I've a confession. I'm a mom who doesn't put anywhere near as much consideration into raising my children as all the thoughtful parents do. Ahhh, maybe you already knew that about me, so maybe it's not so much a confession as a realization. I'm politically incorrect, hopelessly uninformed and simply don't care as much as good moms do. I'm simply not with it, on it or even near it.
For example, my children eat meat and I do know where it comes from. I take them to the circus and I do know how the elephants are treated. I let them watch tons of TV and I do know it warps their brains. Worse yet, I have a DVD player in my van and even use it on short trips to the store. I dress them in costumes and take them trick-or-treating, fully aware it's satan's birthday and real Christians would never partake, but I don't stop there. I haven't even scratched the surface of my lackadaisical approach to child rearing.
In spite of all the risks I vaccinate them--even for flu--every single year. I buy them candy all the time, practically everyday. I let them eat Pop Tarts for breakfast. In fact. I allow them to eat whatever they want for breakfast including ice cream. Last week the Princess had yogurt and dill pickles and smiled all the way through. She even asked for, and was given, seconds. I give them sugary 'fruit drinks' out of plastic cups made with BPA and let them wear fake jewelry from Walmart. They also stay up really late and sleep in. So late, in fact, that sometimes they don't eat lunch because they just had breakfast. They're no strangers to McDonald's and every Friday is corn dog, soda and spoonful of sugar night.
My son wears footy pajamas all winter long and only has to wear clothes if he's going to church. I let them play video games for hours, buy them anything I can afford. and rarely, if ever, discipline. I have scads of toy guns, tell them there's a Santa Claus, an Easter Bunny and a Tooth Fairy! We even celebrate Valentine's Day and while driving I blast all types of music (although I try to remember to turn down the bad words).
That's not the worst of it--I don't feel guilty about any of it. Don't get me wrong--I'm by no means a guilt free mom--I just don't feel guilty about any of that.
Now before you go thinking this must be what went wrong with Illz, I gotta tell you, I was a much stricter, harder, more controlling mom when Illz and his older sister were growing up. I'm not saying I'm not to blame for Illz (to a point) I'm just saying I used to be a lot tougher parent and I got Illz anyway.
Don't think I'm writing parenting tips on how my way's superior because nothin' about my parenting skills or lack thereof is. The truth is I'm just a thoughtless, extraordinarily unobservant mother. As a matter of fact I'm completely ignorant of it, whatever it is that other parents know is harmful, detrimental, diabetes inducing, artery clogging, mind degenerating or violence producing, I just don't notice.
Now I know when they ride their bikes they have to wear helmets and have to buckle in the car. They have to brush their teeth everyday and see the dentist twice a year. They have to eat fruits and veggies and the younger ones aren't allowed to watch violent scary things or have Caffeine. They see the doctor for their annual physicals and take baths every single night. I expect them to be truthful, respectful and do as they're told without a lot of complaining. I want them to try their best in school, not break the law or get into trouble and I don't allow swearing, but other than that I can't sweat the small stuff as they say.
This milestone was reached after 30 years of raising small children. A lot of people are parents for 30 years, but not as many raised children under 18 for 30 years--there's a big difference. So much changes with each 5 year span and I have the benefit of hindsight.
Some interesting things happen when you basically raise 2 different families spanning 3 decades. First of all you get really, really tired. Also, you can see the fruits of your hard work, and the scars left by mistakes. Thirdly you figure out your priorities. Should I get upset if The Princess wears 4 outfits in 15 minutes? Does it merit battling if she doesn't want to comb her hair? If clothes don't match? If guitars get thrown downstairs? If whole bottles of shampoo are poured down the drain? I figured out what's worth my dwindling energy and it's not a whole lot.
My friend doesn't allow her children to watch TV or use the computer. They never eat junk food and sugar's forbidden, but she's too tired to make them dinner. Even her 6 year old fends for himself when he's hungry. I, on the other hand, couldn't live with myself if I didn't serve dinner every night. In 30 years, I haven't missed a night, but couldn't care less if they watch TV while eating. Making dinner every night is important to me, not to her. So which of us is the better mom? Who cares?!
I also have the experience of being Illz mom. I did everything you can possibly think of to save him from himself, but I couldn't. When you have a child who's a drug addict, you learn how bad things can be. Now I often ask myself does it matter, I mean REALLY matter? Is it gonna matter 5 years from now? Is it gonna land him in jail or is someone gonna get hurt? I mean REALLY hurt? There aren't small battles mothering a drug addict/criminal. They're life and death battles EVERYDAY. Most battles, relatively, don't rise to that level of importance, so these days I let them go.
Another thing that shaped my negligent mothering persona was having a child who was hours from death. We all know how quickly life can change, but there's nothing like having a child in Intensive Care, hooked to machines, clinging to life. It's so surreal when doctors are telling you, "every minute she survives makes me happy. If she stops breathing, we'll put her on a respirator."
When you're standing there watching the monitors, her heart beating erratically and vital organs shutting down--you're completely helpless. All you can do is beg God to save her. That changes you forever. Right then you're staring at how precious and fragile life is. If you make it through with a living child you're so grateful, but what you used to think was important sometimes doesn't matter at all anymore.
So these days I save my energy for the stuff that can kill ya or get you arrested. What really matters to me is to get them to adulthood with as little pain, as many laughs and good memories of childhood as possible. Once they get there I want them to be happy, law abiding, contributors to society. For now, however, I'm lucky to get the laundry done, make sure the dog ate, keep the kids from hurting themselves or each other, find the loose hamster, restock the pop tarts, and clear off my counters so I can see my new canisters.
Maybe I should responsibly recycle my TV and computers and just read the Bible to them. Perhaps I should I censor all their music and put them on Vegan diets? I'm sure I'd make them more aware of world hunger if I threw gift-less birthday parties directing the guests to instead bring non-perishable donations for the food pantry. I could cut out sugar, throw out the Nerf-guns and tell them the truth about Santa, but I'm not gonna.
They're gonna dress up for Halloween and love it and wake up on Christmas to see what Santa brought for as long as possible. Harry's gonna chat on Facebook as long as he's getting straight A's and not on drugs. They're gonna eat some junk food mixed in with the good stuff as long as the dentist bills aren't too high. Hopefully they'll still like me when they grow up, but maybe not. At least when they have kids of their own they'll know I, like most of us, just did my best even if it fell far too short. I loved them more than anyone else on the earth ever could and always will, even Illz.
(c) copyright donna maysack 2010, 2011, 2012