The Imperfect Parenting Advocate

Everyday we are all inundated with tales of perfect children being perfectly parented by pristine, perfect parents. As much as I may wish that I could claim even one of those stories of perfection as my own, alas, perfection in any form was not my destiny.

Tonight was a typical Tuesday evening. The kids and I tumbled out of the house juggling Thumb Chucks, bouncy balls, keys, sweaters and whatever else they managed to smuggle into the van and off we headed for an appointment with the foot doctor for one of the boys.

We navigated our way through town and got there with two minutes to spare. Everyone piled into building and the kids all gathered around the water cooler. Moments later, we filed into the examination room and everyone crowded around the patient chair. The kids bickered over who got to sit in the other chair, who got to play with the skeletal model foot until the one kid who was actually there to be examined said “everybody stop looking at my foot!” and the foot doctor kicked the offending three out into the waiting room so that she could continue her job in relative peace.

Once back in the waiting room, two of the boys started to wrestle, so I stepped out and tell them to take it outside. Conveniently, “outside” just happened to be completely visible from the examination room windows, so we were all treated to a shoving match, some screaming, and a tongue-out-spitting finale. Sweet.

Then, my youngest son decided to share this with us: ” ‘K, so at school, I had this plan to get out of doing work.” He pulled up his sleeve to expose a previously skinned elbow and continued. “I was going to pick the scab and make it bleed so that I could go to the office and get a band aid. Buuuuuut Madame had band aids in the classroom.” He shrugged.  “So my plan didn’t work.” He shrugged again and smiled sweetly, clearly having no idea how devious the plan he just shared might sound to the average listener. The foot doctor and I looked at each other and I could tell that she was unsure how I was processing this admission of attempted deception. As usual, wherever possible, I chose to laugh. Because I try to refrain from crying in public. It tends makes people feel uncomfortable and then things are just awkward. And today was one of the few days that I remembered to wear mascara.

Our lovely foot doctor had now been witness to a bar-style brawl in her parking lot and heard a thwarted, yet diabolical plan of a third-grader to avoid doing his school work, and this only represented 3/5 of my children.

Time to head home, our work there was done. I re-arranged the bodies in the minivan for the ride home with the idea of limiting the opportunity for further brother-on-brother violence. This time, I was mostly successful. Only one primal scream for the entire eight minute drive home. #winning.

Needless to say, by the time we pulled into the driveway I was 88 years-old and they were back to laughing and being ridiculous. Good times. Always good times.

And that, my friends, is how a typical half-hour outing goes with my crew. Please form the line up to babysit my babies on the left…

A conversation with Miss Moon.

“Mumma! It’s beautiful out here! You should have the front door wide open!”

“Yes, baby, it is beautiful. I have the window on the door wide open, but I keep the door closed so that the bugs don’t come inside.”

“Ah. Well, you better close the window at night though. It might storm.”

“Oh, I will. And it’s safer that way too.”

“Yes. From bad guys. And robbers. [pauses to think] Mumma, you should have your purse in your room. And hold on to it!”

“I should, should I? Well, I can put it in my room, but I’m not going to sleep holding onto my purse.”

“Well, okay, but you’d better zip it up and put it under your bed then.” [whispering like we are co-conspirators] ” ’cause, you know. Robbers.”

Then off she skips into the backyard, her head full of blonde curls bouncing joyfully with each step she takes, clearly without a care in the world. And I’m left standing in our foyer, broom in hand, now worrying about home invasions and losing my purse while trying to figure out how my five-year-old is so security conscious and why, when I was five, my main concern was with how to avoid eating the peas at lunchtime without being caught by the daycare Gestapo.

Sometimes my life makes my head hurt.

Getting and having the flu during warm weather is balls.

I cannot believe it. I finally have a house full of healthy kids (woot!) and I wake up yesterday with my throat ON FIRE. But in my usual optimistic way, I decided to ignore it, and will it away. My methodology was flawed. And as a result, I was up most of the night tossing and turning, my head aching, my joints doing a constant dull roar and my throat as fiery as ever. The cherry on top was the continued irritation of the root canal that I had part one of earlier this week.

I am truly having a moment of self-pity and sadness. It’s finally, FINALLY, a gorgeous, sunny, warm day outside, primed for getting all kinds of things done outside and all I want to do is drink copious amounts of tea, take WAY too many drugs and pray that sleep overtakes me until I wake up full of energy and pain-free.

I’ve never been a great sickie. I push through the pain, sure, I do. That’s what maternal units do, isn’t it? I got the kids to swimming lessons this morning, did breakfasts and lunches. I’m about to go and toss a couple of chickens in the oven to roast for dinner, but inside I’m weepy and whiny and feeling oh, so achy and pathetic.

Ok, enough of my pity party. The fat lady (me) has sung, so it’s over. Before I go, I’ll share a bit of happy news – my nest is once again full. All five of my lovely babies are under one roof again.  It’s a temporary thing, a few months probably, but still. It does this mama bear’s heart a whole lot of good being able to see all of my people each and every day.

And finally, I’ll leave you with this tidbit of wonderful from Maya Angelou:

I'm giving the quest to achieve normal and starting the quest achieving a more complete me. Right after this flu fucks off, that is.

That settles it, I’m giving up the quest to achieve normal and starting the quest of achieving a more complete Me. Right after this flu fucks off, that is.

“Ponder it”

Those were Plum’s (17) last words to me last night.  He was clearly frustrated, annoyed and angry but instead of yelling and screaming, he remained outwardly calm and chose instead to walk away.  I was proud of him for that.  But, he is his mother’s son and he couldn’t walk away without getting, or at least trying to get a parting shot or the last word.  “There is nothing that you care about, is there?” he said to me.  I paused, thought for a beat and said “I’m not sure what you mean when you say that” and he said “ponder it a while then” and closed the basement door and returned to his room and world of MSN chat, Facebook status updates and YouTube.

A completely unrealistic rendering of me, pondering it.

Perhaps I should start somewhere closer to the middle, the beginning would take all year.

I had to make an unscheduled run to Wal-Mart yesterday evening, after tucking all the smalls into bed, to fill a prescription.  Also, we were out of banana and my smalls just don’t start their days right without a banana with their breakfasts 😉  So, while in Wal-Mart my phone rings.  It’s Plum.  After asking me where I was and what was up (um, you called me, remember?!?) he asked if he could go to the gym later on (time of the call was 8:45pm).  Keep in mind, it’s a school night, the first week of a new semester and he is not in his strongest position, school-wise right now.  So, I asked him what time he would be home and he said “oh, 11:45 or 12ish.”  Um, what?  Lemme see here.  It’s a school night, curfew on school nights is 10pm (which I still think is insanely late during the week, but that’s another discussion) but going to the gym is NOT a reason to lift curfew.  I talked with him for a few minutes while pushing my cart through the store.

I was trying to be diplomatic and calm, but it got harder and harder, the more he pushed to get what he wanted.  He couldn’t see why it was a problem since he would be awake until 1 or 2 am anyway.  Or because when he was working he would come home that late or later on school nights (which I reminded him had always been a problem as well).  Or that he was quiet when he came in.  Or it shouldn’t be a problem because he was going somewhere  not just hanging out or “whatever.”  I heard what he had to say, and if you’ve never had to deal with teenager demands, via cellphone, while in Wal-Mart, all I can say is, DON’T.  The conversation went from bad to worse before it ended.  Hanging up, I admit I was annoyed that I had allowed him to get to me, to use ‘that tone’ on me, you may know the one – it’s the one that teenagers use to convey to you that you’re a complete idiot and really shouldn’t be out unsupervised because in your idiotic state, you may forget to breathe.  But, I digress.

My point was and is that I don’t care if you are 7 or 17 or 27.  The house rules are the house rules.  Curfews are set for a reason and turning 18 (yes, Plum is 18 in two weeks) won’t change the curfews or the rules.  If anything, the older my children get, the more I expect of them.  I expect them to do more, to be kinder, more mature, responsible and respectful, show greater consideration for those around them.  My only expectations of Ms. Moon for the past 20 months were that she be adorable.  She has excelled at that, but now, she’s shaking things up and in the last week has decided that her youngest brother is a better chewy toy than playmate, so being on high alert for her baring her pearly whites in his direction has taken on top priority when they are together (which is almost all of the time).

Anyway, I cut my trip to the store short and headed home.  I did some laundry, cleaned up the kitchen, put away the few groceries I had managed to purchased (sale prices only, of course!), and sat down to go through my email and clean out my inbox.  When Plum appeared soon after, and indicated that ‘if he were allowed to go to the gym tonight…'(you can fill the blanks), I took the opportunity to reiterate in shorthand: my house, my rules, curfews are curfews for a reason and while he may not appreciate or understand my position, that on this one, I was not compromising any further.  Not impressed, he stalked out of the room but not without taking his parting shot “”There is nothing that you care about, is there?”  Me: “I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying with that one”  Him:  “Well, ponder it then.”

Did I push his face in at that point?  No.  Was I tempted, yes.  But I didn’t.  I pondered.  And then I it pondered some more.  And what I realized was that this whole thing was his way of throwing a temper tantrum and trying to get me to engage in a full-on war over something that I didn’t need to fight about.  Seven and seventeen have more than just the ‘seven’ in common, you know?  It may be normal behaviour for kids to try whatever they can to get what they want, but unless I remind myself to breathe through these trials, I lose sleep, cry a river of tears, ,get MAD and then feel like the worst mother on the planet.  But, I’m not.  I’m not the greatest ever, but I’m far from the worst, and I am always trying to improve and get better at things – for my family and for myself.  I love my kids.  I do my BEST to take care of their NEEDS and as many of their WANTS as possible, but part of my job as MOM is to be the bad guy and try to teach the hard life lessons sometimes.  It sucks, and nobody told me almost 18 years ago that one day my sweet, beautiful, perfect baby boy would paint me as the enemy on a daily basis, but if they had, being barely older than he is now, I wouldn’t have listened anyway, would I have?

This too shall pass and he will love me again one day (like when his kids are pulling stunts on him, maybe?)

Any temper tantrum stories to share?  Dealt with a difficult teenager?  (and no, my parents are not allowed to share stories of my adolescence.  My blog, my rules *grin* 😉