Monday, September 20, 2010

Judging by Their Worst Day

It started out to be such a good weekend morning.  The oldest spent the night at a friends house.  The five and six year-olds were laughing and playing quietly in their room, and the baby was eating happily in his highchair.  On went the peppy cleaning music and I moved another load of laundry.  Everything was moving along wonderfully, peacefully.  As I entered the boys' room to put their clothes away, I was faced with the aftermath of a tornado, or so it seemed.  There were broken plastic hangers strewn about.  The contents of their closet was behind their dresser.  Every toy they owned was piled in the middle of their floor, and the telltale snack wrappers, from their booty dug up from the pantry, were stuffed between their beds and the wall.  It was like they were pint-sized drunken rock stars trashing a hotel room, right down to a five inch hole in their wall.  How on Earth did they do that in stealth mode?  How do you wrap your mind around that.  it makes no sense.  It defies reason.  So much for peaceful.

Except for putting their closet back together, I made them clean the entire thing.  It took four hours before it was spotless, four hours of yelling and screaming and crying and carrying on, four hours of time-outs and everything else under the sun.  It was four hours, but I refused to let them off the hook.  Then when the oldest came home, apparently after not sleeping for two nights, I got attitude for reminding him he had chores.  I had to wake him up three times and he the nerve to ask me what my problem was and why can't I just leave him alone.  Really?  There was no respect to be had that day and there was none given.

However, this is not about our imperfect front.  This is not about our lack of patience or understanding.  This is not about good parenting vs. bad parenting.  As parents, we tend to judge our skills based on our children's worst day.  Tantrums, backtalk, screaming fits that pluck that last nerve all serve as proof of our own ineptitude.  When our wits' end is frayed, that is when we should be proud of ourselves for not returning our little angel-butts (1/2 angels and 1/2 pains in the butt) to whence they came.  Of course we love our children.  Of course it is their job to test boundaries, and it is ours to hold fast and teach them.  Our actions will give them the tools they'll need to navigate their own paths through life.  It's easy enough to say that in writing.  Life, however, is made up of lessons that are hard to live.

I've read plenty of books, articles, and blogs by both the "professionals" and regular parents like me.  I have come to realize that people, in general, are vain.  There are so many people trying to offer help or advice on how to be the best parent you can be.  Obviously it is easier to tell someone what they should do or how they should treat and discipline their children.  Unfortunately, most of these people put forth their best days effort.  Best case scenarios only make us normal, everyday people feel even less deserving of their little gifts from God.  Even though, in real life, I have yet to meet a parent who doesn't give kudos to their kids for all the good and blame themselves for all the bad.  Whether its bad choices, bad behavior, bad grades or an embarrassing lack of table manners if it isn't good, it is our fault.  After all, we are the examples.  We are the ones teaching them.  They had to learn it from somewhere, right?

No, they are little people that are easily influenced.  Fun, is good.  They will learn that there are consequences for their actions by acting and reaping the consequences.  So each act of willful independence, each shirking of the rules is just them learning.  It is harder on us as parents than it is on them.  We should not judge ourselves by their worst day.  We should take pride in all they do right.  We should do our best and do it with love.  No one can ask for more.  Every day they grow into their own person.  Every now and then, they will test us one to many times and we may lose our minds just a little.  You are normal.  I am normal.  Perfectly well behaved children in all circumstances, not so much. 

I am grateful that chaotic days like this are few and far between.  So, from one sometimes overwhelmed parent to all the others out there.  Even whey they are tornadoes, you are a good parent.  Even when they do the opposite of what you have taught them, you are a good parent.  Even when you look at them and their disasters and want to run screaming in the other direction, you are a good parent.  We all need a little help sometimes.  We all need a break.  Even when those options are not available, and we are not at our best....we are still good parents.

Though the rewards won't come until they are grown, productive members of society, rest assured that generations of parents have and will continue to have those days that make us question what God was thinking giving us kids.  Then there are the rest of the days that are filled with silly songs and magic kisses.  That is what we hold onto when they are plucking that last nerve. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Grasshoppers: Birth of a Phobia

I have a ridiculous fear of frogs.  It is insane how mortified I get.  As a child I loved them.  I even grew tadpoles and caught babies by the canal.  I was fine, until one day I saw a toad that completely filled the dog food bowl.  We had a German Shepard, and he had a very big bowl.  After that, I stopped with the frogs.  It went unnoticed for years.  Until one day, my kid brother saw me stop short while walking along the path to our front door.  There was a tree frog on the leaf I had to walk by.  I had only stopped for a second and then continued on into the house.

Well, little did I know that kid brothers are EVIL.  Yeah, I said it.  He took a bucket and played outside while I was relaxing in front of the T.V.  As usual, my mother turned the television off and demanded that we either go outside to play or clean our rooms.  Is that even a real choice?  I mean, c'mon who cleans when it's only one of the available options, but I digress.  So, of course, my sister and I went outside.  I barely got past the drive when I got bombarded with tree frogs of all sizes.  Big ones and babies both green and white varieties.  I don't know where my brother got so many frogs, I can't imagine they were only from our yard, we barely had any plants.  yet, there they were being pegged at me one at a time.  From that day forward, I have had some weird frog phobia.

Perhaps it's that when I see a frog, I am transported back in time to that very day, to that very moment.  The moment where one highly unlucky frog landed with its leg in my mouth and I tasted frog foot.  Perhaps it's that I could not trust my own family to not take advantage of a little fear.  I can't say for sure, maybe it is all that and more.  All I know is that the very sight of a frog makes my blood run cold and turns me into a screaming, blithering idiot who is lucky to not wet herself in her hysteria over a two inch flippin' froggy.

I tell you this story, because years from now I will look back on today, as I see my 5 year old develop his own phobias from scratch with a little help from all those who love him, and know just where it began.   Where we live there is some mutant grasshopper thing that grows to be roughly about 4" from tip to tail.  That is a low estimate.  I've seen them bigger.  Anyway there was one about 3" long on our stack of bags of mulch.  I told my oldest to pick it up and feed it to the chickens.  He flipped out and said, "no".  Then my 6year old looked at it and tried to get it to move by poking it.  It didn't budge.  Then out comes our 5 yr old.  Of course, he wanted to see it too.  So he takes a look at it and turns to walk away.  Hubby, their dad, picks it up to show the boys that it doesn't bite and is not scary.  Then he pretended to throw it ad my 5 year old.  Unfortunately, the grasshopper didn't realize he was supposed to stay put on hubbies hand.  He pretend to fling his hand in the direction of the child.  The grasshopper took off and jumped right on the edge of his shirtsleeve.  As soon as the boy noticed it was on him, he went spastic.  he screamed bloody murder.  He couldn't have been any louder if he were being stabbed in the gut.  He flails shamelessly, and jumps and wriggles wildly.  He almost runs headfirst into the van.

Now, he is scared to go outside for fear that the giant grasshoppers will eat him alive.  it's ridiculous.  His big brothers just perpetuate the fear, and hubby can't stop laughing long enough to tell him anything, much less how dinner was.  Today, was the birth of a phobia.  I feel so bad for the kid.