Saturday, June 27, 2009

Dear anyone I've ever met in my life before,

I feel as though I possibly owe you an apology.

Specifically, if I met you during the years of 1985 through 1997, and said anything at all, made one comment or even a single statement, about parenting, child-rearing, discipline, control, obedience, or parental authority. Because I did not yet have children, and although I was unaware of it at the time, I was clearly TALKING OUT OF MY ASS.

I attended a scrapbook retreat this weekend with about twenty women who were all friendly, cheerful, lovely. However, as is often the case in life (or more specifically, at scrapbook retreats where tables are lined up next to one another) some people talk more loudly than others, and when you are in close proximity to other people's conversations, you (meaning ME) sometimes cannot help but overhear.

Earlier today, I eavesdropped couldn't help but hear a conversation between two women, one who had children, and one who was a newlywed and did not have children. The conversation, which wound up and down and around for probably close to an hour, consisted of the child-less newlywed telling the other woman how she and her husband had already had many discussions and come to complete agreement about how they would raise their children. The things they would allow, the things they would not allow. Behaviors that would be tolerated, behaviors that would not, child rearing techniques that were pre-approved and those that were already dismissed as crap.

The other woman was only too eager to chime in as a parental "authority". She spoke volumes about her experience raising her children, and what she had decreed to be "right" and "wrong" in the field of parenting. She discussed at great length the successes she has had, the challenges she has faced, the trials of raising happy, obedient, curious children, and the overwhelming joy she takes in knowing she has done her job well. The age of her oldest child? Five.

I listened to this conversation .... to the claims and comments about "My child won't..." and "My child will ...." and "I will never ..." and "I will always ..." and I swear, my eyes rolled so far back in my head I could see my own tramp stamp.

Then I started laughing because holy cow, they sounded so ridiculous, and I'm sure I used to sound just like them!

I looked over at my girlfriend Alisa, herself the mother of four, who laughed with me and whispered, "Just wait. She'll be blessed with a 'spirited' child and will have to eat every word." Actually, what she said was, "Just watch. She'll get one just like Luke." Luke is Alisa's third-born and although *I* think he is delightful, Alisa promises he is a handful.

Now, I make no claim to be a child-rearing expert. As I type this, one child is eating Sweet Tarts for dinner (at 9:30 at night, after returning home from a birthday swim party where I forgot to send sunscreen). Another child is on the sofa, watching television, butt naked, because clothes are "too much work". And the third child has gone to her room to pout, angry with me, because *she* had to pay a fine because *her* library books were late.

Clearly, I have room for improvement in the parenting-skills arena. And I know these women will most likely come to realize the same things about themselves some day.

I'm not even sure I'll have the hang of this parenting gig by the time they're eighteen and off to college, but as long as they're off to college and not in jail I'll consider it at least a moderate success. (touch wood, please no jail!)

So to anyone who might have been caught in the crossfire of me and my delusional parenting plans and expertise -- you know, the expertise I had BEFORE I had kids -- I'm truly sorry.

32 comments:

gorillabuns said...

Given light that my life has changed a total 360, I have apologized to anyone and everyone whom I gave unwarranted and unasked for advice. Clearly, I have no room to talk about someone's else life when I don't live it.
I only ask they do so in return. Sadly, it isn't always reciprocated.

Haley said...

You crack me up! Only one more full day until the big trip...are you ready? Or are you going to do what I did when packing for three MONTHS and wait until the absolute last minute? :)

Also, I was so sorry to read about your sister. I really don't know what else to say other than cancer really sucks. I will definitely keep her in my prayers.

Haley

jbaj said...

ooooh ooooh ooooh - I have one that is almost 21, one that is 2 days away from 16 and one that is almost 8. Oh my gosh! First born piece of cake, graduated college in 3 years, having her first drink with her parents when she turns 21 on the 7th of next month - If she was my only child I would be so very hard to live with. Luckily God gave me 3 and so I never give anyone parenting advice anymore.

Have a wonderful time on your vacation - you deserve it

libeye said...

Have an absolutely magnificent trip! We will miss you and your family but look forward to some wonderful updates whenever you can!

Amy said...

Sweet tarts for dinner? Check.

Kids going naked (or at least commando)? Check. (Many times b/c I forgot to put the wash into the dryer.)

Pontificating on what my kids will and won't do at some future point in life? Check.

Seems these things are universal. Either that or you and I are the worst mothers on the planet.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, we had a few dinners consisting of browinies or whatever crap a child could dig up. Daughter spent a few years hanging out in a towel because she didn't feel like getting dressed (drove my brother in law nuts when he was staying with us). I had grandiose ideas of child raising before kids, learned quickly to let those go. My line when they were small and we'd go out somewhere was "at least they're quiet". I learned to pick my battles and as long as they ate enough good food over a week's time and stayed out of juvie, I figured we were doing pretty well. Both of them have grown up to be good adults with good morals and common sense, and we have fun together. Can't ask for much more!
Have a great vacation, hope you can get some pictures posted while you're there, I love vacation pics, even if they're someone else's!
Our neighborhood Sonic opens in 2 days, I'll raise a cup of Sonic ice and coke (since I don't do DDP) to you!
Sheila in MN
Sheila in MN

Laura in Michigan said...

I had a childless friend tell me that she was qualified to give parenting advice because she had dogs. WTF?

DeAnn said...

Boy... I could have written this post! I am a child therapist. I work with children with behavior problems. I had all sorts of ideas of how I would raise my children when I was in school. And then... I actually had children. My middle child could be one of my clients. For a period of time last year.. I wanted to tell everyone I worked at Starbucks. Now, when I hear childless people talking about discipline, I just smile.

DeAnn

Alisa said...

Oh this made me smile, shake my head, roll my eyes and chuckle all at the same time. I love reading everyone's comments especially jbaj's- That is exactly how I feel.
Glad you wrote it Kristie- I don't know if I could have found the right words to describe it all.

Anonymous said...

Raising kids is a total crap shoot! I often say, "I will not take any credit, nor will I accept any blame."

Anonymous said...

Have I mentioned how much I LOVE your blog?! You make me laugh right out loud, 'cause I can SO relate to almost everything you write!
I hope you have a great vacation, with more food groups available than just Sweet Tarts.
~ Linda in Canada
ps We are going to get a second dog today, because despite the episodes of WWBC, I have loved those photos of the two of them cuddled up together.

Sally said...

I am so right there with you!! There sure are a lot of "nevers" that happen on a daily basis in my house!!

Last night I told my husband that I really didn't want to be a parent just for a night....then I felt so guilty for those who would give anything to parent. About 30 minutes later I walked out to find my 2 boys sacked out on the couch (and it was only 9) and I remembered how blessed I am!!

Have a great cruise...I am so jealous!!

Catherine said...

Ha, ha, ladies. I am pushing age 60 and have 5 kids that are fairly evenly spaced over 14 years. Yeah, 15 years in diapers and half day preschool and K since none of them overlapped in that department. I am as some of my youngest's grandmoms since I was not so young when I started.

I have trouble sitting through a lot of discussions at the elementary and middle school and now high school level with younger parents. Kids humble all of us beyond what we can imagine. Y'all ain't done learning yet, I promise you.

What a ride this is, what a learning experience. And each of us takes a unique path through it. I don't give generalized advice anymore because it's so often useless. Caring, listening and specific information is useful if that is what someone wants.

All of you are terrific, sharing your thoughts, experiences, travails through the internet. What a wonderful resource. It broadens our worlds immensely.

Catherine said...

I have to share this story. When my youngest was in preschool, a flyer was distributed warning parents that report cards would not be distributed to those who owed tuition. This school is a pre school-8th grade Catholic school. Some of us mumbled that the new headmaster would have done better imparting that information by sending directed mail or directly phoning those families specifically involved rather than distributing a general letter.

One of the new moms let me know that notices did go out, as indicated on the school calendar--"deficiency notices mailed".

She and the other preschool moms were horrified and speechless when informed that those deficiency notices were not pertaining to tuition payments but to children's behavior and performance. Clearly, they could not imagine that their precious sweethearts would ever be deficient in those areas and that even if they were, that such things would be labeled so callously as "deficiencies".

A lot to learn for sure. That a call or a note from school does not mean they want you to donate to the bake sale, most likely.

renee said...

Funny! I didn't have all of the parenting answers but I had ZERO tolerance for children in public. I was going to petition the movie theaters for an ADULT-ONLY theater for showings of Disney movies. ANd I detested children on airplanes. Now I'm the parent that other adults dread seeing coming to the gate.....
Hope you are having a great trip. I miss yoU!!!!

lizinsumner said...

I agree with you 100%. Have a great vacation trip, stay safe, and I can't wait to hear all about it when you get back....or maybe while you're there????!!!! Either way, have fun!

Anonymous said...

The best parents in the world are the ones with no children. The rest of us just muddle through, hoping to come out alive at the end....if there is an end...which I doubt.

Dixie

Natalie said...

Oh no. Is this the start of a 12 step "I said stupid things before I was a parent" program? Because if it is, I'll need to sign up. And probably be one of the group's officer.

And as for dinner? I informed my family, IN ADVANCE, that dinner tonight (Sunday dinner, mind you), would be cereal because I didn't plan anything and had no intention to do so. ice.

Love Being a Nonny said...

You are preaching to the choir!

Anonymous said...

My first child has always been a breeze. Never cried as a baby, always done what she was told. A GATE student. She is now 16. Well when she was 17 months old I found out I was pregnant and figured, no big deal this parenting thing is a breeze! Then KAYLI was born. She did nothing but cry and puke her first 2 years. Im serious. I have nothing but pics of me in stained shirts, her on my hip and a miserable look on both our faces. She is now 14. And has not gotten easier. Then I had Tanner and thought my hard kid days were just with Kayli. Well guess what? Tanner was born with heart defects and almost died. He still loves with heart issues. NO MORE KIDS FOR ME.
Suzy

Jeanette in GA said...

Standards sort of drop when you realize what it's REALLY like raising kids, huh?

You are one of the most fair and loving moms I know, so your advice? I'll take it!

BTW, we all have had our asses talking at some point haven't we?

kb said...

I was a perfect parent before I had kids!

Donna said...

Oh lordy, that made me laugh out loud while DH is trying to watch the Eric Clapton documentary! Congrats to those women with the completely controllable children as no one I know got any of those. We thought we were pretty hot snot with our "easy" first child, so we had another. Ooops! Wasn't our fabulous parenting so much as dumb luck the first time around. Situational management is the name of the game--you have to be willing to punt the game plan at any moment.

We were all naive once!

Ann said...

"I'm not even sure I'll have the hang of this parenting gig by the time they're eighteen and off to college, but as long as they're off to college and not in jail I'll consider it at least a moderate success. (touch wood, please no jail!)"

I couldn't have said it better! I am the mother of four- ages 18 to 7. You totally make me laugh all.the.time.

Have a great vacation and I hope it's one without further incident.

Love ya,
Ann

Julia said...

HA...My facebook status update right this second reads
"Julia Johnston needs some advice on handling strong willed little boys!!! Books ladies? any must reads... getting tired of the constant fight!" The first responce was "duck tape and Nyquil" LOL.

Seriously my daughter is going to be 8 ... and she knows everything..she is a good girl and in public generally a dream..her big fault is that she NEVER stops talking.
My son is 4.5 years old ... and I don't even know what to say.... the kid is a monster. I adore him! He finds a way to melt my heart daily, but he is the most contrary child I have ever met!!

God help me for the next 15 years!!

Julia

lynne said...

Gosh I wouldn't dare ever give parental advice. I guess you can't feed them cheese sandwiches 3 meals in a row - right? I like the way my mother raised me, although I may have on occasion been an out at elbows, hair un-brushed, in a nightdress until noon on a Saturday, watched unlimited TV kind of kid. I always knew I was loved, knew what was right from wrong and to be careful of other peoples feelings. Job well done I think. Thank you mam.

jean said...

I would like to say in my defense as a non-parent that SOMETIMES we (I) can provide a different perspective on those trying times b/c we are NOT the parent - we can be a little more objective b/c we're not a part of the situation. But I typically save my non-parent opinions for my (immediate) family... :-)

I'm sure your kids will turn out to be behaved, well-adjusted, contributing members of society. Since they don't come w/a how-to book (and it wouldn't matter, anyway, since n two are alike), you can only do the best you can and pray a lot!

Hope you have a great time on vacation!

René S said...

When my husband and I were dating, he worked at an athletic club/gym that was fairly family focused. That meant there were a lot of children running around being, well, kids in a gym. He often came home saying, "these kids today . . ." Even then I teased him about how they were not so different than all the kids before him, but at times we agreed parents needed to step it up.

Now that we have a 10yo son and 7yo daughter, our inside joke when everyone is running crazy is "these kids today."

Oh the things we say! Have a great trip.

Kelly said...

"...and I swear, my eyes rolled so far back in my head I could see my own tramp stamp."

LOVE IT!

Kelly
www.idloveadullmoment.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

That's hysterical. Lori Borgman is an Indiana author and an amazingly delightful columnist. She wrote a book called "I was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids." (Check out her website. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to post it on here, but her website name is her name plus ".com".) We had friends who were childless know-it-alls, too, and quite honestly, it ruined our friendship. What was hysterical was that when they finally had children they let them do things they said they'd NEVER allow. Ha! Welcome to the real world, huh?

I hope you're having a great vacation!!!!

Claire in Indiana

Anonymous said...

That's hysterical. Lori Borgman is an Indiana author and an amazingly delightful columnist. She wrote a book called "I was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids." (Check out her website. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to post it on here, but her website name is her name plus ".com".) We had friends who were childless know-it-alls, too, and quite honestly, it ruined our friendship. What was hysterical was that when they finally had children they let them do things they said they'd NEVER allow. Ha! Welcome to the real world, huh?

I hope you're having a great vacation!!!!

Claire in Indiana

Angela said...

I've said the same things a thousand times. After having my first two, I thought I had parenting all figured out. They were so sweet, adorable, and well behaved. God knew that I needed a great deal of humbling and gave me two more who were, putting it mildly, a handful. Now I never say never.