It has come to my attention (AGAIN) that people are going to think that I do not love my children (see http://anothertiredmommy.blogspot.com/2011/11/i-love-my-children.html). Actually, the exact words were, "People must think that you HATE your children." I DO NOT HATE MY CHILDREN. EVER. Even when I mumble, ":I HATE them" under my breath when they all attack me at one time in the middle of the night. Even THEN I do not hate them. I ALWAYS love them. Always. I don't always LIKE them--I have to be honest. I don't always run around with a cheesy grin on my face singing about how blessed I am to have them in my life, but those who point out the whole "People must think you hate your children..." did not do that either. Some do--that is another approach, but I cannot pretend to be happy with something when I am not. I refuse to pretend that my child is wonderful if he is beating up your child (or anyone really) and I REALLY cannot pretend that YOUR child is wonderful if he is beating up mine (or anyone again). At least I'm fair about it--right?
I KNOW I am blessed. I have three GORGEOUS and BRILLIANT children--and I am not even being biased. Have you SEEN them? They are RIDICULOUSLY cute and they are HORRIBLE for pictures (anyone who has tried to get them to sit still for a photo knows that I am not being hyeperbolic (that's right--HYPERBOLIC) when I say it. In fact, they go OUT OF THEIR WAY to be difficult when getting photographed. That's why most of my good photos of them are not posed (I think candid photos are the best anyway, but that's the Herff-Jones yearbook training in me I guess...). Point? Well, if they look that good when they are TRYING to look bad, IMAGINE how cute they REALLY are. Add to that their personalities and your heart just melts. Until it turns cold with rage over the fact that the oldest pushes the middle one down and spits in her face like the biggest bully you have ever witnessed in your life. Or when the middle one gets in the little one's face and tells her she should sleep with one eye open. Or when the youngest says, "I can do anyfing because I am cute and EVEWREYONE ywuffvs me--yrwight, Mama?" Okay--that last one may not fill your heart with cold rage (or any kind of rage for that matter), but it DOES make me question my actions as a parent. We were so worried about building self-esteem in our children, we forgot about humility. Oops.
I spend my time these days replaying EVERY event in my brain to see where I am going wrong. A good teacher will make time at the end of a day to reflect on the good things and the bad so that the same mistakes aren't repeated and so that the good things ARE [repeated]. Reflection is key in every avenue of life. Wouldn't things be so much easier if EVERYONE sat down at the end of the day to see what needs to be fixed and what should stay the same? The problem is, if you are the only one reflecting and changing, things will not get better and you will burn out quickly. Welcome to MY life.
Here's the problem. We have a home full of leaders. Not just leaders--DICTATORS. Everyone seems to know everything about--well, EVERYTHING. The only one who claims to know nothing is me and that is deemed weak by Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler and Napoleon. The educator in me prides herself on not knowing everything and admitting when she is wrong. The other four members of my family pride themselves on never being wrong and if they sense that they COULD BE wrong, they modify the problem so that they are right. I can't get upset with the little people--they come by it naturally. They are like vultures--they sniff out weakness and set out to destroy it. Where I think that admitting to being wrong is a strength, the rest of them find it weak. Twice in my ten years of teaching this same thing happened to me and the result was unimpressive. The first time was during my first year of teaching high school. I'm just realizing now that it was teaching seniors and my second experience was teaching seniors as well. I've thought about this before and attributed the behavior to gifted students, but now that I am REALLY thinking about it, the problem was that they were SENIORS.
I remember the only time I "knew" everything was when I was eighteen. I was after all a SENIOR and I was HORRIBLE. My two difficult teaching years I was teaching seniors and admitted to them that I did not know everything--or even MOST things. They chewed me up and spit me out. They of course knew everything and shouldn't I? I was after all IN CHARGE, right? This is how my husband and son view things--like they are seniors in high school. You must know ALL, sniff out weakness and destroy it. NEVER admit to being wrong. Ever. Never allow someone to show you how to do something--that is just as bad as admitting you don't know. Fake it and blame the other person if it doesn't work out for you. *sigh* It is even exhausting TELLING about it--I cannot even IMAGINE DOING it!
My goal as a parent is to create people who other people enjoy spending time with; people who are good friends and reliable, kind without being pushovers, and easy to befriend. I want my kids to be the type of people who make other people feel good when they spend time with them. I don't want them to be energy suckers or people who bring the room down just by their presence. This is a difficult job. I am CONSTANTLY on my kids for--well, EVERYTHING, and people give me a hard time for it. "Oh it's fine that he grabbed that out of my hand simply because he wanted it RIGHT NOW...leave him alone, he's just a kid!" REALLY? Because isn't that the same child you will refrain from inviting over the next time? You will remember that he is obnoxious, not that YOU allowed him to be obnoxious. I am constantly on my kids to use their manners and people give me a hard time for that, but what child do you want to spend time with--the one who demands things or the one who asks if he please could participate in things? When a person says thank you doesn't it make you feel good--even appreciated? What about when they simply take and leave? How do you feel then?
Luckily, my husband feels the same way about parenting. My son would NEVER treat my husband the way he treats me--probably because my husband does not point out his weaknesses, nor does he allow any disrespect. I have always encouraged talking about feelings and behaviors where my husband lays down the law. "This is how it is-- period." I like to think that I am the same way, but I think we all know the truth. "This is how it is and let me tell you why..." In fact, my husband has recently gotten tougher because I am slacking. There have been SEVERAL times when I have undermined him or forgiven behavior that usually is not tolerated simply because I am sick of being mean ALL the time. Not okay, I know, but it definitely won't become a regular thing as long as I address it.
This parenting thing is more than a full time job and it is exhausting. I am honored to be privileged enough to parent my three beautiful children and it is a responsibility I don't take lightly, nor does my husband. I NEVER get a break because when I do take one, it takes five weeks to undo the damage of ignoring one rude moment or one act of bullying. My children test the boundaries DAILY sometimes hourly (secondly?!) and when I am not "on" I pay. I could spend my time not caring and letting what happens happen--and there have been days when I've done that, but I pay later. If I want the end result to be well-adjusted people who are easy to get along with and who others WANT to have as friends and companions, then I cannot afford to take ANY time off--not if I want to do my job right.
I do love my children--and they will tell you how much I love them. More than chocolate and ice cream. More than a trip to the islands. More than ANY video game or television show. And more than any amount of sleep or "time off" that I might take to make my life a bit easier. I love my children enough to "hate" them every-so-often and to know their weaknesses when they do not--not to point out those weaknesses, but to help them turn those weaknesses into strengths so that they are able to succeed in life without me. I love them more than anything in this world which is why I commit to this fight--and it IS a fight--daily--so that I can look at my work one day and KNOW that it was worth it.
I can say with confidence that my children are extremely polite (usually). I rarely have to remind them to use manners, to introduce themselves or to ask before they play with or take something at another person's home. I never get anything but glowing reviews from school (though the middle one is a bit social like her mother!) and it would seem that our constant parenting is working. They seem to only act out with us or with people they know HAVE to love them. That's something, right? The thing is, their "acting out" is nothing compared to what I see some other children do (I know a lot of you out there and your children are also this great), but the behavior is still unacceptable. They should respect others--period--and should not go out of their way to make another person feel bad (yes, it IS bad, not badLY--look it up...). I want them to feel empathy--to treat others the way they want to be treated and to defend those who are unable to defend themselves. When they sniff out weakness, I want them to stand up for it, not destroy it. I think we are definitely headed in the right direction, but our job is not even CLOSE to being done.
Now I know why my mother said, "Now she's YOUR problem--I'm done!" to my husband on our wedding day. I was so insulted at the time, but I get it now. She worried about my every move for twenty-eight years. She probably didn't sleep a full eight hours during any of that time, so FINALLY she was released of that duty (though there have DEFINITELY been other times since then when I've had her on her toes!). I think of my aunt who is a second mother to...well...EVERYONE--while being the mother of two incredible young men-- and I think of how tired SHE must be! I also think (and hope!) that it is rewarding to see what that hard work created. I think that every good decision I make must make them feel proud of themselves for what they did, though I fear that every poor decision does the opposite. THIS is what I signed up for when having my babies, and I wouldn't trade it for anything--not even a solid eight hours!
I WILL continue to complain about my children. I do not EVER pretend like everything is okay if it isn't. I am honest to a fault (at least MY version of what I think is right!) and change my mind regularly. Even when I am screaming at the top of my lungs or threatening to leave my house sans children, I LOVE my children and my life. I would rather FEEL that love in my heart than PRETEND to feel it on paper.,
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