the problem with parenting…

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You might remember my feelings about “Mother’s Day.” If not, you can see my rants here

This year as we approach that day in the U.S, I’m struggling a little with that whole parenting thing. I know, what else is new?

In particular, I wonder how hard it will be to break the habit of saying “be careful” to my children whenever they get out of the passenger side of the car. I mean, I imagine that sometime, and perhaps soon, they’ll have internalized this concept. I say “be careful” to them all day long; when we’re taking walks, when they’re using scissors, when they’re making scrambled eggs. I caught myself saying it to my youngest son as he was coming down the stairs the other day, not running, not hopping, walking down the stairs. Force of habit.

It got me thinking about how useless those two words have become. Or maybe it isn’t that they are useless, maybe they are just code for something I am really thinking but afraid to say out loud. I’m slowly realizing that pretty much every time I say “be careful” to my kids (and for that matter, to my husband when he’s driving) what I am really saying is “I don’t trust you.”

I don’t trust that you’ll be safe.

I don’t trust that you’ll be able to take care of yourself.

I don’t trust that you won’t rear end that car ahead of us.

Sad but true.

The latest trend in parenting right now isn’t so much “helicopter” parenting anymore. Now, it’s what I’m hearing termed “lawnmower” parenting. These parents try to clear the path for the kids, wrapping everything in bubble wrap, sanitizing the area, sometimes literally. I like to make fun of parenting trends as much as anybody but hearing about this new trend gave me pause. As it was laid out for me, the realization dawned on me that as much as I try to get my kids to think critically, to solve their own problems, to make their own scrambled eggs, I do this. I smooth the road, I wrap the bubble wrap, I send the emails about the potential internship and the low grade gotten on a test. What I’m saying when I do this is once again, “I don’t trust you…”

So between my realization of the translation of “be careful” and the image of me smoothing the road ahead I found myself in a full on panic this week. Add to this the ill timing of my reading this story in the Atlantic about  a playground (that is actually a junk yard) in the UK and I had to admit that I would be a freaking basket case if my boys were playing in there. I mean, I WANT to be hip and cool and allow them to live out their kid-hood with some boldness and excitement but…you know…I also don’t want them to come home with lockjaw.

Reality is hard…bubble wrap is easy.

Now, I don’t tell you all this so that you’ll leave a comment assuring me that I’m a pretty good mother (obviously I won’t delete those comments if you feel so inclined.) I’m just laying it out there. I think too often I labor under the delusion that parenting is just easier for pretty much everyone but me. I think that my neighbor is doing it better, that her kids are turning out better, that her kids can get out of the passenger side of the car without tripping on the sidewalk and falling on the ground.

This is the problem with parenting…and it helps me to just put it out there sometimes, a voice shouting into the storm like Lieutenant Dan raging on that little shrimp boat in the hurricane.

In any case, this is where I’m at this week as I ponder the upcoming fake holiday celebration of Mother’s Day and I do the yearly internal assessment of my parenting skillz. Not to mention that all this is coming together as we reach the end of the school year. There will be playing outside and riding the bikes in the neighborhood. There will be stick fights in the backyard. There will be driving tests for my 16-year-old. There will be college visits for my daughter and high school choices for my oldest son. There will be pressure building and heat rising and maybe even a lawnmower leaking fumes in the wake of my parenting.

I think I’m going to need to be more careful.

Mother’s Day

REPOST: This essay was originally posted May, 2010. Since that time, I’ve found my perceptions of Mother’s Day have shaped to reflect the true spirit of the day. I read this one myself from time to time to remind me of the passion and the courage that originally fueled the real version of “Mother’s Day.” 

————

I know it’s been a few days since the US celebrated it’s own particular brand of “mother’s day” but it still feels important to post about it.

I hate “mother’s day” as I think I expressed last year at this time. I know many of my friends and readers love it, have awesome days of pampering and what not but frankly i just get cranky. I never USED to be cranky…it was not until after I became a mother that this started. I always thought it was the shallow nature of this “day for mother’s” that was so openly sponsorted by Hallmark. This idea that this ONE day of the year, a nice card or phonecall and maybe some flowers could really fill this weirdly empty spot in me. It didn’t. Nothing was “enough” for me. I dunno. I’m cranky. I just am cranky sometimes.

and yet.

I wonder if all along I knew there was more to it…and it turns out, there is.

Julia Ward Howe gives me my first real mother’s day this year…read her words, written to rouse the women of the civil war era, around a cause for justice, a clarion call for mothers to come together in the name of peace. Tired of seeing their boys killed and maimed, Julia began the first “mother’s day” in this country. It was not a day for “thanks mom” cards or flowers or gifts or pedicures…it was a day to remember their lost sons, to stand up against the brutality of oppression, the horror of war. This is what mother’s day is actually about in it’s inception. How I wish it were so now.

by Julia Ward Howe

Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God –
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Mother’s Day

REPOST: This essay was originally posted May, 2010. Since that time, I’ve found my perceptions of Mother’s Day have shaped to reflect the true spirit of the day. I read this one myself from time to time to remind myself of the passion and the courage that originally fueled the real version of “Mother’s Day.” 

————

I know it’s been a few days since the US celebrated its own particular brand of “mother’s day” but it still feels important to post about it.

I hate “mother’s day” as I think I expressed last year at this time. I know many of my friends and readers love it, have awesome days of pampering and what not but frankly I just get cranky. I never USED to be cranky…it was not until after I became a mother that this started. I always thought it was the shallow nature of this “day for mother’s” that was so openly sponsored by Hallmark. This idea that this ONE day of the year, a nice card or phone call and maybe some flowers could really fill this weirdly empty spot in me. It didn’t. Nothing was “enough” for me. I dunno. I’m cranky. I just am cranky sometimes.

and yet.

I wonder if all along I knew there was more to it…and it turns out, there is.

Julia Ward Howe gives me my first real mother’s day this year…read her words, written to rouse the women of the civil war era, around a cause for justice, a clarion call for mothers to come together in the name of peace. Tired of seeing their boys killed and maimed, Julia began the first “mother’s day” in this country. It was not a day for “thanks, mom” cards or flowers or gifts or pedicures…it was a day to remember their lost sons, to stand up against the brutality of oppression, the horror of war. This is what mother’s day is actually about in its inception. How I wish it were so now.

by Julia Ward Howe

Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God –
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.