I was recently asked a question by a dear friend’s daughter, who is expecting her first child, which gave me pause to think. Her question went something like this “So far your children don’t seem to be complete assholes- How did you do it and do you have any advice?”
As I sat there with a look of what can best be described as astonishment my first smartass reply was “Oh they can be assholes- they seem to hide it well and usually reserve that “special” part of themselves just for me and I’m not done yet – they’re just teenagers so they still have time to turn”
I have always gotten compliments on their manners in public, their ability to be funny without being rude, and there in general ability to not be complete pains in the ass for strangers. I had just never been really sure they were talking about “MY” children. I somehow thought they were talking about something similar to “invasion of the body snatchers”
Spending most days trying to survive swimming through three teenagers and menopause I don’t have time to ponder the- what advice do I have to give? As a matter of fact, since I don’t believe I’m finished yet I do not believe I have the right to give advice, but here was someone who was earnestly asking me. She was asking “Me” of all people who honestly feels most days I am failing or at least winning the “worst mother of the year” award.
Since the question was asked I decided to let my brain wonder back through time and really take a gander at what the hubby and I had survived and actually accomplished to see if there was any words of wisdom I had to pass on.
Here is what I discovered:
We didn’t really have a plan…
I remember vividly sitting in the “childbirth and after” class after our first bundle of joy was conceived. FYI- the conceiving part is by far the most fun part of motherhood!! The first part was pretty standard- There really is only two ways this thing is coming out of me and neither of em look real fun. The first one came out the way nature intended with drugs and wasn’t fun. The second one came with no complications and NO drugs- even less fun. When the third one came with a C-section it still wasn’t fun, but I figured- hey, I’ve accomplished the trifecta of childbirth.
During the class I remember a woman who asked “I’ve read all these books and they seem to all contradict each other- what do you suggest?” I remember the hubby and I looking at each other and thinking – are we doing this wrong? We didn’t read the books. We seemed to be going with the “wing it method” We both believed this was just a baby human not science so I didn’t really think “studying up” would help. There really isn’t a test at the end.
During the infant stage we didn’t try to control or schedule. I was out of work so I decided to roll with this little human who had their own ideas of when sleep and eating was acceptable. Eventually I learned that crying is a language and if you just listen they’ll tell you what they need and when. Once I learned each of these little bundles of joys basic nature I could maneuver their schedules slowly to MY will. In the end I knew they were always going to bend to MY will – I just believe in the path of least resistance method. The youngest was a struggle and took much longer, but even his stubborn ass could eventually be maneuvered. I still am locked in a battle of wills with this little human after 13 years, but I have age and treachery on my side and I’m sticking with it- it’s worked so far.
The toddler years were fun with all three running around saying “NO” in delightful unison. I learned that age old trick, when all else fails, I’m bigger and it’s perfectly acceptable to get up and move you. I also learned that “mommy doesn’t talk to or deal with children throwing temper tantrums” is an acceptable way to deal with the inevitable realization of –“no- you are not getting your way” I call these years – establish a healthy fear of consequences – because some day they will be bigger than you and you will no longer be able to just move them and they better have a motivation to move themselves.
The years of 3 to 13 I called the “negotiation” years. I began the infant years as the mom who was going to be that mom who would intelligently explain to my children life and my reasons for when I said NO. It was a lofty idea until I began the “why” stage and found myself explaining a bug’s circulatory system twelve “whys” after the initial “why does that man have a chain saw?’ and later when I learned my 10 year old could get a job in any courtroom in the land because he had out negotiated me. I then quickly reverted back to the tried and true statement of “because I said so and I’m your mother” It’s not a pretty statement, but I’ve found it works every time and leaves no room for negotiations.
This leads me to today as I sit here right smack in the middle of the teen years with three hormone ridden kids stuck in the difficult period of “I want to be an adult and I’m not quite there yet” trying to decide what I’ve really learned and the phase not being over so I’m not sure – ask me in another 7 years after they all hit their 20’s and maybe I’ll have a clue.
This brings me back the initial question that started this trip down memory lane. How did you do it and what advice to do you have to give?
Well here you go……..
Don’t read the books, don’t take advice, and in general don’t listen to anyone other than your significant other- if you have one- and that little human or humans you have been blessed with raising. No one else matters- do what works for you and your family. The true reality is they joined your life – not the other way around. They are more durable than you ever imagined. If you love them and believe you are always “the worst mother ever” and striving to be better most days you are probably doing it right. I say most, because some days will require everything you’ve got just to survive – trust me- it’ll be ok -you can strive again tomorrow.
So there ya have it- my advice or lack thereof to those of you just beginning the wild roller-coaster ride called motherhood. Basically there are no hard and fast rules. The ride and rules are as diverse as each family and each individual child. You get to build and design your own ride with its straight sections and bends because believe you me the kids will design all the giant upside down loops that put your stomach in your throat you can handle. The ride will be fast and furious, it will thrill and scare you, but just like any amusement park ride it’ll be over before you’re ready or had time to blink.