Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Confessions of a Reformed Helicopter Parent

During my previous life when I worked at a couple of colleges, I often found myself in a position of parenting students that were not that much younger than I was.  I was a young professional without children who had grown up with parents that encouraged self-sufficiency, strong work ethic and the development of common sense, where possible in my case.

I did not understand why these young adults were not capable of calling my office to make their own appointments when they were 100 yards away.  How was it easier for Mom to call from another state?  Or why did Dad feel it necessary to request during orientation that I "keep an eye on her" and communicate with him by email if I thought he needed to know anything?  The stories go on and on.

Society calls these parents helicopter parents because of their constant, often noisy, hovering that actually keeps those on the ground (the teachers, coaches, etc.) from getting anything done for fear of the rotors cutting off their heads!

In typical, emphatic, young adult fashion, I swore I would not hover around my kids.

Then my little darlings were born.  Robert was old enough to speak the first time he busted his knee on the pavement.  I know this because he promptly told his babysitter that I did it.  I put great time and energy into mentally recording the diaper issues (pun intended) of another child and still find myself driving them all crazy with my second-guessing.  "Do you want grapes or applesauce with that toast?  Or would you rather have eggs?  You could switch the grapes for peaches and we could do oatmeal?"  Do you hear the sound of the rotors overhead?

I seek reform!  You see, I love them all and in my old age, I want them to live next door to me but in their own home, not mine or even on land that I might own.  When my youngest is my age I will be 77 years old if I am blessed with long-life but the odds are, maybe not.  I can't imagine not having my parents but I HOPE that if we aren't here for our children, they won't need us anyway.

I want my children to know how to work and play and grow their own faith without it being fed to them on a baby spoon.  I want my kids to be able to fight for what they believe in and fight for weaker people and fight for their own health by getting off the couch even if it hurts.  I want them to have strong soul-muscles from being on weak knees and I want them to use those muscles when things get hard because they WILL get hard, maybe harder than I know.

And how can these three miracles (that's another story for another time) that so delight and exhaust me learn to do anything if I don't let them try?  How can they learn where to put the dial on the toaster if they don't burn the toast? How can they learn how yucky it feels to have shampoo in your hair when you get out of the tub if I wash their hair for them?  When they use a crayon on the neighbors siding, how can they learn that is NEVER okay if I run over there and clean it off with an erasing sponge myself?

I say, let them cry, sweep, clean, fold, and do anything that they can, while they are at home and it is about erasing sponges, spills, hurt feelings and burned toast.  Let them learn before it is about bosses and mortgages or jail.

Let them learn these lessons while I can still catch them IF they need it or HELP them if their muscles, physical or otherwise, are not strong enough.  Instead of "Let me do that FOR you..." how about, "Let's do this together..." or even better, "Call me if you need help."

Lots of little things that I learned while still with my parents gave me great personal confidence in my abilities to manage life.  I am not talking about personal pride here but just the repetition of successful endeavors, no matter how small, that made me willing to try other things, even trusting the development of my faith.  Things like knowing how to care for a home, cooking the meals that I like, seeking and finding a job during the summer, making my own schedule in high school and managing a certain amount of food, gas and fun money.

So, I try not to hover and I recently moved the first aid box to the kids bathroom from a high cabinet in the kitchen.  I mean, if you are going to get out there and ride, you better know how to put a band aid on, right?

Just don't tell them that I am watching from behind my sunglasses and just because I am wearing the iPod doesn't mean the volume is turned up...


Saturday, August 25, 2012

My Name is Butmommy

That's right, my name is Butmommy.  I know it isn't glamorous but its the truth.  Butmommy.  I guess it could be worse.

"Butmommy, I still have three minutes left on my screen time."

"Butmommy, I took a bath Monday."

"I know I said I was full Butmommy, but I was only full of vegetables.  There is still room for cookies."

"Butmommy, you have to get up.  You promised GOD you would always feed us."

"I know I said I wanted that kind of treat, Butmommy I like yours better."

"Butmommy, I don't mind if the dog licks me in the mouth.  I don't think its gross."

"Butmommy, I don't want to sit next to my brother, HE'S gross."

"Butmommy, why do YOU want to look at stuff in the store?"

"Butmommy, why do I have to wash my hands if I didn't touch anything in the restaurant bathroom?"

"Butmommy, why does Daddy have to go to work?"

You get the picture.  Here's the thing, I know that they will grow and mature and that they won't always call me Butmommy.  Their words will evolve and just like most of us, who as adults no longer call our parents Mommy and Daddy, my own kids will seek a more grown up way to address me.  

Though I want to savor every moment of this time, I do look forward to the day when they call me BUTMOMMA instead.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Morning Shower in a Construction Zone

I wrote this when my kids were smaller, enjoy. M

This morning I took a shower with two construction workers in my bathroom.  I turned on the radio, put in a favorite CD and threw a plush, white towel over the shower door, turned the water on high and climbed in for a few moments of pampering.  I washed passion flower shampoo out of my hair while the taller worker hammered on the doorframe.  I lathered up my curvaceous, post-partum body while the thinner one repaired the door handles.  Of course they stole the occasional glance, begging me to draw a happy face in the steam on the glass doors.  I knew things were getting out of hand when I was asked to rewind the CD to Yankee Doodle Dandee as they danced in front of the mirrors.

Of course, the most unusual thing about this whole scenario was that I was able to take a shower, dry my hair and put on all of my makeup on the same day.  Normally, these three things happen only on separate and non-consecutive days.

Just to clarify things, the two construction workers in my bathroom are off-limits to all you single women out there.  Both are blonde and blue-eyed and I think they are rather handsome.  However, the taller of the two happens to be about 37 inches high and turned three a couple of weeks ago.  He is a great dancer and Yankee Doodle was his idea.  The one who is good with the mechanics of anything with moving parts weighs about 28 pounds and communicates primarily in his own private language.  We, his family, understand that “muck” means “milk,” and “nunga, nunga” means “I want that.”

I would love privacy and expect to have some in about eighteen years when our youngest, the velcro baby, might move out, assuming she is successful in her launch from home.  In the meantime, I have learned to appreciate, if not enjoy, the sound of hammers in the morning and Yankee Doodle is a pretty cheerful song to have stuck in your head.

Yankee Doodle went to town a’riding on his pony…

The Real Me...

Do you ever find yourself wondering what other people are really like? When I was a kid, my mom had lots of girlfriends and we would go visit them or they would drop by and the kids would play outside while the grownups visited about work, love and life, ordinary or extraordinary things. I learned lots of things I probably had no business knowing because I was a quiet girl and I think they forgot I was there!

Things are different now. Our sociology has changed and we have set standards of perfection that cannot be attained. We are very connected electronically but I miss the presence of a friend. Granted, the issue is exacerbated by my personal circumstances. I am fortunate enough to stay with my children so a day or two may pass when I don’t even leave the house. My family is 1,200 miles away and our little family moved to a new town last year so we are no longer close to the friends I had grown to know and love.

Needless to say, I am like a kid in a candy store when I get to spend time with adults. Manners are forgotten, silliness abounds and way too many questions are asked out of simple curiosity…and this is how I act, not my kids! At 41, I expected more in the way of social development.

It is good to be around othere people, it gives me perspective. I have to admit that when I hear another parent say things like, “Buddy, you may not climb the restaurant”or “Aster, honey, please take my hair out of your mouth!” I am so grateful because I realize that I am not alone!

See, sometimes it feels like I am alone and that is just the truth. As a woman of faith with a deeply blessed marriage and three kids who wake at six-something in the morning, I assure you, I am NEVER alone, but it feels like it sometimes.

Now, to the point…I was wondering if you ever feel the same way? Since I don’t really expect you to drop in on me and you don’t know my mother and therefore can’t tell her what my home looks like right now, I feel free to share. Don’t get me wrong, I like a neat house. Remember the movie SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY? Until I found out the villain was evil, I totally enjoyed the organized canned goods and perfectly aligned towels, still do, in fact. However my reality changed when I had kids. More on that later but come peek in the windows…from where I sit in my getting-worn-out, beige recliner I see:
- Legos on the floor (at least a kid is playing with them)
- a blanket crumpled, again on the floor
- piles of books
- my purple sweatshirt on the couch
- pillows thrown less than neatly on the couch (yeah)
- TV center drawer open
- dust
- wow, the floor needs vacuuming
- a dog scratching (nice…)
- my husband still steaming from a workout outside
- a little girl asleep in the other beige chair with a bunny and a book
- yet another boy that I can’t actually see because he is wrapped around behind me sleeping which is making writing to you very challenging

Here’s the thing, all of these imperfections that would drive me crazy are, in some way, great gifts, even the dust and the dirty dog. As a labor of love, I will probably clean up soon. When I do, I hope it is for them, to make our home. I hope it is not as it has been so many times, cleaning in spite of them or around them, annoyed with them. In the meantime, you are welcome here, please like me anyway. I have potential and right now, I want to choose the best part…and hope that this is what I am really like.