the problem with parenting…


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.


soul mates…

Sometimes I think that life is what happens while I’m waiting for another page to load on the internet.  This is a sad confession, truly.  I’d love to be able to multitask well enough to stand up and wander off to do the dishes while I wait for our horribly slow, overtaxed satellite provider to erm, provide me with a fast connection.  “It’s still better than dial up” I tell myself but frankly it’s been so long since I was on dial up that I’m not certain that’s really true.  It gives me a good excuse to procrastinate though and maybe fall into a rant or two.

I have not been terribly inclined to write lately.  Wait, that’s not quite accurate.  I’ve been inspired to write, I’ve had a multitude of ideas in fact.  They are like little voices in my head that I cannot silence.  They sound a lot like the little voices of my kids when they all need something at once.  They begin in whispers of “wouldn’t it be cool if” and “you know what I’m thinking today…well” and then they progress before too long into shouts.  “Listen to me!  Write me down! You’ll forget!” I do in fact forget. ack.

I used to think that a REALLY good idea would never go away, that it would just remain in me, come back to me when I called to it, like a soul mate waiting in the wings for the timing to be right.  I’ve come to discover, however as my friend Bananie assures me, “the muse is real” and that I should pay attention to that and that yes, good ideas do sort of fade away.  

Maybe they don’t really fade away.  Maybe they just move onto the next open space in the great creative parking lot of the collective unconscious looking for another date.  

Then again.  It’s nice to think that these great ideas are really mine and that they’ll come home when they realize how good they had it, in the dark recesses of my warm and nurturing brain…waiting their turn for a moment in the light.  For now, perhaps it would serve me to at least carry a notebook around, just in case.

I’ve got it all figured out

I really do.  All I need is to convince everyone else to go along with my crazy plan and it’ll all be perfect.

How many stream of consciousness canoe trips can I organize in blogland without becoming annoying?  I don’t know…but here’s another one.  I’m a slave to the blog muse so here goes:

Staying at a friend’s house this week I am realizing just how ungifted I am at say, domestic things.  I don’t clean well…meaning that I don’t find the time, energy or motivation to care enough about cleaning to make a real and noticeable dent in the grime.  It’s not horrid at my house, it’s not squalor (I don’t think it is…at least) but I visit a friend’s house and I see the difference.  Now, this…in and of itself is fine.  I don’t mind being different, I don’t feel “less than” because of my domestic style.  What makes it NOT fine is that I actually like her house this way.  I want MY house to be this way.  I just don’t really want to do it myself.  

This got me to thinking about the other things that I’d love to see done differently.   My homeschool approach is way different from my friends’ approaches.  I like the way they impose order into their days and their lives.  I have TRIED this but alas, I’m more gifted at chaos than order.  Again, in the moment I like this chaos but then when I visit the order it looks so nice, so sweet, so restful.  I’d like that, I just don’t want to give  up my penchant for chaos in trade.

I like some of my friends’ churches.  The are very fun to visit.  I’d like my church to have some of these elements but I’m not sure I want to be the one to lobby for them.  Ack, I sound like a church consumer…I don’t like that….let me think on that one a little longer.

It would be nice to have a job.  I KNOW, I know…I HAVE  a job…wife, mother, teacher, trainer, fitness guru, writer, artist…blah blah blah.   Once in a great while I’d like to have a sit at a cubicle job….paper in this drawer, pencils over here, paycheck at the end of the week.  I just don’t want to have it forever….maybe for like 10 days.

All this to say that I think I have it all worked out.  I think what we need is a commune.  This way I can get the benefit of all my friends’ giftedness in one place at one time.  Then at the end of the day we can all retreat to our own home/apartment whatever and do our thing.  I tell people often that what I like about my friends is that they seem to dent in where I dent out…we fill in the gaps for one another so why would it be so hard to just gather us all together and fill in the gaps all the time?  Come on…doesn’t this seem like a great plan of mine?  I’ll lead your families into artistic and metaphoric chaos and then you can all use your giftedness to get us out of that mess.  

Erm…okay, well, maybe the marketing needs some work.

As you were.