A couple of weeks ago I wrote about what a wonderful cook I am. This week I’m going to write about what makes me such an incredible mother.
I think I’m kind of the opposite of a helicopter mom. More of an earthworm mom. The kind that stays burrowed under the sheets early in the morning while telling you where to find the cereal and milk on your own. I foster independence in my children by not doing things for them that they can do alone, or which I think they can probably do on their own if they tried.
When I feel it’s appropriate, I raise my expectations of them. For example, once upon a time, setting the table meant the kids had to lay out plates, cups, and cutlery. But today they need to clear the table off, find the tablecloth, lay it out straight and even, bring the dishes out of the cupboards, carry them over to the table, and make sure everything is on it that we’ll be needing for the meal: The right number of settings, salt, trivets, napkins, the works.
Kids don’t need as much help as we think they do. They just need space and time to explore and build, develop friendships, make mistakes, and learn from them. A lot of parenting, I think, is trying to figure out when to interfere, when to offer corrections and advice, when to let them figure it out on their own, and when to just let it go.
Perhaps you now understand what makes me such a good mother. Or perhaps, knowing me, you’re waiting for the self-deprecating part of this blog post. Well, here it comes.
I have to admit– or at least I have to wonder— how much of my parenting style is due to my ‘phillsophy’ and how much is due to sheer laziness or– you guessed it– ADD.
I am distracted. I am lazy. I hate cooking. I hate cleaning. I would rather be writing. I’d rather someone else folded the laundry.
Of course, I do the housework that I need to do. I just feel a lot of guilt for not going above and beyond. Sometimes I wonder if I’m even covering the basics. I don’t have a healthy snack waiting for the kids when they get home. I tell them to wait until dinner, but is that a fair demand when I haven’t even started making the meal? I feel bad that the kids are late for school so often. Getting them there on time would require me to be a lot more strict on things like bed times and wake times — theirs and mine. These things all require the type of discipline that does not come easily to me — and that’s what really at the heart of the problem.
I am constantly struggling to stay on top of things that seem to come so easily to other people. Our house gets super messy super quickly. I feel compelled to apologize when people come in. (Some of those people even have the audacity to tell me that I need to put my kids to work cleaning up after themselves. Do they think I haven’t figured out for myself that I need to tell the kids to hang up their coats instead of dumping them in the front hall?) Keeping the kitchen in a relative state of order takes HOURS for me. I know this because, when our reno was done, I became hyper aware of the mess, and I tried keeping it perfect for a couple of weeks. This resulted in my evening activities being limited to just cleaning the kitchen. Just the kitchen. Every night. All this on top of trying to keep up with the mess throughout the day. Of course, it seems that as soon as you have one area of the house sorted out, another one has exploded into disorder, and you need to start sorting out that section.
Actually, cleanup is a great example of this grey line between good and bad motherhood. I believe strongly in giving my kids responsibility and having them take ownership for the state of the house. Every week, they are responsible for certain chores, from sorting the laundry to cleaning the bathroom, to helping in the kitchen. The problem is that enforcing these chores is a full-time chore in itself. If I am busy cooking ( I do cook; I just don’t claim to enjoy it) or working or occupied in whatever way with a time-bound task, it is not always possible for me to sit over the kids and make sure that they are plugging away at their jobs. Yes, there are consequences. Yes, there are rewards. But guess what– sometimes these methods just don’t work. Sometimes the tasks are not completed, consequences kick in, and nobody is happy. Now what?
On the other hand, I’m pretty sure I’m not too much of a deadbeat parent. My brother heard DH and I discussing DS the other day. He commented that he wonders if other parents spend as much time as we do talking in-depth about their kids as we do. I know that, for all the bickering that goes on in the house between the kids, they’re well mannered and kind out in the ‘real world’. People tell me so all the time. I worry that my kids get too much screen time — though I realize that they get relatively little, based on conversations I’ve had with peers. And while I sometimes have to drag them away from the TV, I also quite often have to urge them in from outside for dinner or bedtime when they are organizing street-wide soccer games or trading Pokemon cards with one another. I consider all of these activities to be parenting ‘wins’.
Upon reflection, because that’s what this blog is for, I guess I am not the best mom out there. I could be more efficient in making lunches. I could be more insistent on them learning to touch-type. But on the other hand, by some will and grace, they somehow seem to be turning out OK. I can burrow down in my bed without too much guilt– in fact, If I did that more often, and at a normal hour, it might result in some of our other problems being resolved.