Mom of 4 here, not a lot of time to dive into the deep parts of all things parenting right this moment but during such a weird time, I thought maybe if I could sneak some ways of thinking in while our brains are re wiring and we are learning how to think with our own thoughts again, what the heck! Being a parent often comes with some heavy responsibility. Deciding to become a parent seems borderline easy, but during that decision making, if it doesn’t happen accidentally 😉 , sometimes I think we forget to take a broad step back and analyze what parenting means to our individual beliefs. I really don’t care if you don’t agree with mine, because I respect not only our rights to our own opinions, but I also value and respect your view on parenting and all the ways you choose to look at it! I’m simply offering a different view point on what I feel works for me and my family and for those who still struggle in the in between phases of what the politically right way to parent is and their own feelings and intuitions.
Somewhere between the third kid and the talks of a vasectomy, I started to question the rules and approaches I had as a parent. I was also on the brink every other day of an entire mental breakdown, a full on body image crisis, and slipping slowly away into the thought of “I’m just a mom.” I was cranky, I was mean, I was short fused and life didn’t feel as blissful as What to Expect When You’re Expecting made it sound. I won’t go into the details of why or how I came out of that funk because I have a 5th grader who’s melting down over remote learning, but maybe someday soon I’ll circle back to that. Regardless of how it happened, I was blessed to be able to slow my thought process down so much that I was able to re-evaluate what parenting meant to me. Why did I become a parent? What was making it so hard to be a parent? What or who will I have left when they don’t need me anymore If all I’m focusing on is sacrificing everything for them and losing the parts of me that I thought made me who I am? These questions might sounds familiar, or they might not but they were elemental and pivotal in learning who I am, and creating the family environment I wanted to produce.
I’m certainly not going to sit here and say that I’ve become the perfect, most patient parent and that all days are bubbly and smiling. Hell, I just made my kindergartener cry because he couldn’t understand what legislature does from his social studies lesson… (by the way,, WTF ? WHY do kindergarteners need to be burdened with that bullshit when they are barely comprehending letter sounds and pooping? ) What I will lay claim to though, is that through this journey I have learned how to turn those moments around and how to involve my kids in my growing experience too. Ya, you heard that right…33 and still growing. Everyday. If you claim that you don’t feel like you’re constantly growing and changing too, you might want to re-evaluate how closed minded you’ve been. All I mean by that is when becoming a parent, most of us follow this ‘standard’ of producing children, sending them to school, vaccinating them, disciplining them, going broke for them and then sending them off into the world, retiring, and dying. All without question and full on anxiety if something throws a wrench in the works and we aren’t able to stick to our regularly scheduled program (cough-COVID-cough). For me, this wasn’t good enough. I didn’t feel like this was a way to think about life and to view parenting. I didn’t love the idea that I was supposed to send my kids to a place where I KNEW not all of them would thrive. I know the ‘standard’ that our schools have to go by now that my 6 year old was going to hate every single minute of it. Not being able to express his way of viewing the world, and figuring it out with his hands and his questions was going to be difficult when standard math tells you that you can get the answer right, but the work wrong, therefore you are wrong. I started to see patterns everywhere of how some things that we don’t even question were putting emphasis on how my kids should think, act, and what they should consider believing. Listen, I am all for kids learning through experience, and choosing paths of grace instead of bullying and hurt, but I’m NOT all for my (then 6 year old) daughter coming home and hyperventilating about how she as a female was going to be “in trouble” is Donald Trump won the election. How every time she even heard his name she was coward in fear and cry to me that she was so scared of the “ world we were going to have with him as president.” I can PROMISE you that up until this year I never talked about nor did I even CARE about politics much less talk about them at home. Even in 2016 being such a formative year political we NEVER talked about it, honestly I didn’t know enough about what was even going on or much of politics at all for that matter. Also, I was pregnant with my 4th (clearly the talks of vasectomy after # 3 were post-poned 😉 ) who I actually gave birth too election night so I wasn’t really super interested in what was happening. What I did start to see was that somewhere between home and school, my 6 year old was a little bit manipulated into believing in someone else’ ideas and beliefs. It took us almost a year to convince her that everything was going to be okay ( SHES SIX for all you crazy’s who think “ Well why wouldn’t you just want to be honest with your kids” ) and that we were going to work together to educate ourselves on what is going on politically and only to a point that she would understand. Why in the fuck am I having to have this conversation with my 6 year old? Maybe because for so long people have been force feeding their opinions and beliefs down peoples throats so hard that they truly believe it’s the only way to think. ( Gee, where else have we seen this behavior? #2020) 2016 was a huge year for me learning that even though I was going through all the “proper procedures” of having children and sending them to school, that being a parent meant so much more than that. It meant that bullying and peer pressure weren’t the only things I was going to have to educate more than I thought for my kids. I was learning that even though they were so young and so vulnerable, that people were using their own beliefs and pushing my kids to think in a certain way. I started to open my eyes to see that my journey of finding inner peace was going to come in huge need for the next 20 years of our lives together because to keep your shit together while watching your child break down over such an adult issue was the most heart wrenching piss you off moment I’d had since having kids. ( Well that’s not true, there were plenty others but this one was particularly telling for how even though my kids were supposed to be in a place that helped them grow, nurture and use their talents, they were not safe from the manipulative ideals of certain people, be that teachers, or kids learning from home.)
Now before you go all 2020 on me and say that I need to calm down and that my kids just need to learn how to ‘deal’ with real life, I want you to take that statement and shove it down your own throat, and have a nice day. Kids are not mentally prepared for the bullshit that is thrown at them so young let alone absolute bullshit political agendas. Come on, do kids seriously need to start being taught about the Judicial System in freaking Kindergarten? Why can’t we take that emphasis and put it towards learning healthy ways of dealing with their emotions, focus more on right and wrong, and give them a chance to digest the other 6 subjects they are forced to know before they can even tie a shoe. I’m not ragging on the schools because I know they follow the State protocol for education but maybe I’m ragging on the State for pushing one size fits all learning on humans who are all programmed different and when the need for them to come together instead of having a one size fits all answer, each know their strength and weakness and can work together to give and take from each other to accomplish great things. I can tell you right now my 6 year old can change the oil and tires on a lawn mower, a car and a four-wheeler but could care LESS about the correct 7 step way to multiply. Yet, my 8 year old is advanced in math and yet he doesn’t even realize cars need oil. I actually love this and I encourage it. Each will learn all things life in due time, at their own pace. While I agree with certain standards for educational building and learning, some of this one way or no way shit is not good for the mental health of kids.
Mental health of kids. Maybe in 2021 as a collective we will start giving this a lot more serious consideration. Think back as the kids you were for a second. Now imagine being in math class, having to work through a 4 step problem, you answer the problem correctly (using your brains way of rationalizing) but you get the actual problem wrong because you didn’t show the “correct” ( meaning there is only ONE way to find the answer ) work. Imagine getting something right ( over and over again with each problem and each subject where you think a little bit differently) and repeatedly being told your wrong because the way you think is wrong. Now imagine that following you your entire school career, and then on top of that you are trying to be a good decent person, a great athlete or whatever extracurricular you’ve chosen, deal with natural life issues, all while trying desperately to get your brain to think the “correct” way so that you can get into college because it’s the only road to success.
Can you even question why we hear about so many “teens cracking” and on drugs or prescriptions or turning to violence? Can you even question why now people don’t even know what sexual orientation they “choose” to be because either way they are basically wrong for their answer because one could be feminist and one could be toxic? Its fucking sick.
During the quarantine my husband and I truly had an eye opening experience to see how much is put on our kids and while I’m grateful to the schools for all they do, I’m praying so hard that something changes so that we are able to bring back individualistic thinking and stop forcing one idea on our children. We are squashing out the flames that make our kids who they are. They are supposed to be and think differently. They are supposed to behave differently, and all have strengths and weakness. We can’t let them continually think that because they think of math the conventional way instead of common core that means they are dumb. We cannot let the hands on (probably future trades kids) think that just because school doesn’t suit them well and that college is the only way or your going to be poor. We need each other to be different. We need people to think differently we need more parents to encourage their kids that its OKAY to struggle in some things and excel in others. That its OKAY to lose. That its OKAY to NOT have a million things going on at one time. Instead of stressing our kids out continually over every little matter maybe we should try nourishing them and seeing their strength and encouraging them to keep that love for it alive. Look at half of the people you know, or maybe even your own choices: did you stick to what you truly loved and made a life around it? Or did you choose the path of ‘safety’ and ‘standard’ and just chose a career that was promised to be the most rewarding? How did it turn out? Even I strayed from what I loved and chose something “safe.”
This brings me back to the original reason I wrote this. Parenting. Define parent. If you ask Merriam-Webster it just continually says “to be or act as a parent’. There is no ONE definition of ‘parent’ or ‘parenting’. That is because it’s solely up to you how you decide to treat and nourish and “bring up” your children. Through my soul searching, I discovered one unique thing. I may have birthed my children, and I may monetarily support them, but I do not own my children.
This is the thin-ice topic I would like you to just hear me out on. As a parent, I chose to embrace my natural blessing of being able to reproduce a body for a soul to come into this world to not only fulfill their purpose, but to support me on mine. I never from the moment I held my child felt like I ‘owned’ them. I am connected to my children in ways beyond words, but never would I ever want my children to view the way I support and nourish them as ownership.
I saw a lot of people go through times in life where they wanted to badly to rebel against their parents ‘rules’ that sadly it led to addiction or worse. That’s not speaking for everyone who grew up with “strict” parents and its certainly not saying anything is wrong with that either. I have just chosen to live in between the line of encouraging and supporting my kids with limitations to their ages. For example, my 3-year-old, I teach her that she is a girl, and that her brothers are boys. I teach her the dog Is a dog and the cat is a cat. I teach her the feelings produced by good and bad choices and encourage her to make her decisions but also how to deal with consequences of poor ones that hurt herself or others. I teach her to always be strong for herself and her friends and family. To be there for someone when they need it and to look for people who are there for her too. I let her pick out her mismatching, wrong season outfits and I let her do things for herself like make her cereal and brush her teeth. I support her and say, “Wow what a great job brushing” and then I take her tooth brush and say mommy just needs to help you get those teeth you cant reach yet and she willingly hands me the took brush. I raise my voice when she isn’t listening and then sit with her and tell her that if she doesn’t listen to me at the park she could get really hurt and that isn’t a respectful thing to do, not listen to me. The line between “strict” and “laid back” when it comes to parenting is extremely thin and sometimes, I feel like I cross it and go against my own views but I’m human. I’ve said It before, I’m not ashamed to admit to my kids when I am wrong and I will be the first to apologize when I fly off the handle or I yell at the wrong kid for something. This is life guys. These are our kids, our tiny little support systems who we get a chance to everyday learn something new about them. Sit back and let them help you understand how they will understand the world and all the glorious things in it. My Boys needed spanked when they were little, my girls, only took a look of discern but guess what, they all 4 are amazing hearted, strong independent loving little people. We cannot treat and expect them to learn from one size fits all. We can use the same standards for being polite, kind, empathetic humans, but when it comes to matters of the heart and soul, that’s where you have to let their spark of individuality come into play and conform to their understanding and how to reach them.
We are the voice for our kids. We are the standard that we set for the adults they will become. However, you choose to parent is your own, and it can never ever be wrong, as long as its done in love. Remember, never ever settle when it comes to your kids and family, they make you who you are.