I’ve been at this whole mom thing for 19 years now. I've somehow managed to get one of my three children up and running into adulthood and she’s actually really slaying it. I'm trying my best to just put some decent people into the world. People who are independent and kind and good to other people. In order to do so, I have to make parenting choices that will decrease the chances of them turning out to be assholes. I'll do anything for my kids. Anything but this…..
1. Fight their battles for them
I'll give pep talks, advice and words of encouragement where needed, but if they're having a conflict with one another or a peer, then they need to work it out. Sure, everyone needs to see things from another perspective every now and then and I will gladly fill that role when needed. However, life is about problem solving and they need to learn as soon as possible how to handle their shit. I've got their back 100% when they actually need me and I will always stick up for my kids when they can’t stick up for themselves, but self-advocacy is key here.
2. Let them waste away with electronics
Neither one of my younger children move when they’re on electronics. No, like they actually don’t move. For hours. The boy is into Minecraft and the girl is into watching life hacks and DIY crafts on YouTube. Sure, it could be way worse. Studies have even shown how Minecraft can help mold little engineering brains and life hacks are super useful to just about anybody. However, because these little addicts don’t know how to balance screen time with the rest of life, it’s up to me to regulate it for them. Summer break is a lot less rigid regarding schedule and routine and we keep pretty busy anyway, so the kids can get away with being lazy a lot easier. But for the other nine months of the year, they get very little time to sit and waste away. That means no screen time on school nights. A few times a month, we’ll have movie dinner night [as a family] and once in a while when I’m super annoyed...I mean busy...they’ll catch a break for a short time. Even then, they aren’t even allowed to pull those electronics off the chargers until all of their chores, homework, etc. are complete. Yes, there's been more times to count when life would have been way easier had I just let the TV babysit for me instead of doing crazy things, like actually spending time with my kids. But come to find out, the kids are just fine entertaining themselves with their own creativity.
3. Submit to whining, crying and/or tantrums
It’s.not.going.to.happen. Ever. In fact, these things will irritate me so damn quickly, it’ll ruin any chance of them getting whatever it is they want in the first place. If I say no to my kids, there’s almost always a valid reason why. Coming from a “Because I said so” childhood (which does absolutely nothing but help the parent get out of a situation in the most lazy way possible), I make the effort to explain to my kids why they’re being told no. But they’re just kids, right? They can't always wrap their heads around rational reasons, right? Absolutely. I know plenty of adults that pitch tantrums when they don’t get their way. Hell, according to most of my ex's, I've been known to pout here and there. But I'll be damned if my kids learn that stomping their little feet or causing a scene is going to result in getting what they want. But here’s where it can get tricky: When you’re 3 years old and mama’s making dinner and you ask for a cookie and your cookie idea gets shut down, it is actually kinda heartbreaking. That cookie is a big deal and you can’t really comprehend how eating a cookie will spoil your appetite and blah blah blah. Those big feelings [on top of the strong desire to eat a damn cookie] can be overwhelming and sometimes tears and outbursts are sure to follow. But one thing I need my kids to know is that I’m always going to be here for them, no matter what. Big or small, life or death, they have me to come crying to. Even when I’m the reason why they’re sad. So no doubt will I comfort the hell outta my weeping child over a cookie. I’ll hold ya on my lap, wipe away those big, soggy tears and assure you that life is gonna be okay. You’re not getting the damn cookie like, at all... but I’ll coddle you until you feel better about it.
4. Take personalized orders for dinner
On tonight's menu: Whatever I cook with a choice of take it or leave it! I don't make brussel sprouts because they're gross. My daughter dislikes asparagus, so I don't make her eat it. My son is not a huge fan of meat, so I don't expect him to eat large portions of it. Not everything I make for dinner has to be their favorite meal, but they do need to make a solid attempt anyway. I also don't really force my kids to eat. I may have to remind them to stfu for a moment to take a bite a million times a meal, but if they refuse to eat for whatever reason, fine. I remind them that breakfast is a long time away and they are well aware that this mama doesn't budge on eating or drinking anything else [other than water] for the rest of the night if they pass up a free meal that was graciously served to them. And guess what? No fucks are given if their tummy hurts from starvation. I'm confident enough in my children's health to know that they'll be just fine come morning time.
5. Replace broken objects
Compared to many, we don’t have a lot of material things in this family. We don’t have a surplus of unnecessary clothing and we don’t have an abundance of frivolous items that don’t either serve a purpose or invoke joy inside of us. So the things we do have need to be taken care of to the best of our ability. Accidents happen, of course, but if things break or clothing gets ruined out of sheer negligence, sorry, kids; you’re shit outta luck. If your favorite shirt gets paint all over it because you fail to take precautionary measures, then you either walk around with a ruined shirt or you don’t wear it anymore. If you throw a toy 8 ft. down from the loft room onto the hardwood floor and it breaks into pieces, then you’re either gluing that mess back together or you’re down another toy. Actions lead to consequences. Shitty consequences lead to better actions next time.
6. Buy them something every time we step foot inside a store
First of all, I try to get all of my shopping done without the kids. They talk. A lot. I’m no casual shopping. I have a list. I stick to that list. And I certainly cannot get in and get out if I have two kids commentating on every damn piece of merchandise they see. But on the rare occasion I have to shop with them, there is a strong probability that I will not be purchasing a single item for either one of them. Kids get excited when they see cool stuff. I’ve never really even walked past a Kate Spade bag that I didn’t want. But the reality of it is, we just don’t need a bunch of unnecessary stuff and we don't get things just because we want them. And hell-to-the-no are they going to get rewarded for being “good” in the store. Not acting a fool in public is expected of them and they will never get anything more than a “Thanks for not being an asshole.” for doing so.
7. Make excuses for them
This includes letting them make excuses for themselves. When my kids make poor choices, get notes sent home from school [“Kaiya was talking while in line today.”], or when they just mess up in general, I hold them accountable. Of course there are two sides to every story and I’ll always give my kids the chance to explain themselves. But 9 outta 10 times when they get in trouble, it’s because they indeed messed up. Sometimes it’s hard to see why these choices are mistakes in the first place and it’s my job to help them understand. But they need to get it straight. It’s not their friend’s fault they got in trouble for talking when they shouldn’t have, it’s not my fault that they didn’t get their homework turned in on time because I didn’t remind them and it’s not their sibling’s fault that they lost in Mario Cart because they suck at it. We man up around here, whether we like it or not.
8. Compromise my standpoint on responsibilities, manners and standard "rules”.
There are some things...rules, if you will, in this household that are going to be enforced. With some, there is just no wiggle room. I will always give my children age appropriate responsibilities. I will always impose proper manners. When I say always, it doesn't mean that exceptions aren't made. They’re kids; I have to be somewhat flexible, otherwise we'd all go crazy. I threaten to chop off feet if they get caught running/jumping on the couch, but my son loves to jump off of his bed and onto the swing in his bedroom and who am I to shut those kind of ninja skills down. I've taught my son to open doors for ladies, to let ladies go first and other gentleman inclinations and I will never budge on enforcing these things until the day he does them all without being reminded. Chivalry is not dead and hopefully by the time my son is an adult, it will be cool once again. When we have any kind of company eating at our table, go out to eat or dine at someone else's table, the kids are expected to put napkins in their laps, chew with their mouths closed, be respectful of the food, etc. When it's just us, we've been known to show each other our chewed up food and my son isn't given death rays from across the the table when he starts talking about his penis or farting. The girls are just fine with manners now, but the boy still needs to be bopped in the back of the head every now and then as a gentle reminder. Yes, I literally started bopping him on the back of his big ass head while in public places if he forgets to say please or thank you to a stranger. I've even made him go back and walk through doors again if he didn't say thank you the first time to someone holding it for him. We practice having eye contact when speaking to others and having a loud and concise voice. I don't expect my kids to walk around like they take etiquette classes every day, but the very basic manners are absolutely required, no matter what. They all may be little things, but all of those little things add up and if you take a look around, something as small as a 'thank you' could go a long way these days. Chores are always going to be a thing around here as well. As long as we're a family, we're going to things as a family, including taking care of the house together. Some days, life is rough or homework is abundant and those are days when the house and chores can get neglected. But as long as these kids are living under my roof, they are going to be contributing to it.
9. Wait on them hand and foot
And when I say I’m not waiting on them hand and foot, I really mean I’m not doing most things that they're capable of doing themselves. No, I will not get them something to drink from the fridge. No, I will not stop what I’m doing to look for [fill in the blank] they lost. When [fill in the blank] gets spilled all over the floor, I’m not the one running to grab something to clean it up. Most of the time, the job doesn’t get done properly and I’m not going to let our things be ruined, so I’ll end up cleaning it anyway. That is so not the point here. I’m trying to raise independent kids that are going to have enough skills in life to stay alive when they fly the nest one day and that’s never gonna happen if I do everything for them all the time. Even if it takes them way longer than I have patience for, even if I watch them struggle, even when they reeeeeally don’t want to, kids around here are gonna do for themselves when they can.
10. Keep them sheltered from my personal emotions, shortcomings and ugliness
If I had a dime for every time I heard parents say something like, “I always stay strong in front of the kids” or “My kids have never seen me cry” or “I don’t want the kids to know that I’m struggling with [fill in the blank]”, I’d be sitting on a big ass pile of dimes. For me and mine, my kids witness it all; the good, the bad and the ugly. No, I don’t share every single struggle with them, as it’s not appropriate to do so. I’ll admit, I do have to put on a fake smile and pretend I’m much stronger than I actually feel inside from time to time and of course I want my kids to view me as a strong, independent woman that can conquer it all. But life is not rainbows and kittens all the time. Emotions are tricky. Life’s curve balls chucked at your head are tricky. And sometimes, shit gets so real you have no idea how you’re gonna get through it. If my kids are ever gonna have a shot at dealing with random chaos properly, they’re gonna need to be exposed to it on occasion. They need to learn how to take the bad with the good, how to really feel all of their feelings and how to survive the occasional shit storm. I need them to know that it’s okay to be overwhelmed at times and it’s okay if they can’t hold themselves together 24/7. When the storms roll in, we ride them out together. My kids have seen me stressed. They’ve witnessed me sobbing in the middle of the kitchen floor on those days where the world was too much for me. They’ve seen me make mistake after mistake after mistake. But they’ve also seen me beam with happiness. They’ve felt the calm after the storms roll on by. They’ve seen me pull myself up off the floor, wipe the tears away and get back to making dinner. They’ve watched me succeed time and time again.
11. Lie to them for the sake of their feelings
I obviously never want to hurt my children, damage their self-confidence or be the one responsible for any sad feelings they may experience. However, I’m not going to lie to them for the sake of their feelings. The truth will set you free, but first it might sting a little. Example: Zyan brought his ‘J’ worksheet from school over to me this evening. Now I’ve seen Zyan’s j’s before. He writes j’s quite well. But tonight, he was distracted with his grandma visiting and was preoccupied with his sister’s special effects makeup she was playing with. His j’s looked like shit. So he asks me if I like his j’s. Hell no, I don’t like your j’s! You’re almost 6; your j’s should be waaaaay better than these scribbles! Of course I didn’t articulate my thoughts in such a harsh manner, but I did tell him that I knew he could write j’s way better and I didn’t like the j’s that he rushed through. He made his little pout pout face, but only because I called him out. Instead of arguing with me, he asked if he could redo them once his grandma left and his sister’s face was done and I told him that his idea was a very good one. His pouty face turned into a proud smile.
12. Reward them for nothing at all
This one is huge for me and a constant struggle between me and...well, America as a whole. The 'giving kids a trophy just for participating' thing drives me insane. Sorry [sorry, not sorry], but kid #1, who puts in very little effort and just shows up for [fill in the blank] should not have the same outcome as kid #2 who puts blood, sweat and tears into the same damn thing. Those are the little brats that grow up thinking the world owes them something, they develop a false sense of entitlement and then when the harsh realities of adulting set in, they go batshit crazy and don’t know how to cope with life in a healthy manner. Kids need to be proud of themselves. My kids need to know that I’m proud of them. They need to know what a sense of accomplishment feels like. This isn’t a one size fits all principle for our family. My daughter struggles with self-confidence, so I have to work harder at helping her with that. My son very much has his father’s narcissistic traits and that boy walks around singing made up songs with the lyrics, “I’m Zyan. I’m awesome.”, so I gotta knock him down a couple notches from time to time. I expect certain things from my children. They have things that they're supposed to handle just because that’s how it goes. They don’t get gold stars pinned to their ass for doing those things. Don’t get me wrong, I tell my kids that they do a good job all the time. I tell them that I’m proud of them all the time. Every now and then, when my son eats his dinner all gone, he’ll end it with, “I ate my dinner all gone, aren't you proud of me?” No, my dude. I’m not proud of you for eating your dinner all gone; that’s what you’re supposed to do. I’m impressed that I didn’t have to tell you a million times to take a bite. I felt appreciated when you thanked me for supper and it was nice not hearing you fart or talk about your penis at the table. But proud of you just for eating dinner? Not so much..