Sunday, July 27, 2014

Why I Constantly Battle to NOT Turn Into my Mother

We've all been told that we're acting like one of our parents at one point in our lives.  However, it's something I actually aspire to ensure that no one says this about me.
Being a parent is the hardest job a person can have.  Now some of you who may not be parents might be rolling your eyes, but seriously, hear me out here.  Being a parent is hard.  Or maybe I should clarify that.  Being a good parent is hard.  The older my son gets, the more I think about my own childhood.  Now I am not going to go on some tangent about how I had the world’s worst childhood.  I had an amazing Dad, my childhood was legions better than others.  But I’ve noticed some things lately.  And since I use writing as my form of therapy, here I go.  Here are some parenting rules that I try to abide by, even if my own parents (well my mother) did not.

1        1. Never Discourage Your Kids

I thought of this as I watched my son throw on a get up of plaid shorts, a graphic tee, black dress up shoes and white socks.  Yup.  I let my kid go out in public like this.  Why?  Well it made him happy.  He likes to pick out his own outfits, and with first grade creeping around the corner, he needs to take ownership of getting ready.  Did he match?  Not really.  As a rule should anyone wear white socks, shorts, and black dress shoes?  Probably not.  Is it the end of the world that I let him dance to his own beat?  Definitely not! 
I remember auditioning for a television show when I was young.  It was around fifth grade, and WJAR held auditions for their kids news show.  My Dad took me to the “auditions” which really constituted of answering a few questions in the first round, and then the lucky few would move on.  Not surprising to anyone who knows me, I was a horrible math student even then.  However, I hadn’t given up yet.  I was trying; I would even practice on my own.  This was going to be my year I conquered math!  So when the interviewer asked me what my favorite subject was I of course said “math” in my attempts to actually like the subject from hell more.  I never made the second cut, but my Dad, who was an engineer, was overjoyed that I chose math as an answer.  My hopes were dashed of course when I got home and my mother asked why would I ever answer that, and my answer probably cost me a chance at the second round.  Yes, my mother in her “infinite glory” taught me that to succeed I needed to push math out of my mind. 

2     2. When your children are adults, they are still your children   
      This is a biggie.  This is something, no matter how sick my Dad got, he never forgot.  When the doctor prescribed medical marijuana to him, he tried declining because he had kids.  Two kids who were married, with their own children, and didn’t live at home.  He was afraid he would be a bad influence.  I couldn’t make this up if I tried. 
      After I got married, I began packing on some pounds, as many of us do.  I went from the size two that my husband met to a size I won’t write on my blog.  You can only hear your mother say “you have such a pretty face” and tell you how to hide your body so many times before you start to believe it.  Looks over brains were how I was brought up, which is why I tell my son how smart he is constantly.  (Although of course he’s also adorable, and I let him know that as well!)  Boys can develop body image issues too, and it’s not something I wish to be responsible for.  It’s been over a year that I’ve been working with a friend to rethink how I think about my body, and I’ve never been healthier.

      3. Kids Come First.  Period.
I always knew where I stood with my Dad.  He wanted to be home with us, playing outside, taking us trick or treating.  He would constantly plan family vacations.  He would make his famous pizza on Sundays, have us help in the garden, watch ridiculous movies…I honestly could fill a book with all the times my Dad made me feel as if I was the most important person.  I hope I can do that for my son.  Since he passed, this was my mother’s number one complaint about him.  That he wanted to spend too much time with his kids.  As an educator, I can think of countless mothers who wish they had that problem.  I can think of countless kids who would love nothing more than to have their parents want to spend their free time with them.  I married a man who spends countless hours building Legos, watching movies, taking bike rides, even going to birthday parties.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As adults, I think it’s easy to blame our parents for our shortcomings.  I was infinitely lucky with my Dad.  I won the Dad lottery.  This may sound like I am sitting around blaming my mother for a slew of things.  I’m not.  It’s her shortcomings as a human being and “mother” that make me want to be a better mother than the one I grew up with.  Anyone can have kids, but it takes dedication and work to be the kind of parent you want to be.

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