Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Read this, or WALK home...

Did you hear about the woman a few years ago who told her daughters (I think they were like ten and twelve or something like that) to get out of her car and walk home? I don't remember the exact story, but I do remember that one daughter had a cell phone and called the police on her mother (who was--I believe--in her vehicle following behind the girls).  The mother was charged and I couldn't help but think (then AND now) about who will run that household after this event? The mother has been undermined in the worst way and the girl knows that SHE has control.

I remember feeling sorry for this mother BEFORE my children became mouthy and unruly. I remember wondering WHY she was in trouble. Clearly the children were misbehaving to a point where she thought they needed to learn a lesson. She didn't RUN THEM OVER with her car. She didn't LOCK THEM UP in her car. She didn't even strike them in her car. She removed them from a difficult situation and forced them to look at their actions while getting some exercise and fresh air. Hearing about this story made me think about my own childhood. We used to walk to school on our own from kindergarten on (though most younger students had parents or older siblings to walk with them) and it was  at least a mile--in the rain or in the snow near BUFFALO, New York (and it was uphill BOTH ways...and we didn't have shoes...and we LIKED it!).  No one called the police THEN (though they may have offered us a ride!). Why is this behavior considered abusive now?

I do not have all the answers--in fact, I don't have ANY answers, but I do know that as a society we are making parenting  MUCH more difficult than it already is and it is SO VERY DIFFICULT. Maybe it's because we blame our parents for so much instead of embracing how well WE turned out--so they must have done SOMETHING right...I don't know. What I DO know is that I would N-E-V-E-R--EVER speak to my parents or question my parents the way my children do me. I was afraid of my parents--still am. My children scoff in my general direction (usually) when I discipline them. I was grounded for most of my childhood. I'm lucky to get a ten minute time-out from my son. My children (my son especially) argue about EVERYTHING. We were taught never to question authority.  I use the word "taught" loosely--we were TOLD and did it or suffered consequences--REAL consequences. Why is it so easy in theory yet so difficult in practice?

My son does not care about consequences. He gets pissed (yes, I said PISSED)  if either of us questions or corrects him--as if WE are the children and HE is the parent. SERIOUSLY PISSED. Like a grown up with an attitude. He  does not humble himself--EVER and he rarely accepts responsibility which is why it is impossible for him to correct his behavior. You can't fix something you don't believe is broken.

Brayden has always been extremely intelligent and  when he was really young, it was easy to talk to him about his behavior. We discussed (too much it would seem) consequences from the time he was two and for a while he even put himself in time out if he knew he did something wrong. Now I see that he did that so that he could have control. Now if I tell him to go to time out, he refuses. It turns into a power struggle and one or both of us ends  up in tears and hurt in some way or another. The funny thing is, I am sending him to time out for his own safety usually--I know if he stays with me for one more second I just may hurt him. The school gave us a fifteen second cool down card which I thought would be helpful--quite honestly, we BOTH could use the fifteen minutes seconds when things get crazy, but the child is so very stubborn...I just may lose my mind.

When we first moved to Montana, my maniacs were four, three, and Addison turned two the second week we were there. Brayden had just started to get a little mouthy and rebellious. My formerly compliant and peaceful preschooler turned into an unhappy tyrant. He started fighting about EVERYTHING. If the other two were happy and behaving, Brayden would pinch them or hit them or do something to make them unhappy. It was particularly difficult to do the shopping. The three of us were together ALL THE TIME, We were unable to grocery shop without one (or ALL) of us breaking down completely (and don't even get me STARTED on our trips to Target--I shudder to think of those trips!).  We would talk about the rules in the car before we got to the store. I would bring a fun thing for them to do and a snack for them to eat so that they would be busy, but they had no interest in anything I brought for them. No matter what strategy I stole from Parents magazine or Dr. Phil, it always ended the same: Me lying in the fetal position and rocking back and forth--wishing I could become a crackhead so they would send me away to some fancy rehab where the celebrities go--without any children OR Target.

I remember one late night there was an ad on television with a woman grabbing her son by the arm, dragging him out of the store yelling, 'Why do you ALWAYS make me do this to you?!" and another woman put on a cape and rushed to the child's aid. The byline read: "You have the power to stop abuse or neglect!" I started to bawl and woke my husband to tell him that I needed to be sent away because I was an abuser. He placated me--mostly because it was like one in the morning, but that commercial stuck with me. I couldn't let it go and it prevented me from parenting at all. I was always afraid that I was being abusive, so for a few months anyway, my children were beasts with a mother who didn't want to raise her voice (HA!) for fear of being abusive.

After a few LOOOOOONNNNNGGGGGG weeks of THAT behavior, I changed my attitude. I became angry at the advertisers. We really didn't get enough information to make a fair assessment of the situation. We didn't see the small child knock over the Vlasic pickles and the Hormel chili while trying to shake up the Pepsi and coke bottles to see which one had more fizz upon opening. We didn't see this child kick an old man in the shins to get him to move away from the Reeses and Kit Kats. We didn't see the child hurl himself on the floor when his mother told him "No, you may NOT climb up the shelves in the store and you may NOT jump from cart to cart! The lobster's claws MUST stay banded together and you are NOT allowed to dive in to play with them..." We didn't see ANY of that and I can't help but wonder how THAT public service byline would read. "I too have been tempted to abuse or neglect. Call for help or guidance--BEFORE you make your child (EGADS!) WALK home..."

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