Posts Filed Under …..I make bad decisions…

Is “Lost” a Parenting Approach?

by renegademama


There are some seriously messed-up expectations in motherhood – you know, tummy time, extra-curricular activities, the Wiggles – but by far the most twisted, torturous and baffling (in my opinion) is the idea that I’m supposed to adopt some sort of “parenting philosophy,” — like there should be some voice inside my soul guiding my every move as a mother, allowing me to feel all confident and right in my decisions, so I can hop on parenting forums and websites to proudly announce (as we all bow our heads in reverence): My Approach.

“I practice attachment parenting!”

“I’m a cry-it-out supporter!”

“I exclusively breastfeed!”

“I think breastfeeding is the end of female independence!”

“I’m a VBAC, no Vax, CD, EBF, CS, SAHM mom!”

“I have 2 nannies and wear Chanel and see my kids on Fridays!”

(Ok I realize some of those are ridiculous, but have you read Twitter bios?)

And I’m supposed to stand behind this approach, totally and completely, because I believe in it and shit, and I get all smug when people don’t agree, and I hang out with “like-minded” mothers because they support me in my well-researched, educated, enlightened methodology.

Or not.

With my first two kids, I guess I practiced “attachment parenting.” They exclusively breastfed, on demand, co-slept from birth til 3 or 4 years old, and I picked them up whenever they cried, carrying them in slings and carriers and such.

However, I didn’t do it because I thought it was “the best way.”

I didn’t do it because Mothering magazine told me so, and I sure as hell didn’t do it because all my friends were doing it (um, I was 22 – all my friends were playing pool and drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon).

I didn’t do it because I was pressured by family members or the community (I had a Play Boy bunny diaper bag to piss off the yuppie moms in my SUPER YUPPIE town), and I didn’t do it because my husband told me I should (see above re: Pabst Blue Ribbon).

You know why I did it?

Because it felt right. It worked for me.

No, really. That’s it. That’s as deep as it goes.

I’m selfish. I’m not going to suffer through some mothering hell because the ubiquitous “they” tell me I’m supposed to. Ya feel me?

I breastfed because it seemed WAY EASIER than making bottles all the time, and I did it on demand because I couldn’t handle listening to a baby wail. Of course, it helped that my mom was a La Leche League educator who taught me Dr. Spock is an asshole. I co-slept because it was the only way I could get any sleep, and I liked having my babies near me, and felt more comfortable knowing they were right there. I wore them in slings because I found out right away that I could get way more done if I stuck them in there – they were happier for longer, my hands were free, and by breastfeeding and baby-wearing I could leave the house with very little gear, which was less to remember, and I liked that.

Why didn’t I wean my kids? Because I never wanted to. I wrote about that here.

You know why I used cloth diapers? Because I thought they were cute.

I warned you: not deep.

And so I’m going happily on my way, parenting the way I feel like it, when I come across Mothering magazine and I’m all “Wait a hot minute! There’s a name for this? ‘Attachment Parenting?’”

Golly gee I thought it was just called “parenting.”

And though I always felt a little attachment-parent-deficient because we couldn’t afford Waldorf schools or Amish toys, I’ll admit I got a little carried away, a little confident in my “approach.” I subscribed to the right blogs and magazines and read it religiously and felt a bit smug and true and right in my philosophy.

Ah, but then I had Georgia.

My third.

UH OH.

I should have known, given the nature of her birth, that she would always have her own plans, but alas, I’m a bit of a dumbass, and clearly (as evidenced by my 3 kids), I don’t learn very quickly.

Anyway, after using two cribs as stuffed-animal holders, we didn’t even buy a crib or co-sleeper or anything for the third. Obviously she would sleep with us. OBVIOUSLY.

Not gonna lie, I felt like some sort of attachment-parenting ninja having not even purchased a crib.

I should have known then I’d get my smug ass handed to me on a pretty little platter by a ten-pound bundle of crazy.

You see, this kid hardly slept at all next to me. She would like shift her body and twist and turn all night, as if she were irritated, bothered. She didn’t settle against my breast all happy; she nursed and flung herself away from me, as if to say “Thanks woman, now leave me the hell alone.” She woke up frequently and none of us got any sleep.

After about 3 months of this I finally admitted to myself and my husband: “Um, I don’t think she likes being touched while she sleeps.” We bought a $60 crib from Ikea, stuck it in our room and put her in it. She snuggled in and crashed, with a look on her face that said “Aw, FINALLY.”

And to this day, she sleeps in her crib, only coming into our bed occasionally when she’s sick or going through some phase.

As if that weren’t enough to shatter my delusions of grandeur, after about 3 months of pumping two or three times a day at work, to ensure my baby was exclusively breastfed, I found that I just couldn’t take it anymore, and, I guess because I’m selfish once again, I (you might want to shield your eyes) started giving my baby formula as well as breast milk.

Oh, the guilt! The irreversible pain!

I’m joking. It was totally fine.

Pumping every 3 hours and dealing with milk transportation and refrigeration and ALL THE SUPPLIES every day with three kids and grad school and work and babysitters was ruining my life. The formula supplement thing worked way better. Done.

And I used one of those baby carrier stroller things (a mini-version, but still) in addition to slings, because it worked better in some situations with my older kids.

And I let her watch TV occasionally.

And she quit breastfeeding around two years old, but she still takes a bottle. HORRORS!

So I guess all this makes me, what, a practitioner of “detachment parenting?”

WHATEVER.

Check it out. I have an idea. I vote that we all stop analyzing our parenting decisions in terms of whether or not they adhere to some over-arching philosophy we’ve read or heard is The Best.

I vote that we stop comparing our approaches to some magazine or blog or whatever the fuck, and trust that we know how to parent the child that exited our own vaginas, and we are smart enough and strong enough and aware enough (Stuart Smalley, anyone?) to respond to the ever-changing realities of our lives in a way that will meet our own needs and the needs of our kids.

I know, radical shit up in here.

But I mean it. We can be doctors and lawyers and brilliant homemakers and farmers but somehow we need complete strangers to tell us how to raise the kids we know better than anybody else?

It’s crazy when you think about it, right?

So here’s what I think we should do. When we’re faced with some big ass parenting decision (or even the small ones, really) and hear those voices start chattering (“this is wrong, this is right, this violates ____ belief! They say this behavior causes this one horrible thing”)…we just ask ourselves:

IS THIS WORKING?

And if the answer is “no,” we change something – even if it means we practice some whacked-0ut version of “Detached Attachment Parenting.”

Or, as I like to call it, parenting.

 

I’ll come out when my mom adopts a parenting approach.

that awkward moment…

by renegademama

So you know how the kids keep writing those “awkward moment” cards, and you see them on Pinterest all the time – they seem to materialize out of nowhere and yet, there they are. Repeatedly. Yeah, well, I had an awkward moment recently and I’d like to share it with you.

To do so, I made an “awkward moment” ecard because I’m hip and cool (stop laughing) and all the cool kids are doing it. No really. Stop fucking laughing.

Yes, indeed. That is an awkward moment, and it happened to me recently.

My daughter, Ava, is 10, and she’s an amazing kid (right. as if I would have said something different) – very, very bright, witty, driven, sensitive and thoughtful – but she has a temper. Oh holy shit it’s a big one. Sometimes, when the stars are aligned just perfectly (or something), she loses her shit at her brother. She gets in his face and screams. She’s terribly mean, fuming with all kinds of rage in her voice “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?!!”

And I get upset when she does it. She alarms me. The look in her eye is shocking, the rage in her voice disturbing. The other day she did it. I watched her tower in fury and her brother shrink into himself and I opened my mouth to stop her, but as the words were coming out…”Ava, why are you talking to your brother that way? Why are you acting like that?”…a blinking neon banner ran across my mind, the answer to my very own question: Because you, you fucktard, YOU act like that. She learned that from YOU.

And I realized I was punishing my child for acting exactly like me.

It was not a pretty moment.

You know there are things I do as a mother that fall into the “haha I’m a bad mother let’s all laugh” category. Like feeding them toast for breakfast 3 days in a row because I can’t get my act together to make real food. You know, no big deal kind of things.

But then there are bad mother moments that I’d rather not talk about it. The real shit. The seedy dark underbelly. MY OWN PERSONAL, SERIOUS FLAW AS A MOTHER AND HUMAN. (again with the all caps. why can’t I stop?)

And for me, it’s losing my temper.

Sometimes I raise my voice. Yeah whatever who doesn’t. But sometimes, oh sometimes, I lose it. I simply explode. I get in their faces and yell. And you know what I’ve said?

“What’s wrong with you?!!!!!”

I see their faces and I want to die. The fear in their eyes. The sadness in their shoulders. And I cave into myself as I’m doing it, trying to make it their fault, screaming while simultaneously totally aware that I am acting horribly but I can’t stop. Because I’m seeing red. I’ve crossed the line.

And when it’s over, I can’t stand the idea of myself.

Because I know I am the problem. It is not them. And it never has been. In those moments I use my power as a mother to bully them, because I’m bigger and stronger and louder and I think I have some right to dominate – to GET MY WAY – and I don’t mean to lose my shit…I do not believe this is an effective parenting method – this is not the person I want to be – but sometimes people I’m just so tired. And I repeatedly fail to take care of myself. I find myself tired and hungry and running late and headaches and noise and it all builds, builds, builds until. Something. Clicks.

Boom.

And it isn’t funny at all.

 I walk away and breathe and I know I’ve blown it. I really fucked up.

I want to crawl in a hole. I cry. Invariably. I want to take them in my arms and beg them to forgive me.

But I don’t beg. I gather myself and I walk back and apologize for my poor behavior just like I would any person who I’ve wronged. I own my shit. I tell them I’m human. I tell them I lose my temper too, and I’m learning patience, just like them. And maybe we can work together on this stuff, both of us, all of us, trying to be better.

But I am the adult and should know better. And you are a wonderful child and this isn’t your fault and if I could figure out how to never do that shit again, my God I would so, so please, please hang with me little one, as I navigate this strange world of motherhood — where the stakes are so high and the guidance so scarce.

And I wonder what the hell is wrong with me.

Two days later I open Facebook and read a post from Peggy O’Mara of Mothering magazine that reads “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice” and it becomes clear to me that mothers don’t do what I do. Mothers read things like that and they are filled with inspiration – they take that information and transform it into the elusive ability to only speak to their children in hushed soothing tones…good, wholesome words of support, to become a solid inner voice.

Me? I read things like this and think are you fucking kidding me? If this is true my kids are finished. Don’t put this crap on me. Don’t tell me I BECOME THE VOICE IN MY CHILD’S HEAD. I can’t be all there is! I can’t!

But if she’s right, if my poorest moments are the loudest voices in their head, if they sit in school and wonder “what’s wrong with me” because their mother said it a few times…if that’s true, well I’m going to give them the rest of the story, the other half: Your mother is a human being who is doing the best she can and loves you with every fiber of her imperfect being and so that voice, that voice that yells, it is only ONE voice. There is another. There will always be another. There is the world and god and there are grandmothers and teachers and friends and there is that mother who would lay down her life for you.

[Maybe while yelling, but still.]

The other day I called Ava after treating her poorly. At the end of our conversation I said “Ava, you are a great kid” and I said it with tears in my eyes and a cracked voice and heart.

She responded with words so full of love it took my breath away. Without hesitation, without affectation, she said confidently “And you are a great mother.”

I can only go forward. Each day, one foot in front of the other.

Moving toward becoming the person my kids already think I am.

Do chores. Get lucky.

by renegademama

The other day Mac and I did this thing where we flirt and tease all day, temporarily deluding ourselves into thinking we’re hot and have an active sex life.

Dad, please stop reading this post.

Anyhoo, you know, we taunt and whisper things and grab inappropriately. Et cetera.

As you can imagine, this is rather fun, and by the end of the day, both of us are ready for, um, the end of the day.

So a couple days ago we were doing the aforementioned let’s-pretend-we-just-met thing all day long. That evening I went out with a friend and didn’t get home until 11:30pm. The whole drive home I was imagining how I would wake him, a-hem – and what would probably follow. I went in the house ready to assault him.

But when I walked in the door I was assaulted. By the condition of my house. The front room looked like Toys R Us spun around in circles vomiting on the floor. The living room and kitchen were barely recognizable. The real clincher, however, was the animals. They were all pacing around like the walking dead, moaning and mewing and looking at me like “Please. Do something.”

I checked the cat’s bowls. Empty. I checked the dog’s. Empty. I checked the fucking rodents’. EMPTY.

Suddenly, I was not in the mood. What the fuck, husband. It’s 11:30pm and I want to ravage you but instead I have to walk around and feed the furry beasts. Even though you were here all night, and they were supposed to be fed HOURS ago…and I’ve been asking you for like 6 months to please help feed the animals on a regular basis…you still couldn’t do it and now, once again, at the end of my day, I have to do what was YOUR JOB.

Not hot, husband.

Not hot at all.

And as I finished feeding the last small mammal and felt the last spark of sex drive fizzle out through my toes, and my desire to do my husband turned into a desire to do in my husband, I realized how drastically my idea of “hot” has changed since I was like, oh I don’t know, 20.

Of course it’s a little hard to tell what I considered “hot” when I was 20, since my man of choice was whoever showed up after I’d had enough beers to make men start appearing hot (which may explain how pretty much NONE of them fit the “hot” bill the next morning….but I digress).

Despite this difficulty, I’m 99% sure “Hey baby, I fed the guinea pigs” would not have struck my former self as a turn-on.

But now? Oh yeah. Bring it.

What? You picked your stinky ass socks off the bathroom floor and put them in the actual laundry basket?

Come here baby. I got something for ya.

What’s that you say? You cleaned out the car and changed the sheets?

Take me I’m yours.

To illustrate, I made you a few graphics, which embody my current idea of the hottest shit in the world.

Yes, I realize this makes me pathetic and old and uninteresting.

Also, tired. Very tired. And with a thrashed house. So tired am I, in fact, and so thrashed is this house, that the thought of a man doing the chores they somehow can’t manage to figure out how to do on their own EVER. (I’m serious. What is wrong with them?!)..is like a giant hit off the love pipe. Like roses and dirty talk and sweat and red wine. Like oceans and whispers and bare muscular chests.

Like yes, please.

[by the way, if I’m the only one of you who finds men-doing-chores sexy, I will in fact off myself.]

 

Why yes.

Yes I do.

 

 

It’s not that I hate homeschool. Oh wait. Yes it is.

by renegademama

 

Alright. I’m gonna let something outta the bag. I hate homeschooling. No, rephrase: I hate homeschooling at this particular moment of my life with the particular arrangement I’m facing.

Allow me to paint a picture for you.

It’s 8am. I have just dropped older kid off for school. We are now home. I have managed to feed the kids, get them dressed, have a cup of coffee and we are ready to start homeschooling. I excitedly tell Rocket “Okay, it’s school time!” There’s so much enthusiasm in my voice I make myself nauseous. But I want him to feel excited. He looks at me with disdain and BEGS me not to make him. He whines. I tell him “We’re gonna have fun!” His body contorts into a position that speaks his mind “I’d rather die than do homeschool with you, woman.”

“ROCKET. NOW.”

He reluctanctly rises. We go into the homeschool room. He’s dragging his toys. I make him leave his toys. He puts them down and kicks them. They knock something over. I get annoyed. Georgia is stomping with her standard frightening determination.

Georgia goes straight to the work table, climbs up the only chair Rocket will use and begins chucking things off the table. I move her, try to entertain her with one of the SEVENTY-FIVE FUCKING THOUSAND other toys in the room. She has no interest in them. That’s because she’s 20 months old. She must be with us. Near us. ON US. I know today is going to be like every other homeschool day – HELL.

We sit down. He rolls his eyes. We get the books out. We work on our letters. Every step, every activity, every moment feels like dragging a loaded wheelbarrow through knee-deep mud in the pouring rain. He resists everything. The only thing he wants to do is science projects. We can only work in 5-minute intervals because he can’t focus longer than that on shit he doesn’t care about (if one of you tells me he has ADD I will in fact HUNT YOU DOWN).

And while he’s resisting, while he’s ignoring and flailing and daydreaming and fidgeting and selectively listening and zoning out…Georgia is going batshit crazy. She’s climbing up my lap and tearing things off the table. She’s scaling his chair. She’s biting his knee. She’s pulling the trash can on her head. She’s drawing on the dollhouse with permanent marker. And if I divert her? She’s screaming.

So I have this kid who would rather stab himself in the eye than do schoolwork and this toddler who would rather stab him in the eye too, and neither of them are budging and the moments are crawling and we’re making no progress and my patience is waning and I’m trying to keep a 6-year old engaged and a toddler away from him and not dead and I am failing on every front and putting out fires as they come. and BOOM! One minute I blow. I can’t fucking take it.

I walk out to breathe. I walk out to gather myself lest I run full-speed out of this damn house FOREVER and quite possibly, into oncoming traffic. But we’ve only got two hours because in two hours I have to leave for class or work and I’ve got papers to write and classes to prepare for or maybe a conference call and oh yeah, a shower to take. OMG it never ends. I have to do this. I don’t have time to do this. I don’t have TIME TO DO THIS.

And yet, I must do this. I committed to do this.

I think I made a mistake.

I’m not cut out for this homeschool thing. I think that’s the truth. I think I could do it if I weren’t in grad school and working, if I could do it in the afternoons when Georgia naps – if homeschool/home-making is all I did.

I feel like I failed my son. Like I made him a promise and broke it. Like I thought I could serve him well as his teacher but I just could not. And now I’ve wasted his time and mine and my heart is breaking, as usual, with that feeling of remorse for letting time pass and not quite cuttin’ it.

It’s breaking because I already miss it. And yet my GOD I won’t. We only have a couple months left. He’ll be going to regular school in the Fall. And I KNOW that as I drop him off each morning I will miss him, miss him hanging out, missing him by my side. Miss him.

But there is this thing I try to live by called “honesty” and sometimes it requires facing some facts about yourself. What I’m facing now is that I’m not a good homeschool mother.

In the interest of honesty, though, I gotta admit, there is one area I haven’t failed in. And that area is fun. We’ve gone to 10 plays together. We get discounted tickets through his charter school, and we haven’t missed one.

And so we’ve gone together, just he and I. And he sits on my lap through the whole thing and we watch theater and we laugh and I kiss his head and ruffle his unruly curls.

And I love the time I’ve had with my son. And I’ll never regret it. And someday I’ll accept that old saying, that old truth that feels like a copout until it fully sinks in, the honesty of it, the truth of it…that I did the best I could.

And maybe, inside, deep in his little soul, he knows it.

And he’ll remember moments like these…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

xo

Parenting in the Gray Area

by renegademama

 

Sometimes, I know my kids are being really annoying. It’s like totally clear. For example, running in restaurants. Screaming in libraries. Beating on other children. Flailing in chairs at somebody else’s dinner table. Not saying “hello” when somebody walks in the room.

Et Cetera.

In these instances, it’s clear that I must engage, and I do so. I’ve heard of parents who never say “no” to their children, but instead find ways to lovingly accept whatever horrifying shit their kids are currently engaged in.

Yeah, I don’t do that. Maybe someday, after I’ve reached enlightenment, I will become one of those parents. Then again, maybe not.

I also know when my kids are not being annoying. Well, not THAT annoying (cause let’s be honest, they’re pretty much always somewhere on the spectrum). You know, those moments when they’re just hanging out, kids being kids. And maybe there’s volume and mess and chaos, and my delicate sensibilities are being assaulted, but nobody’s getting pummeled or maimed and they are clearly within the bounds of civility.

However, things are often not that simple, because, of course, there is the GRAY AREA.

To illustrate, I made a graph:

I hope that helped.

As you can see, my kids’ behavior generally falls into the Gray Area. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to parent in the gray area. I’m confused by the behavior that falls between acceptable and totally fucking unacceptable. For example, sitting at a table in a restaurant talking and eating is acceptable. Making straw wrapper spit wads and using your spoon to launch them at strangers is totally fucking unacceptable. However, what about making straw wrapper spit wads and launching them a few inches? Is that acceptable?

GRAY AREA.

Running in a park is acceptable. Running in restaurants is totally fucking unacceptable. But what about running down hotel halls in the middle of the day?

GRAY AREA.

Final example: Playing with toys in a friend’s living room is acceptable. Throwing those toys at their toddler’s head is totally fucking unacceptable. But what about rolling around on the living room floor loudly repeating Phineas and Ferb lines and squealing? Irritating, but perhaps acceptable. Clearly annoying people a little, but perhaps within the bounds of being a kid. Perhaps those adults need to mellow the hell out and realize kids are annoying.

Goddamn gray area.

You see, here’s the thing. I am not a parent who lets her kid do whatever he or she wants because I don’t want to squelch their inner child and creativity. Though I appreciate those sentiments, I don’t have the patience. Just keepin’ it real.

So I sometimes direct their behavior. I do. However, I am not a Nazi controller parent either, and well, yes, I guess it’s true, I don’t want to beat their inner child into subservience and eerily good-behavior. Perfectly behaved children scare me. I wonder how they got so contained, being that curiosity and exploration and messy discovery are the hallmarks of a kid being a kid. And perhaps, of all learning. I want my kids to push boundaries. Fuck the system. Rage against the machine.

HOWEVER.

Where the hell is the line? There is no line. There is only one giant obscure GRAY AREA with no discernible lines.

I think I need lines.

But there are none, and every time people attempt to draw them for me I get irritated and combative, like “who the fuck are you to tell me how to parent my kids?” I reject your lines!

It’s complicated being me.

And so I parent in the gray area. I kick it in the borderlands. The frontier.

Wondering.

Always wondering…

Do I act? Do I redirect? Do I engage?

Or

Do I step back and breathe, realizing I’m being impatient and intolerant and controlling?

Am I shoving my grown-up limitations and old-person tendencies on these children, blocking them from the freedom to learn and create and explore?

Or am I teaching them how to behave? How to be citizens? How to be sensitive to others?

Oh whatever. I don’t fucking know.

We watched a play about Tom Edison. In one of his childhood explorations he inadvertently burned down his family’s barn. Totally fucking unacceptable behavior.

And yet, he was learning about light, which eventually evolved into the invention of the light bulb.

Guess in that case, he illuminated the gray area.

Ha.