Parent

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“You Raised the Monster….”

“You raised the monster….”

I worked for two years at a company where the mom was the CEO and the son was the V.P. of Sales. That line was a common refrain when co-workers would gripe about their epic verbal assaults on each other. We had no sympathy for the CEO when her son started trying to oust her. After all, she had raised him that way. His personality didn’t sprout up overnight. He suffered from a severe case of feeling entitled, because he was spoiled his whole life. She taught him to get what he wanted, regardless of whom he had to step on to get it. And, one day, she was just one more rung on the ladder that was his climb to his own little empire.

See, here’s the truth, people. You raise your children. Your children are your responsibility. One of your main responsibilities as a parent is to provide your children with the life skills to become established adults. I’ve seen it far too often in the last decade or so, helicopter parents who can’t (or won’t) allow their children to grow up, but then complain when they don’t move their asses out of the house and become self-sufficient.

Seriously! That’s not a fail on the part of the child, it’s a failure on the part of the parent. Children need room to grow and chances to screw up (or succeed). Asking a thirteen year old to schedule a routine doctor’s appointment is (ohmigod!) reasonable. Giving a child over 5 chores is reasonable. Not commiserating with your kid when the teacher is being “mean” is a good life lesson. Mean people exist in the world, whether or not the teacher is mean is almost moot, because either way, your kid will eventually need to learn how to deal with people of all types.

You can’t cave in to every whine your child makes. You can’t do everything for them. You have to be able to recognize what your child is already capable of and take steps to build on that. You have to introduce new skills to their current set. Think of the things you handle on a daily basis as an adult and try to incorporate little life lessons that your child can benefit from.

You also can’t shield them from life. I remember when finances were bad in my house growing up. My mother and father wouldn’t hide it from me. They didn’t give me all the gory details, but they were honest about when we could and could not afford something. When I was seven I was already conscious of what things cost. I would ask for a treat at the store and my mother would set a limit (say, a dollar). I would choose something, but then I’d see something else I liked. I would be forced to choose between them. I would always choose the one that was less expensive. Usually, this resulted in numerous exchanges for lesser costing items until I settled on a dried fruit leather strip that cost $0.17.

It was a life lesson that I’ve carried into adulthood. Not just of tradeoffs, but also that you can usually find something to brighten your day when you need a “treat” that’s still well within your budget.

As I got older, I got more details. More information. What my parents shared with me changed as my capacity to understand and reason changed. I learned to ask questions; to gather as much information as I could before making a decision.  I learned the power of critical thinking. I learned the power of thinking for myself.

You have to teach your children kindness, respect for others, self-respect. You have to teach them to dream big and be accepting of different people. You have to teach them to be committed to their goals, to be strong in the face of adversity, but still considerate of all parties involved. Teach them manners and courtesy. Teach them humility and humor. Teach them to be responsible and trust worthy, but don’t raise them to be gullible. Present them with information and critical thinking skills and let them make their own decisions.

Sure, I wasn’t an ideal kid… but I was responsible. I knew what was expected of me. And I became a reliable, established, responsible adult. My parents raised me before the age of the helicopter parents and for that I am thankful.

I hope I can do half as good of a job with my son because I certainly don’t want to have to deal with a monster later on in life. It bears repeating that I don’t think you have a right to complain about where your child ends up unless you’re really certain you’re not the reason they turned out that way!

 Just another thought of the day.

 

Our Families Shape our Lives (And I am thankful)

I’m going to take a break today from discussions about food. I’m sure there’s a collective sigh of relief from all my readers, the few of you that are out there. Today I want to talk about family and being thankful.

I was blessed with two sisters and, although we didn’t get along all the time, we’re cornerstones in each other’s lives now that we’re adults. I don’t know what I’d do without my sisters.

I was also blessed with two loving and dedicated parents. We had rough patches and there were financial and emotional struggles, but through it all my parents stayed together and provided a stable and caring home. They raised us to help our family members and forgive any faults that might irritate us. I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like if they hadn’t toughed it out together; if they didn’t love each other too much to give up.

I am not a perfect person. I am well aware of this. I also don’t expect perfection from others. I give credit for that to my parents because they taught me that when you love someone, you love them, faults and all. I don’t know how to love any other way. I love my friends down to the bottom of my soul. I love my family the same way. I love my son’s father this way as well.

We’ve had some really rough times and we haven’t always dealt with them to the best of our abilities. Sometimes communication failed and things looked bleak. We’ve been round and round the rollercoaster ride numerous times now and somehow, we keep coming back to each other.

So I was asked the other day… “How many more times are you going to go through this?” and my answer, at least to myself, was “as many times as it takes.” I honestly hope that we won’t repeat our mistakes of the past but I know that even if we do, it was worth taking the chance. This isn’t a dream or make-believe, this is reality. Merging two lives together takes work. Making and sustaining a healthy and happy family takes even more. Anyone who tells you it’s going to be easy is a moron. Sometimes things fail and you’re left with scars. And sometimes you’re given the chance to mend what’s been broken. I honestly believe that if you don’t take those chances in your life you’ll always wonder “what if”.

I don’t feel this makes me weak. If anything, it makes me stronger. I have the strength to fight for what I want in my life, to face my fears and try not to let scars of the past hinder my future. We are family, together with our son, and that isn’t something someone should give up on lightly.

I saw this picture the other day in my news feed and was reminded again how solid my base for family and relationships is.

Maybe I’m old fashioned or stubborn, but I don’t believe in giving up. I do believe that most differences can be resolved, problems can be fixed, and that; through mutual respect and love; time can heal wounds. If nothing else I will know, deep down, that I’m living my life in a manner that won’t leave me wondering “what if”. And, in the end, no matter how things play out, my son has two parents who love him to the bottom of their souls.

Family provides us with perspective. How we are raised influences how we live our adult lives. I count myself blessed that I have such a strong support system, a solid example of how love can thrive in even the most trying of times. We all take different paths in this world and the only constant is change. But no matter how much you change you know that there will always be people who love you just the way you are.

Our son is going to grow up with similar examples, a variation of my childhood themes, and a supportive and loving family. I couldn’t think of a better way to raise our son than to teach him to lead with his heart, not let fears hold him back from attaining his goals, and to love without judgment.

I guess that despite all of my claims that I wouldn’t be; I’m very much like my parents. In all the best ways.

I took time today to reflect on the most important people of my life;  how they’ve helped me grow into the person I am and how I know they will continue to shape the person I am going to become. I am thankful every day of my life to be so blessed.

When was the last time you (really) sat down and thought about the people you love? When was the last time you thanked them for loving you just the way you are (no matter how many times you’ve changed)?

I Am Woman! (or: I Cry Over the Darnedest Things Sometimes)

It’s been a busy couple of weeks with my semester winding down and finals to survive. I had wanted to post this particular topic much earlier in the week, but sadly, just couldn’t find a spare few minutes to sit still and write it out. But, late is still better than never.

As a woman I often feel like the very things that set me apart from the opposite sex are the things I get crucified for. If I cry I’m too emotional. If I’m quiet when I need to think I’m cold or angry. If I’m strong then I don’t need a partner. If I’m weak then I’m needy. All of this leads to an extreme amount of confusion and guilt that I try very hard not to cave in to. I am me and I’m good with that.

But every once in a while, my own emotions catch me by surprise and confuse me even more. I’ll start with the most recent time (there are two that I want to cover here).

On Wednesday, I arrived home from work to find my little one sick with a fever. He was lethargic and generally miserable, with no apparent cause. I cuddled him, kept on him to drink water, and finally gave him some Tylenol to bring down his temperature. I don’t panic over these things but I don’t feel guilty for that, because I have such a large number of kids in my family that I know when to panic and when not to worry. But as 5:00pm rolled around, I started worrying. See, I have a spin class on Wednesdays. I paid for it. I didn’t want to miss it but at the same time, I felt like a bad mother for abandoning my little one when he was sick.

It’s not like I was going to leave him in the care of a stranger or someone incapable of cuddling him with the same amount of love I give him. He was staying with his Nana (my mother) and I would be home in an hour. But as I was settling him in and taking care of the last-minute details I suddenly felt like a horrible mother. Despite the fact that I knew he would be okay and well taken care of, despite knowing that he didn’t have anything serious, I felt terrible.

This ties back in to my habit of feeling guilty whenever I take time to myself but it was obviously amplified by the fact that my son wasn’t feeling well. A brief discussion with my mother reassured me that he would be fine, that she would call me if anything happened – no matter how small, and I left for class. Class is a whole three minutes away from home (five if I get caught at a red light) but I cringed the whole way there, because there was a small part of me that was really happy to not be missing it.

I fell into my usual groove at class and for a good half an hour I actually forgot about work, money, relationship problems, and … my sick little man, cuddling at home with his Nana, waiting for me to come back. As I walked back to my car my shoulders slumped and my drive home was a study in guilt and anxiety. But when I got home, my little one was passed out comfortably on the couch in his little diaper, his Nana diligently standing guard and rubbing his little back. His fever was coming down and he was just tuckered out now.

My heart lightened as I gathered him in my arms and he touched my face for a moment and whispered “Mommy… Hi Mommy” before sleepily burying his face in my shoulder and returning to a restorative slumber. The guilt washed out of me as I realized that part of being a mommy is being able to pick responsible caregivers for my child. I trust his father. I trust my mother. I trust my sister. These are the people who care for my little one the most often and I know that they have me covered if I have to work, study for school, or even just attend a fitness class I paid for in advance.

That night I read a news story about a woman who killed her 22 month old son for interrupting her Farmville game. I was horrified and saddened, but instantly glad that I’m the kind of mommy who feels guilty for leaving her ill son with a loving caregiver for a fitness class.

**As an aside for those of you wondering, my little one was back to his perfectly happy adorable self by the next morning.**

The other event I wanted to write about occurred a week ago. Having noticed that none of my workout pants were fitting properly anymore (and therefore no longer suited to working out in because they kept trying to fall off me when I run) I took my mother and the little one with me for a quick run to JC Penney last Thursday during our usually weekly errand run. I grabbed three new pairs of running pants, a couple new shirts,  checked out and we left. My mother has mobility issues, so we had “rock star” (read:  Handicapped) parking.

As we were walking to the car an elderly gentleman approached me from his van and asked me in a thickly accented voice “could you please give me a boost?” It took my brain a moment to process the scene… Me, my little one in my arms, my mother, this elderly gentleman standing next to a van with out-of-state license plates in the handicapped parking place next to us… Well, to put it simply, where I live I’m more accustomed to being approached by someone panhandling. Also, “boost” isn’t the commonly used term in my region.

Of course, once my brain (a little slow because Thursdays are my day off and I’m usually rushing around without thought) finally caught up I replied “Absolutely, of course!”

This elderly gentleman looked unbelievably appreciative as I got my mother and son settled in the car. He looked a little anxious as I backed my car out, but then relieved as I simply pulled in closer to his van so the cables would reach easily.

We fumbled for the hood release on my car – in my defense I’m not unversed in general vehicle maintenance, but my car is brand new and I’ve never had to pop the hood yet – got the jumper cables hooked up and his van started with very little fuss.

I smiled to his equally elderly wife, who remained seated in the van, as I closed the hood of my car. But as I tried to walk away I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder.

“Please,” he said as he stopped me, “For your time and trouble” as he tried to hand me four dollars that his wife had apparently fished out of her purse.

I was mortified. A kind deed should be its own reward. This couple was likely someone’s grandparents, I thought, as my mother and her grandson sat in my car.

“No, really, it was nothing. I’m glad I could help. Please, have a safe trip” I said as I held my hand up in a gesture of refusal.

It took a few minutes of assuring him that I wouldn’t accept his money, and then my mother refusing to take the money for my son through the window when he tried another angle, for him to realize that we really wouldn’t accept his money.

He said “thank you” one more time as we pulled out of the parking space, a look of gratitude on his face. I’m pretty sure it was that look that was my undoing because as we drove away I started crying. I simply couldn’t help it. The tears came out of nowhere and I’m still not quite sure of the cause. Was it that if that had been my grandmother (rest her soul) or even my mother, I would hope they would find someone to help that would refuse the little cash they had available? Was it simply tears of being glad I could help someone out? Was it the example I was setting for my child who, still too young to understand, that the deed is its own reward? Or was it that I suddenly thought “Oh dear, I hope I didn’t insult him by not taking his offer of compensation for my time!”

So there you have it. Women are emotional creatures. It is part of what makes us such appealing creatures. We’re emotional yet strong enough to endure almost anything. We’re loving but sometimes need time to process without being thought of as cold. We laugh when we should be crying and sometimes cry when we should smile. We have tough exteriors but are easily wounded. We’ll forgive easily but not trust without time and proof. And whether you realize it or not, we tend to feel guilty for taking time for ourselves, which is why we do it so rarely… Love us for these qualities and we’ll never fail you. But please, please, don’t say things like “you’re so emotional” like it’s a bad thing, because it makes us feel like there’s something wrong with us when really, it’s perfectly natural for us to be that way.

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Judgement Day

Warrior DashJune 17th, 2012
Judgement Day: A day to push past my limits, cavort in the mud, and celebrate with a beer!
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