It's like looking in a mirror...
It’s like looking in a mirror…

 

I like to think I’m a pretty good parent. I love those three kids more than anything in the world. I have spent the better part of 14 years doing all the things for them. You know, all the mom things. They are pretty lucky little shits if you ask me.

And I tell them that all the time. They are damn lucky to have me. I’m a pretty cool mom. And all the cool moms announce their coolness to their kids all the time, right? I’m pretty laid back. I really don’t sweat the little things. I don’t run my house like a Drill Instructor during Hell Week. We keep it simple. Do the basics, get good grades, work hard, do your chores, be nice. That’s it. Pretty cool, right?

But sometimes I screw up. Sometimes I do all the wrong things. Sometimes I feel bad about it. Not always, but sometimes. Because I like to keep it real with you guys, I’m going to peel back the curtain of this seemingly perfect little life I have and show you the real seedy underbelly that is MomsIsALittleCrayCray.

1. F Bombs and other awful things little ears shouldn’t hear. I say them.  Not ALL the time. But I don’t really practice self-editing. I’m not a complete potty mouth or anything, but let’s face it, there are frequent and varied occasions where the words just fly out of your mouth. When you run into a doorway. When you back into your husband’s car. When you show up just in time for the game and realize you’re at the wrong ball field. And your kid is starting pitcher. And it’s rush hour. Anyways, the point is I’m human and such situations elicit some choice verbiage. But they know the rules. I can curse, they can’t. I also exhibit tact and class and don’t curse in front of strangers or other children (at least not on purpose). I’m just saying that they’ve been exposed and some of their fist words were “Shit” and “Dammit.”

2. I have favorites. And I tell them. I will loudly whisper to one of my kids when the others are acting up “You know you’re my favorite.” I do this fairly and evenly. They each get a turn being mom’s angel. I like to keep them guessing and vying for favorite status. Nah, not really…  I’m simply trying to entertain myself with their expressions when they hear me say it to their sibling. It’s pretty damn funny. If you’ve never tried it with your kids I totally recommend it. It usually squashes whatever beef the other kids were fighting over and they become united in their hatred of you. In the meantime, the current favorite is giving you all kinds of cuddles with a smug look on their face and that makes you feel like an awesome mom.

3. I lie to them. Just on occasion. Usually just for fun. Sometimes for totally acceptable practical reasons (ex: “we’re all out of chocolate” as you hide a package of Reese’s cups in the freezer.) But I have a few on-going lies I tell my kids. One is that I used to be a famous pop star in Europe before they were born. I have embellished this one over the years to include my appearance on Top of the Pops and being hounded by the paparazzi. Recently, as I was belting out Rosanna (Toto, circa 1982) in the car, I responded to my daughter’s eye roll with “People used to pay good money to hear me sing!” I tell them I gave it all up to get married and have kids (a little martyrdom is always useful in parenting). The best part of this lie is that I have the worst singing voice ever. Like, my babies have cried when I would sing them lullabies. My husband has threatened to divorce me when I sing in the car. But they all kind of bought in to the lie at some point. You know how kids believe everything their parents tell them? I was just having a little bit of fun with that power.

4. They look like homeless kids. I try. I really do. But I don’t put a ton of emphasis on what they look like. I could care less if my kids look like they just walked off of a GapKids ad. But it would be nice if they didn’t look like they lived in a hovel. My teen wears basketball shorts and a pullover hoodie every day. He doesn’t take the hoodie off, so I’m sure his teachers think he has one shirt. Just yesterday I insisted that he wear jeans to school since it was like -80 degrees outside. (Kidding. I live in the SouthEast, it was more like 35 degrees. But still, soooo cold.) It was a battle but I won. He ended up going to school in jeans that were two inches too short. Oops. I just bought them a month ago and he grew out of them. Sorry kid. A little bullying about your high-waters will just build character.

Also, yesterday my five year old decided to pull out her hair bow in carpool line because she wanted to “fixth it and make it pretty.” My daughter wakes up every day with hair like Nick Nolte’s mug shot. It takes a lot of work to tame it. Guess who she went to school looking like yesterday? I don’t think it was “Dress Up Like Washed Up Druggie Actor” Day, so… yeah.

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So, before you all start clamoring for me to write a book on the art of parenting, I’ll run down a quick list of other not completely awful but not exactly June Cleaver moments: I refuse to do the whole Elf on the Shelf thing, I don’t go eat lunch with them at school (when did this become a thing? I eat every other meal with them!), I let them play video games, I introduced them to the classic Schweddyy Balls bit on SNL, we have watched this over and over, I force them to adopt a British cockney accent when they want something from me, I have forced them to follow up a request with “Please beautiful Mommy” and I frequently and lovingly refer to them as “little shits.”

And because I feel the need to counter all these flaws, lest you think I’m Mommy Dearest, let me assure you my kids are loved and are ridiculously showered with affection. Some might say they are a little spoiled. My husband and I are hard on them when it comes to the important stuff like school and respect and hard work. But other than that? We try to have fun with our kids. We laugh a lot. They seem to want to be around us all the time. (Seriously, aren’t kids supposed to want to be far, far away from their parents? Stay tuned for a future post about Helicopter Kids…)

What I’m saying is we’re not perfect, but who wants perfect parents? Kids need something to complain about. I’m doing them a favor by embracing my flaws and allowing some imperfection to creep into what is otherwise pretty stellar parenting. You’re welcome, kids. I can’t wait to rock this tee this Mother’s Day…

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Are you an awesome parent too? What mean/crazy/silly things do you to your kids? Are you totally singing Rosanna to yourself right now? Should I be saving for their future therapy? Tell me what you REALLY think…

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“You can’t always get what you want,

But if you try sometimes you just might find,

You get what you need.”

-The Rolling Stones, You Can’t Always Get What You Want

We are ruining them. Our kids. Every day that we lavish praise on them and reward them for mediocrity we’re ruining them. We’re teaching them that showing up is worthy of enthusiastic applause. We are showing them how to excel at being average. We are lowering bars and lowering I.Q.’s. We are enforcing the destination not the journey. And we will one day send them off into the world to get a giant, blindsiding slap in the face when reality comes charging at them full speed.

I Am Guilty

I’m guilty of it. Most of us are guilty of some of this or all of this. It starts when you feel that all-consuming love for a small baby that needs you for everything. We marvel at them. We all think our babies are exceptional and amazing in every way. And that’s ok. Having a child feels like a small miracle. It is a life changing experience. We should have a few years of obnoxious, gleeful celebration. And we should encourage and cheer for every milestone with these little prodigies. Babies need the affirmation. They need constant encouragement and reassurance.

The problem is that while babies grow out of this need as they get older, the parents don’t grow out of the need to give it. We continue to applaud. Applaud them for going down the slide (when in fact gravity is to be credited for this feat). We gush over every scribbled picture. What happens when your kids catch you throwing away some of their 8,000 pieces of artwork? They flip out. They feel wronged. Because we have led them to believe that every paper that they grace with their crayon is a Monet. I know this. I have little prima donna artists who think it is sacrilege to dispose of their “art.”

Everyone Wins, Everyone Gets A Trophy

Know what makes winning not so fun? When everyone wins. All the time. Parents don’t want their little slugger’s feelings to be hurt when his team loses, so someone somewhere decided that all the kids should win. So work hard, Buddy! Show up to practice and maybe, just maybe… no definitely. You will definitely win. No matter what. Now that’s some motivation. Nothing gets the kids all fired up like “even if you win, you really don’t win because we don’t keep score.”

And everyone must get a trophy. Why? Because they showed up, dammit.  You know what else everyone gets? A Tetanus shot. (well, sadly, that’s not actually true, but you get the idea) We have a generation that gets trophies for being on a team. Not for doing anything remarkable or winning a tournament, but just for showing up for games and practices. My son’s closet is full of these trophies. And he doesn’t care. They mean nothing to him. What did mean something to him was getting the game ball. Because not everyone got the game ball. And he had to earn it. It was special.

Life’s Not Always A Party

Our school adopted the “no homemade treats” rule. And some of the parents on Facebook acted like they were suggesting we feed our kids gruel and beat them with switches. A policy that is meant to protect kids with allergies was beaten down as a taking away of a childhood of joy.  Nevermind that a child in the class could possibly die from an allergen in the sugary treat. The mentality that puts little Precious’ happiness with a cupcake over another child’s safety is one that confounds me and scares me. My child’s happiness will never be worth more than another child’s life.

And the parties… don’t get me wrong. I love a good party. But since when is school also a party palace for every holiday? At the risk of sounding like Wilford Brimley, when I was in school we had two parties. One at Christmas/Hannukah and one at the end of the year. These parties consisted of Kool Aid and a cookie and some games of Red Rover. We loved it. Try to do a party like that in school these days and you’ll get the eye roll from even the sweetest kindergartner. We’ve spoiled them with elaborate celebrations in and out of school for every holiday or event. Even made up holidays! The 100th day of school is to now be celebrated for the historical and cultural even that it is! *eye roll*

Now we have Elf On the Shelf grrrrr… Pinterest-ized Valentines ugh… and the “Naughty Leprechaun?” What the….??? Since when did we decide that St. Patrick’s Day was for the kids? Don’t they have enough already? St. Patrick’s Day is for adults. It’s for us to drink green beer and act stupid. Kids, all you get to do is wear a green shirt and possibly get pinched. Now sit down and eat your gruel before I get out the switch…

All Of This Results In…

Entitled kids. Young adults with no sense of self awareness. A child-centric childhood that teaches kids that the world revolves around them. That the world is a soft fluffy place that will never ask too much, will never scuff them up, that will never demand anything. That phoning it in is acceptable. That someone will always fix things for them. That they are everything. That they are special.

What’s wrong with letting your kids think they’re special? Nothing. Unless that’s all you let them think, all the time.

The more we tell them that every little thing they do is “special” the less special that compliment becomes. Pretty soon “special” is their default, not-even-trying mode.

Kids are always going to take the easy path. Why wouldn’t they? If they can get an “A” on a project for slapping something together in between playing Minecraft, then why would they push themselves? If their mild attempts are lauded as exceptional, they will never try to go beyond that. They will only reach as high as the bar we set for them.

So, no, you’re not special. Sorry kids, but you’re better off hearing it now. Before you try to demand a raise three months into a new job. Before you have to eat at Taco Bell every day, all while carrying your Prada purse that Mommy and Daddy bought you. Before you realize you will have to be the one to pay off the giant credit card debt you incurred because you deserved stuff.

So, it may sting right now. It may be a bitter pill to swallow. But heed this message now and you’ll find that hollow, empty feeling of getting awarded for all things all the time replaced with pride. With the confidence of doing hard work. Of knowing you’re capable of hard work. You will discover new emotions. Gratification. Fulfillment. Purpose. Self respect. All of that can be yours. As long as your realize that the only way to be special is to earn it.

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