Would I wish Foster Parents Would Do?
If it came to pass that someone other than myself was raising my children, I would want that person to always put the emotional and mental development of my children before what is convenient and popular. If the Hippie wants to walk around like a regurgitated 80’s mallrat, well that’s yearbook gold right there. If I need to put the babies in their cribs to cry while I stick my head in the freezer for a couple minutes, their little psyches can take it. Perhaps I did throw up in my mouth at the thought of someone eating a box of confectioner’s sugar, but the stomachache they surely must have had after that is better punishment than any lecture I could give about honesty, waste, and drawing ants into my house.
It all comes back to giving our kids as good as or better than we got from our parents. When I made that comment to my mother, I didn’t mean to imply that she hadn’t done well as a mother. Quite the contrary. I simply meant that it was my mission to take all the good she had done and keep it going. She put her health and any kind of social life aside to give me and my sisters all the material things kids growing up in the 80’s and 90’s could want.
But, my mom also worked midnights because it meant more money and slept through a lot of my adolescence. I don’t fault her for that decision because she was doing what we all do on some level: using her motherhood to make up for a lack she experienced in her childhood. That was all I meant by my comment. It’s my job as a mom to do better for my kids than I had. I missed my mom; in lieu of pricy toys and gadgets, I shower my kids with as much individual attention as they or I can stand.
Scene: I am curled up on the couch experiencing remorse from eating fish sticks. The Hippie comes up and spreads a blanket over me. She sets a glass of water beside me. Her brother brings me a chocolate heart he had been saving and, even more touching, relinquishes control of the remote.
I say, “I am the luckiest mom in the world to have two great kids like you.”
They say, “Yep, you sure are!” before scampering back to their regularly scheduled programming.