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...