Here are all the things I knew about parenting before I became one:
I could spot a lousy parent a mile off. They were the ones that looked like they hadn’t showered and had three kids screaming in the grocery cart that they were filling with prepackaged junk food. They were the ones whose kids looked like they picked out their own outfit and had chocolate smeared all over their hands and faces. I knew that I would never have left the house that way. I knew that my kids wouldn’t act like that because I would know how to handle a toddler’s tantrums in the bread aisle.
I was such an expert. When I’d hear about children who had been abused on the news, I could scarcely believe that a parent could treat their child that way. But then…..kids came along. Kids who had strong opinions and kept me on my toes from sunup to sundown. Kids who made messes they wouldn’t clean up and got dirty seconds after I had bathed them. Kids who climbed into my bed in the night and I was too tired to fight with.
It’s funny how a little real life experience can turn your ideas upside down. I remember the first time I was beyond frustrated and had to cool off on the front porch because I was on the verge of discipline getting out of hand. I sat there thinking, “This is how parents abuse their children.” I realized that all of my “expertise” was really just book knowledge and when the rubber met the road, parenting was really hard.
So for all the moms in the grocery or at the park that I looked down on back in the good ol’ days when I knew everything, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I judged you. I’m sorry I thought I was better than you. And I’m sorry that I didn’t give you a kind smile and a little grace. Because really, for every wonderful part about parenting there are two or three parts that are not as easy and wonderful. If you’re in the trenches right now and you know what I’m talking about, hang in there. And the next time you see another tired mama who is holding onto her sanity by a thread, give her some compassion. After all, she probably thought she was an expert at one time too.
I’m in a fight with my dog. He’s a great dog, don’t get me wrong, but he is ruining my sofa. He is not allowed on the furniture and he has his own perfectly wonderful dog beds both upstairs and down, but he is determined to do what he wants when we’re not home. As soon as we leave, he thinks he’s the king of the castle. Literally….before I get to the end of the street, I have proof that he’s getting on the couch.
This is not a lap dog we’re talking about. He’s a 70 pound Golden Retriever with enough hair to cover two or three whole dogs. If you sit on the couch he likes, you’ll be wearing half a dog when you stand up. He is partial to one end of the preferred sofa so that he can look out the window. (Never mind that we have a house full of big windows that he can see out of from the floor.) The cushions on that end of the sofa are starting to sag from his daily ritual. The throw pillows get knocked to the floor constantly and they are starting to show wear as well from where he smashes them down and his toenails get hooked on the embroidered fabric.
I decided to attack this from several angles to change his behavior. First, I bought him a new, super soft bed. Then I tied his favorite toy to it and filled the toy with peanut butter. He promptly chewed the rope in half and took the Kong somewhere else to clean it out. Then I started training him to go to his bed by offering treats every time he did what I asked.
Next, I made the sofa off limits by placing a large piece of aluminum foil over it when I was leaving. (It really does work—thanks, Pinterest!) Unfortunately, he just decided to get on the sofa in the other room. When I realized what he was doing, I put foil on that sofa too. And just for good measure, I added it to my favorite chair in case he got any bright ideas about that. When I left the next time, he got on an antique chair that is so small I don’t even know how he fit. Lesson learned, I covered it in foil too. The next time I left, he got on the ottoman. Grrrrrrrr! Now that I’d used an entire roll of aluminum foil and every piece of furniture had foil on it, I thought he’d finally get the idea that he needs to relocate to the floor or his new bed. That’s a big resounding, “Nope.” The first time I neglected to leave the foil out, he was right back at it again.
I decided the only answer was to get a camera and correct him from wherever I am. I ordered a motion sensitive baby that dings my phone when there’s movement and allows me to talk through it. He was a little surprised to hear me yell, “Get off that couch!” when I wasn’t even home. We’re still in this battle. He’s not doing it as often, but it certainly isn’t over yet. (In fact, if you hear a crazy woman yelling into her phone in the aisle at Kroger, that’s probably me.)
Maybe you’ve got a behavior problem you’re dealing with. I’m not suggesting that your kids are anything like my dog, but there might be something to learn here anyway. Parenting isn’t something that goes by the book. Each child and family is different and has its own set of challenges. My point is about perseverance. Keep trying new methods until you find something that works. Is your bedtime routine leaving you exhausted and you don’t know how to right the ship? Does the mess in your child’s room or playroom make you want to pull all your hair out? Whatever those frustrations are, just try something. And if it doesn’t work….try something else. We all have areas that could be better and taking a step in the right direction is always good. Just keep taking those steps until you reach the destination.
As for me and the dog—I’ll guarantee you that I’m going to win this fight. I have a few ideas up my sleeve if this camera doesn’t do the trick. I’ll let you know how it works out.
If you’ve never considered yourself a failure at parenting, we can’t be friends. I mean, aren’t your friends supposed to make you feel good about yourself? So, in the interest of full disclosure, I am going to share some of my most noteworthy mom fails with you. And, since it involves my sons, I’ve asked them to help me narrow it down to the top five. (They were all too happy to help-especially the sassy younger one.) Here they are, in no particular order:
I could go on, but I think that’s enough confession from me. What are your greatest mom fails? You can be real, we’re all friends here.
We know a lot about raising boys. In fact, if there’s any area that I’m an expert in, it’s probably “boy momming”. Our granddaughter is an adorable little mystery to us. She is cut from a different cloth than our sons and grandsons. Her cloth is pink and lacy, while theirs is stained with dirt and ripped to shreds.
My best friend raised girls. Her house was pretty calm except for the occasional sisterly spat. She could go to the grocery on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, she’d still have food in the house. She didn’t spend a lot of time in the emergency room. Most of her beautiful home and furnishings stayed intact and things didn’t get broken constantly.
Then there was our house.
At our house, everyone was always starving. One year I had made about 30 extra loaves of pumpkin bread at Thanksgiving. I froze the extras so that I could give them to neighbors and friends a few weeks later at Christmas. When I went to get the loaves out to thaw, there were only a few left and then I learned that my older son had eaten a loaf for breakfast every morning since Thanksgiving. A whole loaf! Every morning! *Sigh*
We visited the hospital often enough to get a wing named in our honor. There were broken arms and broken feet and broken Matchbox car parts shoved up noses. There were explosions that burned the hair off the left side of their body and whiffle bats to the face. Then there were all the things that should have required a trip to the hospital, but unbelievably didn’t. Like trying to ride a bike down the slide. Or jumping out of the second story of the garage onto the trampoline.
Our house was full of bad ideas. First, there was the time the older son tried to start a fire by friction in his bedroom. (I couldn’t figure out what smelled like it was burning until he casually mentioned that he had been practicing his fire crafting skills. On the CARPET. In his ROOM.) Or the time when the same kid figured out how to make a catapult that would launch a bowling ball onto the next street. Really? Yes, really. And there were so many stupid things that started with this little phrase: “I betcha can’t…….(fill in the blank).”
They broke EVERYTHING. Doors seemed to be a particular favorite, mostly because they were chasing each other through the house. They broke the frosted glass out of the 100 year old bathroom door. They broke the brand new wooden door jamb on the upstairs bathroom. They broke a full length mirror hanging on the bathroom door downstairs. It’s literally a miracle that they didn’t end up in the emergency room over one of these incidents.
And I can’t forget the mountains of dirty laundry that smelled like a small animal died in them. Oh, and the ticks I found crawling out of their backpacks after Boy Scout campouts. Or the socks that found a home under their beds never to be seen again until they moved out as adults. That old rhyme about girls being made of sugar and spice and boys being made out of snips and snails and puppy dog tails—that’s not a joke. The greatest day in a boy mom’s life is the day they become interested in girls. From then on, they shower daily without complaint. They brush their teeth without being reminded. They use deodorant without fail. It’s the payoff for all the years of doing the sniff test after bath time to see if they actually used soap.
I’ll tell you this, though. I think I was made to be a boy mom. When I watch girl moms cringe and hold their breath as a little boy jumps from the top step or run across the top of the monkey bars, I know that God gave me the extra dose of chill that it takes to raise boys. And I also think having a tea party with my granddaughter is the prize for keeping them alive long enough to have children of their own.
Hi! I'm Janet and I've been the Director of the Before and After School and Smart Start Preschool Programs at the Troy Rec since 1994. My hubby and I have been married 30 years and we have two grown sons. Each of them is married and blessing us with grandchildren left and right. Life is good even when the nest is empty!