The Bad Mother

Society is fickle. What most has amused me this recent news cycle is how fast we have gone from talking about the Tiger mom to Tiger blood.

While I have just a little to say about either, it has made me think about the way I parent. I will admit that I did not read Amy Chua’s book but also that I have no intention to. The sound bites the news has provided gives me enough information to sort out that I don’t care about the context; much of it seems, well, abusive. I really would not care how often my elementary age child forgot her mittens, locking her outside to stand in the cold so she would remember NEXT TIME just doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t matter to me if she was really nice just before this event or recognized her error just after and apologized, Amy is just mean. That is the kind of thing that will scar a child and as Bear will tell you, possibly physically as frost nip can set in FAST. Maybe the Tiger mom watches the temperature and only undertakes such extreme measures when it WON’T produce such results. Regardless, as I said, that’s mean and I don’t care how great your kids grow up to be.

The over saturation of Mr. Sheen as late has also saddened me but quite honestly, it has given me an opportunity to parent. See kids; see Mr. Sheen and how he is behaving? This is not normal. This is not something to aspire to. This is not a role model.

Mainly, in both examples, I have recognized that I have tried to raise my kids in a way that will make them functional adults. Don’t get me wrong, I have babied them when they needed, spoiled them unnecessarily but provided structure that children desperately need. So far, my children have managed to be relatively normal, without the rampant sex, drugs and rock and roll lifestyle that seems to be reflected in the media as appropriate for their age. It makes me laugh when I hear people complain about their kids not going to bed or sleep and how at 11 PM at night, they are begging and bribing to make that happen. Since I had my first child, quiet time has been strictly enforced. At 8 PM every night, the television and computers are to be turned off. When they were too little to read on their own, I would spend that time reading to them and as they learned, they read to me. Even as seniors in high school, the oldest still head to their rooms with the youngest. Sometimes they read or the older ones web surf but the intent is still the same, they are to be quiet as not to disturb their siblings. Having this kind of pattern in the house allowed them to adjust and calm down from a full day of playing and over stimulation. I have never had difficulty getting children to go to sleep because they understood that the routine of quiet time was intended to provide this. Now as they are older, occasionally on a Friday or Saturday night, they will stay in the living room later when we are doing family movie time, but not every time. This means at 8 PM, I also get my own quiet time to read or spend the time distressing from the day.

Having that kind of parenting philosophy, I have a hard time understanding the parents that freak out when their children start Kindergarten or go away to college. These are milestones to celebrate! Not once do these parents think of the burden they are placing on the child? If you are despondent and crying when a child does something that is supposed to be great for them, you are setting them up to feel that in some way they are responsible for your feelings/crying/sadness. I would be mortified if I put that kind of emotional baggage on my kids. Don’t get me wrong, I miss each and every one of them when they are not here but I also so carefully guard and cherish the time I get without them. You cannot parent so wholly that you forget who you are as a person. I think this is the greatest contributing factor to “empty nest syndrome” because people put so much into the children and make them the center of everything that they forget they are their own human beings.

It is sad really. There is a high rate of divorce at this time in life because I think there are parents who then blame the other one for how crappy they feel minus children in the home or they never cared to nurture the relationship with their spouse. This is a disservice to your children. As I said before, I have tried to raise my kids in a way that will make them functional adults. They should be able to do their own laundry. Mine each took over that responsibility for themselves between the ages of ten and twelve, which ever coincided with the age that they were tall enough to reach the controls and empty the washer. They also have known by the age of thirteen how to cook a few basic meals, scramble an egg, make a grilled cheese, an omelet, bake cookies or muffins, how to read a recipe and how to use coupons. Each saves their own money and knows how to calculate tax when purchasing items with cash. Frankly, I am constantly surprised and saddened when I hear of the college age kids that have no knowledge of how to do their laundry or iron. This tells me they had parents that continued to do their laundry and ironing until they were 18, really? How are you preparing a child to be an adult if you can’t teach them the basic skills they need to know to survive without you simply because you don’t want them to be without you?

My oldest is almost done with his freshman year of college and my middle child heads to college in August. I have seven more with the last one and then she heads out. I think that is exciting for them. I will miss being able to talk to them each day and being involved in their decision making processes but that is what helps them detach and grown up. Will they get everything right? NO. Did you? NO. Do I think I have prepared them as best as I can, YES. You don’t have to be a hard ass Tiger mom and you don’t have to be a push over either. My son went to college with a skillet, a cookbook or two and the knowledge of how to use them. He wields an iron better than I do and I am sure he still needs to clean his room but I don’t worry about that stuff. I taught him how to take care of himself. That is what a parent is supposed to do. Not belittle a child and make them into your own ideal and not to make them so dependant that they can’t function as an adult without you. I have a great sense of pride and joy in every single thing they do because some little part of every accomplishment is a foundation that I helped create. I look forward to the last one getting out and doing her own thing. That means I have even more time for books, great food, travels, movies and adventures yet to be written. I have hobbies and interests that have nothing to do with my kids or being a mom. I am grateful in that way that I have parented myself just as well. I do not feel less a person without them here. I am not depressed or worried that my life will be empty. Some people think this makes me a bad mother. But I believe I must rejoice in every single part of my life because it is mine, and I just happen to be a kick ass mom.

When all else fails, I remind myself that no matter how bad their decisions are so far, none of them are warlocks with fire breathing fists.

Go me!

2 thoughts on “The Bad Mother

  1. Hell yeah go you!!! You are a kick ass mom, I can testify. My favorite thing about your kids is they are such complete individuals. I absolutely love that & it comes from you treating them as people. It brings me great comfort knowing that the next generation includes your three remarkable monkeys! You should offer parenting classes, lord knows this country could use more of what you have created!!Much love, Krissy

  2. Many thanks! I have been watching some young parents I know having freak outs because the kids are growing up and I say "uh, hello? that is what they are supposed to do?" People are miserable because they have no lives, not because their kids are getting older. Shame on them for not cultivating a strong since of self to model for their children. It's not that I don't miss them when they aren't here but I balance that with this is what they are growing up for! UGH.

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