Hey Mamas: Ditch the Directions

Pssst… Hey Mamas, can I talk to you for just a second? Okay, maybe 10. If you are reading this, it is likely not the first blog or social media post you have ever clicked on. Chances are, if you see something that starts with “Hey Moms” or “Parenting Tips” or “How to Potty Train Your Kid in 12 Minutes” you jump on it like a 5-year-old on bubble wrap.

They are all over the web. Parenting tips, tales of woe, warnings for the masses. My recent favorite is “5 Things you are probably doing that are harming your children”

No, I haven’t read it. I don’t read them. You probably shouldn’t either, at least not without a grain of salt (or a glass of wine).

Let’s make sure we are all clear on this now. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PARENTING EXPERT. Sure, there are expert parents, and maybe you can learn a thing or two, but just because they got their Sally to sleep in a big girl bed by 18 months with no problem, does not mean you are a horrible failure because Timmy is three and still clinging to the bars of his crib.

Tips are great, but when I see something about potty training, or how to stop temper tantrums written by a woman with a blog and a 5-year-old, I giggle. She hasn’t experienced the terrible 8s yet. She hasn’t had another child, she hasn’t begun to uncover the world of temper tantrums. More importantly to my way of thinking, she doesn’t know how her methods will effect him as an adult.

Or how about this; all the coverage “getting your body back” is getting. I’m sorry, where did my body go after children exactly? Did I donate it? Have I lost it somewhere between Aldi and Target? I didn’t lose my body, I got more of it. Most of the women posting pictures of their post-baby bods either have a genetic advantage or 26 hours in the day to fit in their workouts. Kudos to them, but ladies, that is just not going to work for everyone. That doesn’t mean you give in to a lifestyle of pizza and couch sitting, but for heaven’s sake the next mother I know who posts an “inspiration” photo to Pinterest of a 5′ 10″ woman with rock hard abs and an obvious aversion to all things carbohydrate is getting a personal phone call from my therapist. Rock your mama body! You grew a human. Even Superman can’t boast that particular power. (Even mamas who didn’t actually give birth will see some changes, it’s a mother thing, be proud your biology is responding to what your heart already knew, you’re a mom!)

No mother is going to be perfect and I honestly think we are all making ourselves neurotic reading all of these articles on the way our daughters will grow up with self esteem issues if we let her play with princesses, or how our boys are going to grow into violent, confused men if we don’t allow them time to play with dolls (do you see the weird dichotomy there?). Turn off the noise and learn your kids! Forgive the grammar, but it’s an appropriate phrase. Stop looking at all the “advice” and start letting your kids show you who they are. Let them tell you what works and what doesn’t. Give them the grace to be human. Realize they are not just miniature versions of you or your spouse. They are individuals. They will fail, so will you. That’s not a negative, just a fact. Show them how to get up, dust off and try again, and then drop to your knees and thank God for his grace as you extend it to yourself and your family.

You click on these posts because you want to be a better parent. That’s commendable. You’re not likely to find the answers here, or anywhere on the web. Listen to your kids, pray about it, ask a trusted friend who actually knows your family. Don’t let a woman you’ve never met (like maybe me) tell you that you aren’t up to par. Chances are, her kids need therapy too.

Until next time, keep calm and mama on!

(PS. I do realize this whole post is slightly hypocritical. You don’t have to pay attention to me. Isn’t that great?!)

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A Letter to the Camp Counselor

Dear Camp Counselor:

I dropped my son off at camp this morning, like I do most summer mornings, but today was a little different. Last night we packed a bag full of clothes, a toothbrush, soap (not like he’ll use it), his blanket, a few must have toys, and a flashlight. Today he brought it with him as I let him go with you for the next few nights. I was excited for him this morning. He felt like such a big guy. This afternoon, as I write this, I’m a little panicked. Do you have any idea, young man, of the honor I just gave you? I am allowing you, trusting you, to care for my son. I’ve not given anyone this right other than family members. You have one of the most precious possessions I have in your care. I hope you don’t take that lightly. I carried that little man in my belly for 9 months. I endured stretch marks, sciatica, sleepless night, no wine, for 10 months (that’s right, my babies took 10 months to cook). I brought that little boy into this world and have cared for, fed, worried over, played with and raised him for the past 7 years. I watched him take his first breath, his first steps. I sat next to him in his hospital bed through a serious illness, I held him after his first, second and 15th tumble from his bicycle.

All this, and yet, did you know that two days with you may stick with him longer than any of those memories he might have? He will forever remember the first time he ventured out of this house and slept in a cabin. The first time he’ll eat a meal completely of his choosing. If he doesn’t want the veggies, he doesn’t have to eat them. This is a freedom he’s never known before and it will be a heady thing. You will become, instantly, a hero. You are a man to him. Not a dad, not a grandpa, but a man. Someone he can look at and say, “I could be like him someday”. You will be cool, even if you don’t feel that way in your everyday life. My son will listen to and remember every word you say, so chose your words with care. He will remember how you treat others, so treat others with dignity and respect. He will look to you, for two short days, as a man, so I implore you…be one.

Be the kind of man you hope to be someday (if not today) for my son. Show him what it looks like to have fun, to be cool, to be creative, but also what it looks like to make good decisions. If you make good choices look cool, my son will follow. Do you understand that counselor? My son will follow you. Two days, it’s only two days, you say. Think of the most impactful thing to happen to you as a seven-year-old. Was it something that happened over a month, or was it merely a moment?

I trust you counselor. This is not just a fun summer job, though it is that. You have a dozen young men every week looking to you for guidance as they exercise their independence from mom and dad and from the schoolroom. This is a necessary part of my son’s development. He has to learn what it is like to make decisions without me nearby. He’ll need to learn to solve his own problems, and I hope I have instilled enough in him that he’ll make the right choices.

Two days from now I hope to find him with a bag, some dirty clothes, a toothbrush, soap (preferably used), his blanket, a few toys, a flashlight, and wonderful memories that he will always have of this place, the friends he made and the counselor he thought was “totally awesome”.

Dear Counselor, I am trusting you. I hope you feel this a burden. Not to put a damper on your fun in the sun, but only to help you realize that with every effort you put into those young boys to help them grow into young men, you will grow yourself. I am proud you’ve chosen to do this. I trust you.

Sincerely,

G-man’s Mama

By the by, ever seen a mama bear near her cubs? Keep that image in your head if you get any ideas that may end in the land of “poor choices” around my kid. I will hunt. you. down. <>

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And the award goes to…

I got the Mean Mom of the Year Award today. Not to brag, but it’s the 8th year running. Today’s award came after picking up the boys from VBS. They reached for their iPads to discover mommy had updated them (nice mommy) and deleted half their games (mean mommy). Here’s the deal. My beautiful boys are amazing at those things. They get to level 125 within minutes of beginning a new game. During the school year they were only allowed to play them on the weekends, but with mommy working all week, Saturday and Sunday were the only days I had to do laundry for 5, clean, vacuum, get the unknown sticky substance off the bathroom wall, and maybe, just maybe, read or stare out a window for 20 minutes. So on the weekends those boys played their iPads, and they played, and they played and they played.

This is not all bad. We live in the age of technology and my children understanding and being native users of it might be essential to future success (this assumes no zombie apocalypse or Y22K, etc). The iPads were a wonderful, generous gift and initially used to read or play a game or two. But their peers at school had them telling me they MUST download this or that game, and like the idiot I can be, I aquiesed. Usually after weaseling a chore or two out of them. Then one day I hear, “You must die!”, “Look bro, I just ripped this dude’s arm off”, “Will you help me kill the zombie?”–I’m sorry, what?! I was fairly good about checking the ages of most of their games and was shocked to find that these bloody, kill ’em now games were age appropriate. Asking a few friends about my dilema I had several responses.

  • Oh I hate those too! Johnny plays them all the time, and I just hate it.– and do nothing about it
  • I don’t let my kids near those things.
  • Lighten up, woman. 

So I let it go….(you’re singing Frozen right now aren’t you?)

Then I saw this article: http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/03/justice/wisconsin-girl-stabbed/

My son had just mentioned this character to me last week. I wrote it off as he is constantly talking about one video game or another. Just thinking about it makes my blood run cold.

So today I deleted all their games. I kept the readers, the math games, the tools, the photos, but I ditched the mindless (gross) entertainment. I changed their passwords and I set time limits.

You want to know what happened?

They made a mess.

They pulled out toys, fired up their imaginations, and went to work. Then they went outside and played. So am I horrible? Yes, today I am. Do I need to lighten up? That may be the opinion of some, but they aren’t raising my children, and they wouldn’t have to answer to “why did your son/daughter do this awful thing they learned from a game they shouldn’t have seen in the first place?” I am their parent and the awful responsibility that is parenting is that we are responsible for teaching, edifying and molding these little people until they are ready to take on life on their own. 

Now, I’m off to find a place to put my new award.

PS. Anyone know good educational apps? See, I’m not a complete monster.