Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Parenting is Hard

Sometimes I feel like the worst mother ever. Then I hear super f'ed up stories likes this one yesterday on NPR, and know that it's not true, but instead of feeling better I just feel worse. (Seriously, don't listen to that story unless you are looking for a reason to jump off of a bridge.)

It's been a hard week at Chez Oster. There's nothing out of the ordinary going on, but I think raising two high energy, very smart and sassy boys is taking its toll on me. Last week I wrote the Unofficial guide: when to bring DSes for my CA column. Although no one commented on the story, it was definitely a major topic of discussion between Warren and I, my friends and I, and the kids and I.

After a very long weekend, I decided to put the DSes in permanent time out. (And by permanent, I mean as long as I can stand it.) I'm just tired of the DSes being the only thing the kids care about. I'm tired of having to repeat myself a hundred times when they are playing them. And I'm really tired of hearing, "Can I beat this level first?"

Sure they come in handy at times, and I am guilty of using them as an electronic babysitter, but damn. Enough is enough. I'm trying to institute some tough love around the house. The kids need to behave better, be nicer to each other--and especially to me. I've been talking to them about how I want them to act and why, and doing my best to stick to my guns when they cross the line.

But really, I suck at discipline. I wasn't raised in a strict household. I had a lot of freedom, and for the most part, didn't need much discipline. My mom was (and still is) one of my best friends. I could (and can) tell her just about anything. However, I'm sure that I took her love and kindness for granted often, and I imagine she felt frustrated at times, much like I do now.

And I know my softness is frustrating to Warren, who's inner authoritarian is much more developed, which only makes me feel worse. Add on the frustration (disapproving looks and comments) of the strict parents of the well-behaved kids, and well, it's pretty demoralizing.

And did I mention that we all look like ragamuffins in our holey garments?

I don't like arguing, and when faced with conflict, I default to the path of least resistance. When I'm trying to juggle a million things and I need cooperation, bribery and begging are my tools of choice. Not very good choices, I know.

I'm not fishing for compliments here, or wallowing (too much) in self-pity. Just trying to make sense of how I got here and where to go. Writing about it helps. I just love those little boys so much. I want the world for them. But how to give it to them without spoiling them rotten? (Rottener?)

Ugh. Parenting is hard.


Sassy Molassy said...

Kids are hard. I think a good approach might be for you to pick a core, underlying idea like respect and use that to guide some change with the boys. Some things about who they are are just going to take time to mature and become assets, but lacking basic respect for other people is something that will cause them life-long problems, and it's something specific you can address. They need to treat each other, you, and other adults (and kids) respectfully, and as your friend (who loves you!) I have to say I see that as the biggest issue. You deserve more respect from them than I have seen them give you. It may have to start out as a fake-it-til-you-make-it scenario, but they can be held to a standard of behaving respectfully even if they don't see the value in that at first.

Shannon said...

what a great post, stacey. we parents all need to have these types conversations with each other. it will make us all better parents. tough love - yes. you go girl!

Stephanie said...

Ugh- I hate weeks like that! Every parent I know has had times like this, and I know that doesn't help at all but I'll say it anyway.

Chip said...

I agree with Shannon-- part of what makes a social circle like ours cool is that we can have these conversations (both in person and virtually). And I agree with Sassy-- talking about and enforcing the concept of respect is a good place to start.

freshflower said...

My mother also blessed me with/cursed me with (depends on the day) a lack of structure and discipline. Being a single divorced parent beginning in my fourth grade year, I think she often took the path of least resistance, as well. I didn't need much supervision or discipline (my brother...well...he's another story). However, I struggle to be consistent now that I'm a "grown up." I have to work at being organized. So, those qualities were not part of my mom's legacy inherited by me; I work at them. However, what I remember about my mother was the abundant cuddling and the readiness to snuggle up with me when I was sick. I remember the class ring she brought to me in the hospital when I had my appendix out the first week of my freshman year of high school...the class ring she couldn't afford two weeks before when I was begging for it (I'm sure nagging for it.) Your boys may struggle with consistency or they may pick it up from Warren, but they'll always remember the soft side of Mom. Do the best you can and, most likely, it will be the good things they will remember (once they've passed their teenage years ;)

Scott Banbury said...

Don't feel bad, not all children can be as perfect as ours ;-) I didn't comment on your article because you never invite us to your cocktail parties but I'm over the DSs too. For me, it happened last summer at a Shell concert when I realized that a dozen or so kids around me were sitting there networking with each other when they should have been running around and causing trouble. Now that spring is here, we shouldn't allow any video entertainment as long as the sun is out.

Cathy said...

I yelled at my 18 month old this morning for pouring milk on the floor. Why? Because I'm a bad parent sometimes, too. It IS hard. The fact that you can reflect on parenting, recognize and learn from your mistakes, and realize when change is needed, I think you are being a mighty fine parent.

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