Monday, December 19, 2011

What does parenting have to do with politics?

It has been a really negative year for everyone politically, you can't even turn on the news without seeing more negativity. Fighting and name calling are becoming par for the course. Our own government is acting more like a class of preschoolers than a leadership body made up of mature adults. Not just one party, but both are playing the "I don't like you, so you can't come to my birthday party" game.
I used to joke that maturity was overrated, but a little bit of maturity wouldn't hurt any of us right now. If you have a truth to speak then by all means speak it, but the minute we resort to including personal attacks and name calling we can no longer consider ourselves responsible adults.

One of my favorite parenting experts is a woman named Susan Stiffelman. She calls her parenting approach Passionate Parenting. She has taught me the futility of power struggles. The more you seek to control another person, the more they resist that control, and the faster you lose the control you seek. 
Perhaps she should expand her book to explain that this applies to every situation, not just our own children. We can all share our views as loudly and even as aggressively as possible, but when we shut them out before they even get a chance to hear it, what is the point of saying it at all?

It has been a year since I made the commitment to remain positive no matter what the situation. I picked a bad year to do it, and as hard as I have tried I still have a very long way to go. Along the way I have had to cut out a lot of activities, going to my much loved locals-only site is just one of those things. Not because anyone there has been unkind to me or attacked me in any way, but because the negativity is not only a physical but an emotional drain.

Those who teach positive living say that it takes five positives to counteract a single negative. If so, then the cloud of negativity hanging over this country is going to take centuries to conquer. Those same experts also teach that we should not focus on what we don't have, but what we do have. Instead of focusing on what is going wrong, we are supposed to focus on what is right. I'm not saying that it is a bad thing to speak your mind or to disagree with what is going on in the government right now. I'm just saying before you complain, see if you can find a way to turn that complaint into positive action.

One thing I have always stressed to my children is that bitching has never solved a single problem. Instead of focusing on the problem, focus first on the lessons we can learn from it and then focus on finding the solution. My children understand this concept, but so few adults seem to these days. Even my children know that smart people use their brains, and the rest resort to calling names. 
What are we teaching our children right now? That is is better to hate than to love? That it is better to complain that to take action? That it is okay to call other people names as long as you don't like them? That anyone who does not agree with you is the enemy?

Children do learn these lessons whether we mean to teach them or not, and it might seem okay to teach them to attack that which they do not like but... there will be times in every child's life when they do not like us. When those lessons come back to us, they sometimes hurt.

One area of our life affects every other. If we insist we are teaching our children respect but can't offer respect to our neighbor or even our president, then we aren't teaching them respect at all. We are teaching them to hate, and we really have no right to be surprised when that hate comes back home. Teach them love and compassion. Teach them to speak their truth respectfully. Teach them to create, not to destroy.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Coparenting after Divorce

A spotlight on a Squidoo lens from the Boshemia's Bohemia world.

Parenting will always come with its own myriad of troubles, worries, and dilemmas, but when the other parent becomes "the ex" and the children are split between two homes, a whole new layer of complication comes into play.

No matter what, the children are always the greatest priority, and they deserve to have a happy, healthy home to grow up in. How do you maintain that once the home has become divided?

Read the Fairly Goth Mother's take on coparenting here.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

We Need to Teach Our Daughters... (And Our Sons)

"We need to teach our daughters to distinguish between a man who flatters her-and a man who compliments her. A man who spends money on her-and a man who invests in her. A man who views her as property-and a man who views her properly. A man who lusts after her-and a man who loves her. A man who believes he is God's gift to women-and a man who remembers a woman was God's gift to man. And then teach our boys to be that kind of a man."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Being the Adult

We shouldn’t blow up at our children. There is no excuse for an adult allowing themselves to be placed in a position where a full on screaming match follows, because the minute we find ourselves yelling at our child... we have already lost the battle.

When it gets to the point of raised voices, the rule is we always walk away. We think it over, we try to look at both sides, and when we have calmed down we discuss the solution. That's what has always worked for our family in the past. We walk away until we can all be rational. Sometimes that takes minutes, sometimes that takes days. But we deal with it when the time has come to deal with it, and not before.

We, the adults remain in control. We call it off when it starts to go over. We are the representatives of reason, the force of rationality, the voice of experience.

So how is it that I ended up standing in the driveway screaming at the top of my lungs at my almost-eighteen-year-old daughter, Brooke?

Sometimes we know exactly what we are supposed to do as parents, but something in our wiring just flips. We get pushed too far. Wrong place, really wrong time. A bad day is still following us around. I don't yell at my kids often, even they will tell you it is really rare to see mommy lose it and when I do it is usually in their defense.

After we had talked it out she told me she knew I just needed to blow off steam. I'm glad that we have that solid of a relationship, that it could be fixed so quickly. I am very sorry for losing it, and she is right. Some of it was frustration with her... most of it was frustration with a lot of other people.

Things have been crazy around here this past year and a half. We've taken on more and more responsibility and had less and less time as a family. Having a strong family is important to all of us. I had to step back and remind myself that my goal as a parent is not to control them but to teach them how to control themselves.

We don't have a whole lot of time left to enjoy the mother-child bond that we have now. Very soon, she will be an adult in her own right. Our bond will always be there, but it will change when her focus changes.Becoming a wife. Becoming a mother. These things are only a few years away now.

I don't want to spend what time we have left destroying what we have built. I want to spend it building a new relationship. A relationship of equality.
Sometimes, we make mistakes. I should have ended the conversation before it got to that point. She knows she shouldn't have said the things she did. Apologies can go a long way when they are sincere.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Growing up so fast...

Mommy is here...

I still can’t believe that my body aided in a miracle. My body created something as complex as a human being. Three times. That I had even the smallest part in their creation leaves me in awe. My last pregnancy was nearly twelve years ago, and sometimes I miss being pregnant. There was a certain comfort in that mother child connection.

But I was pregnant I couldn’t wait for them to be born. I felt that small life stirring inside of me and instead of stopping to savor the moment all I wanted to do was hurry the process along so that I hold them. I wanted it over, I wanted it done.

I tried to enjoy their childhoods, I really did. To slow down and watch them grow. But it was all so exciting. Each one of their firsts was a family celebration. Their first diaper. Their first smile. The first time they lifted their head. Rolled over. The first tooth. Crawling. I could hardly wait. Then it finally came, their first step.

From that first step on, make no mistake, they are walking away from you.

The old parents kept telling me to stop and enjoy it, and I honestly thought I was. I thought that I was taking the time to store each moment inside of me so that I could have them forever, but somewhere in between then and now, my children were slowly replaced with adults.

We are always trying to find ways to preserve their childhoods in our minds. Photographs and bronze baby shoes. Try to hold on to a moment forever. Height marks upon the doorjamb and field day ribbons. Keep it close to our hearts. Driver’s licenses and dried corsages. Almost time for them to go.

Now, I am watching them walk away and thanking the Lord I didn’t know how painful a single step could someday be. They really are growing up way to damn fast. Those not so old people were right. It happened in the blink of an eye. *Poof* grown.

Bye Mom!

(My youngest daughter is turning twelve today. Growing up so fast... :) Love you with all my heart Nay!)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

On dating sex offenders and other such stupidity...

This is a public service announcement from the snark side.

One should not have to explain to a full grown adult that it is wrong to date sexual predators, but I’ve seen plenty of women defend their right to date who they choose. After all, when he explained the story it wasn’t as bad as everyone made it sound.

Forgive me for being blunt here. but do you really think someone is going to say, “So, I was having sex with this kid a few year ago...” Of course they are going to have a cover story, who the hell is going to admit that they are a danger to a child? Yes, some accusations are false it does happen. These are those red flag things that people sometimes talk about.

You know, those things people ignore until it is too late. We can’t always see them, some pedophiles are pros they come off as loving, caring, nurturing. We all want to believe that they are all creepy perverts in trench coats, when it is an upstanding member of our community, someone from our social groups, or god forbid a family member... we deny it. When it is a hot young female teacher, we don’t even consider it molestation.

Our natural tendency is to defend what we know, if they are like us then they can’t possibly be BAD. If you never understand anything else about sexual predators please understand this. They are very good at what they do. If they walked up to children drooling with a hunchback what child would trust them? They play on a child trust, and to do that they have to look just like everybody else... or maybe just a bit better. You can bet they will have a way of making themselves attractive to children, and often to adults as well.

If there are even rumors of a past abuse of history, pay attention to it. You don’t have to put it front and center. You don’t have to picket the guy (or girls) house. But be aware, watch how much time they spend with children and how much of that time is monitored. Without proof, all you can do is be wary... but once that proof has been obtained. The moment you know that person is a danger to your child your job as an adult is to keep them the hell away from your child.

If you can’t do your job, them somebody else needs to.

I know I am a strange mother, that most women, when finding themselves on a date with a prince of a man so not look them in the eye and say... “I was abused as a child, if anyone ever layed a hand on my children I would kill them, and the cops could have what was left.” I still checked his criminal record before he was allowed to meet my children.

Oddly enough, he married me.

It is my job as a mother to do all I can to keep my children safe. I will fail sometimes, we all will. It happens. But when we know that someone or something is a potential threat to our children and we choose to ignore it because it would make our life uncomfortable. We are no longer parenting. We are acting like the child.

When we repeatedly put our child into dangerous situations, we no longer have the right to call ourselves mother or father. They are not titles given freely, they did not automatically come as a birthright. To call yourself a parent you must actually parent.

Just because a new friend or romantic interest is nice to your children, does not mean they are safe with them. Just because you have known them your whole life doesn’t mean they are safe with your children. It is your job to watch for red flags and act appropriately. Supervision is your strongest defense against sexual predators. You have to be alert to the adults cues and your child’s cues.

Check your local sex offender registry. Keep up to date on it. If there are predators in the neighborhood warn your children and your childrens friends that they are not to talk to the person in that house and any contact with them should be reported to an adult. Keep it age appropriate. And keep an eye on the house and the children. Make sure they aren’t allowed to get close to any other kids.

I wish this were only one situation, but I’ve seen it over and over. Women that have dated multiple sex offenders. Women who still hang out with her molesters, and spend the night with their children. Women who have discovered that their partners were having sex with their teens and kicked the child out of the house. They have no idea that the honor of being a mother comes with the responsibility of protecting that child to the best of your ability.

If this is the best they have, it sucks. They need to be honest with themselves.

If you can’t do your job, be honest with yourself and find someone else who can.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Kids Are Washable

The little girl had stayed the night with us. When her father arrived to pick her up he took one look at her and flew into a tirade. Somehwere during the night, this ten year old girl has written on her hand in ink pen.

I looked at the girl half expecting to see ink from one end of her body to the other. Just her name on her hand I just looked at him, “Kids are washable you know.” In hindsight this was probably a bad idea.

It isn’t as if it will destroy their chances of getting into college, or ruin their chances with their future spouse. I’ve never known a simple ink drawing to have any future repercussions as all. They wash off and are forgotten. End of story. A man with half a dozen tattoos has no reason to take a little ball point pen that seriously.

There is a big difference between just reacting and taking action.

In our home we don't beat children up for their mistakes, we simply expect them to be corrected. If they can put it on their skin, they can get it off.

I don’t know if the little girl ever drew on herself again or not. Maybe his method worked, but even if it did... it seemed to be a lot of energy to put into something that lasts a few days at the most.

I have to wonder what he planned to do when the child got into real trouble. Military school for smoking a cigarette? A hard labor camp for taking the car without permission?

I just missed the entire point of this lesson aside from the fact that Daddy having a bad day means everybody has one.

I think I'll just stick with soap and water thank you...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What you feed grows, what you starve dies...

One of my nick-names as a child was “brat-brat,” it wasn’t said in anger, or in an attempt to insult, but it is something I swore I would never do to my children.

We have a lot of labels for our children. The smart one, the funny one, the troublemaker. It is really amazing how often they live up to those labels. The liar, the thief, the lazy one. Like they are somehow being reinforced by some unknown force. The slut, the junkie, the failure. Those labels have a way of following them throughout their lifetimes.

I would like to think that no parent would willingly label their child a slut, but believe it or not I’ve seen it happen more than once. When I was a teenager a mother I was acquainted with saw her two girls walking towards her, not yet teens, not even tweens, she looked up and greeted them. “There are my little sluts.” My jaw dropped but I didn’t know what to say.

And then there was the little boy who told me that his father had informed him that he already knew his son would grow up to be a junkie. The boy wasn’t even a teenager yet, and he doesn’t do drugs yet either. What the hell was running through this fathers mind when he said this to his own child is beyond me.

I told him that he was better than that. His dad was not the one that would make that decision. His dad was not the one who led his life. His dad had no right to say that to him. I still wonder though, whose words were stronger the words of a friend or the words of a father? Which will he remember the first time someone offers him drugs?

Our children trust us beyond a doubt. Each of those children I have mentioned also love and respect their parents very much. They want to please them, even if it means living up to those labels that have been placed upon them. Every child longs to live up to their parents expectations.

Saying something one time probably isn’t going to program their open little brains, but if we say it enough we burn an image into their brain. This is who you are. This is who you have always been. This is who you will always be.

Instead of reinforcing those negative images in their wide open little brains, I want to input positive images. When I call my youngest my little fiddle player, and my son my tech geek I am consciously turning them towards their more positive traits. When I compliment my oldest on her rationality and her strong sense of responsibility I am telling her I want to see more of THAT.

Some have assumed that my complimenting my children instead of criticizing was due to parental blindness. That I think my children are perfect. They aren’t. I am aware of those qualities that most parents see as negatives. I just don’t see the point in pushing them towards the negative when the positive traits are the ones I want to see grow.

What you feed grows, what you starve dies...

Or maybe that’s just me...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Don’t you dare talk back to me...

I must have heard that phrase a million times as a child. I still remember the frustration those words caused me. I was never quite able to understand why the adults could say whatever they wanted while the children were supposed to remain silent. What the adults had to say was important, but what I had to say was just as important. That confused little girl inside of me still wants to know why adults never listen.

A great deal of my parenting philosophy in general revolves around the promise that I will do nothing to my children that I do not want done to me. They have a right to be treated with respect regardless of their age or status. They are just as human as the adults in the house, and I try to remember that.

But, I am still Mommy. Mommy has to maintain some authority over the household of the kids will not listen at all. Giving them the freedom to be their own human beings and still maintaining the role as vice-president of the house. They have a right to be heard, but there will be times in every home when tempers will flare. Words will be said. People will argue.

I get a lot of comments on my parenting style, and this is the one I hear most often. You can’t let them talk back to you like that. As a parent, this has been one of my biggest struggles. Defining what is, and what is not back talk.

We don’t often come to the level of yelling in our home, but it does happen. when it does, the conversation is over. We end it right there, and continue it after everyone has had some time to cool down. It seems to eliminate any problems we might have with a lot of what most people would consider back-talk.

If I interrupt an argument, my goal is not to simply end the argument, it is to solve the problem. Most of the time, I trust the kids to work it out with minimal intervention on my part. I encourage them to explain to me and to the other person how they feel about the situation and the result they would like to see. I ask them to listen to one another and try to understand. They are usually able to reach some sort of agreement. They will meet in the middle.

The only time I find that we have a real problem with back talk is when someone feels their rights are being ignored. When they are being forced to do something that they feel is unfair. When they don’t feel that they’ve been heard. When they feel their status as co-human in the home slipping.

So whenever possible, I try to encourage them to express their frustrations. Allowing them to have their say doesn’t mean I agree with them. It just means that I care enough about their humanness to hear them out.

There are those who criticize me for my lack of action, for allowing my children to speak as adults. And there are those who compliment me on my patience with my children, for allowing them to speak as fellow human beings. Some will judge me for it, but as far as I am concerned it is working.

A healthy adult conversation requires two people who respect one another enough to hear each other out and come to a compromise. So, it just seems logical to me that my children be allowed to practice this principle now, while they are with me. A persons age should have nothing to do with their right to be heard.

Or maybe that’s just me...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Those Who Mind Don’t Matter, and Those Who Matter Don’t Mind.

The First Rule of Fairly Goth Parenting: Those Who Mind Don’t Matter, and Those Who Matter Don’t Mind.

I was once referred to by a high school boy as “that goth chick with kids.” I took it as a compliment, though it most certainly wasn’t meant as one. I’m not really goth. I’m not really anything. My kids have all picked up a bit of Gothic flair along the way. My little poisoned apples didn’t fall far from the tree in that regard. On the surface I am a bit of a fairly goth mother, but inside I’m just a mother who cares more about what is going on inside of my children than I do about the outside.

As you can imagine, strolling through the grocery store with kids dressed like the Addams Family turns a few heads. We get some interesting looks. We know we are odd. It’s okay.

We get a wide variety of looks. Some people compliment my kids and smile, and we smile back and visit. Some people just try to avoid us as if we really were undead, and we avoid them too. Some try to pretend we are invisible, and we offer them the same courtesy. More than one soccer-mom has stopped and stared, just to be sure that her disapproval was noted. Thank you kindly. Noted and filed.

Both my methods and my madness are questioned quite often. It’s okay. When I see them respond to us as if we were a poor quality art print they were asked to appraise, my lip can’t help but curl a little bit in response. My kids are who we are, and we accept them for that.

I don’t think I am the parent that they think I am though.

Does it bother me that my kids dress the way they do? Sometimes, yes.

I worry about the way people respond to them, looking them over once and declaring unfitness. Unfitness for what? To be human?

They did not speak to my child. They did not get to know my child. They just assumed they knew all they needed to know.

I worry about the rejection I know they will face from the “normal” people. The whole “pretending-to-be-someone-you-are-not-so-that-a-whole-bunch-of-other-people-who-are-pretending-to-be-someone-they-aren’t-will-pretend-to-like-you” thing got old when I graduated high school twenty years ago. It's all popularity, social status, and outward achievement.

It's the things that are supposed to be important in life, but so rarely are.

I know they will face it their whole lives. I know I could force them to dress differently and act differently, to fit in more... but why?

They are going to need that strength in years to come.

All I want for my children is to find their own happiness in life, and the only way for them to do that is to figure out who they really are, to have the courage to be themselves, and to not allow anybody to take their individuality away.

"Normal" is a lie.

I’ve spent a lifetime trying to understand the difference between what is normal and what is not. I still have no f-----g clue what normal really is. There are plenty of people out there willing to tell me their version of normal, but their normal doesn’t feel like my normal. I’ve tried. Just about the time I learn how to fit into one person's definition of normal, somebody else comes along and points me in a totally different direction.

Some people can’t be pleased, and if someone's approval is so rigid that they will reject you without even spending a moment to get to know you then they aren’t worth factoring into your definition of normal. It isn’t normal to judge people on appearance alone.

I joke that the way they dress is their armor, but there is a bit of truth to it. Porcupines have their quills, skunks have their odor, and we have our appearance. Only those who are truly willing to love you will come through such strong defenses, those who are willing to love the real you.

Judgment has no place in a loving relationship. Someone who loves you will accept you, and those who will judge you can never truly love you. To leave them with this lesson written always upon their hearts will save them a great deal of sorrow later in life.

Or maybe it’s just me...